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It's the Economy, Stupid

Jason Winter Posted:
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I'm usually terrible at playing the futures market in Guild Wars 2. I'll buy something when it's high, only to see it drop precipitously shortly after a patch or update, or I'll sell low, only to see the price skyrocket shortly thereafter.

I did get one thing right, though: About two years ago, I thought Mystic Coins seemed undervalued and figured ArenaNet might take some measure to prop them up. I bought a stack, and hoarded the ones I had; it took a while, but it finally paid off. The Coins I bought for about 1s in 2014 now go for around 35s apiece and I'm turning a tidy profit on my patient investment.

I know others do more of this sort of thing – there's probably someone out there who bought 20 stacks of Mystic Coins when they were cheap – but I'm too risk-averse to go too crazy. There's also a sense of – I dunno, maybe guilt? – preventing me from engaging in too much profiteering. I'm annoyed by the the runaway inflation on some items (especially ones I want to buy) and it's something I want ArenaNet to be better at handling – or, even better, to stop taking measures that make this sort of thing inevitable. I know, I'd make a lousy Ferengi.

Hammer forged by a Smith

If problems with the economy are nails that need hammering, ArenaNet all too often uses Mjolnir to bash them when a simple $10 Stanley will do the trick. When Silk Scraps and other materials weren't going for much, we got Ascended materials, which required several hundred of each to craft. Silk Scraps went from being vendor trash to going for about 2-3s apiece, and you needed 300 of them just to make one Spool of Silk Weaving Thread. Meanwhile, the equivalent Lump of Mithrilium only required 100 Mithril Ore and a Spool of Thick Elonian Cord took 200 Thick Leather Sections.

I can only imagine that the reason for the disparity was because, among the very common T5 crafting materials, Silk Scraps were the least valuable at the time, though Thick Leather Sections weren't much better. Mithril Ore at least went for around 30-40c, so there was probably less of a desire to drive its price up.

In the short term, it might have made sense. If you remember the Bazaar of the Four Winds, there were vendors there that would take your excess crafting materials and turn them into loot. Hey, it seemed like a better choice at the time than selling my Silk Scraps for 7c each. And it did serve to get a good deal of that excess out of the economy and provide a slight bump to T5 mat prices in general.

The thing is, though, the Bazaar of the Four Winds was temporary; the requirements for Ascended materials are permanent, and therefore have had a much larger effect on the economy than a short-term increase in demand and price. The Bazaar vendors took various amounts of crafting materials based on how much they were selling for; something worth 10c might have required three times as many in trade for as something that went for 30c. For the short period the Bazaar was in existence, it made sense to have this kind of set exchange rate. It worked less well in the long term, causing prices to spiral ever upwards and making Ascended material – or even basic crafting – quite painful.

Truly outrageous gem prices

This brings me to the current hullabaloo over a critical component of new legendary crafting: Amalgamated Gemstones. These beauties require nine of another previously undervalued resource – Orbs and Crests – and you need 250 of them to make a Heart of Thorns legendary. That's 2,250 total Orbs and Crests.

Not surprisingly, prices have gone through the roof. Orbs and Crests that used to sell for 3-4s now move in the 25-30s range, meaning it would take you around 600g to acquire everything you need – for just this one part of your legendary. Oof. I knew I should have bought them up when they were only around 10s each...

At least in this case, ArenaNet knows it's a problem. They “do think there is a problem with amalgamated gemstones, but it's somewhat complicated and we're still looking at the best way to address it.” The player reply right after that gets into Mystic Coins, so there's that, too, that is probably on the company's radar.

Yes, I know you can farm up gold pretty easily in the game these days. But repeating the same content over and over because you have to do it to get items with artificially inflated prices is boring – especially when it doesn't have to be so. You wouldn't need this many gold farms if ArenaNet didn't go overboard with the economic adjustments, or at least allowed for multiple paths to the same goal.

Revalued currency

That's one idea I had – to give those of us with lots of old currencies a chance to put them to use. That's an issue a lot of games have when they introduce sizable chunks of new content, usually via an expansion: You have to introduce new currencies too, so players start at zero and don't immediately have everything they need to purchase the new stuff, so they have to play the new content. That's part of why we need Airship Parts and Crystalline Ore and the Gift of Maguuma to make the new legendaries. If they used old stuff, like Badges of Honor, Gifts of Exploration, and dungeon tokens, rich players would have been able to crank out legendaries like they were nothing.

On the flip side, what am I supposed to do with my 10,000+ Badges of Honor? Or dungeon tokens, or my huge pool of karma? They're practically useless to me. Maybe there could be a Bazaar-like vendor that allowed me to trade that excess currency for at least some of the new stuff, whether that be Amalgamated Gemstones or something account bound like Bottles of Airship Oil, or whatever else I need. The exchange rate doesn't have to be great, and it shouldn't totally take the place of having to go out into the HoT zones to adventure, but it's one possibility to ease the pain of accumulating it all and give me some reason to care about my old currencies.

And if you don't have tons of that stuff, this could still benefit you, as players purchasing them via these alternate means lowers the demand on the Trading Post and drives down prices. I agree that the solution is probably not this simple, as was said in the AMA, but this is just one way that things could be made a little better.

One thing I don't think we'll see is changes to the recipes themselves. That opens up another whole new can of worms, with players grousing about how many of a thing they used to need and wanting “refunds” that are in line with the new requirements. The best way to address things is probably through increasing the supply, which organically reduces demand. Now, maybe if the demand wasn't set so damn high in the first place...


Jason Winter