A Call for a Unified Auction House

With a couple of characters at level 80 I have been playing more with the copious alts I have on both sides of the Horde-Alliance divide.  Most of these characters are down in the 20-40 range.

Like many servers, the ones on which I play tend to have a population skewed in one direction or another.  The Census data over at Warcraft Realms seems to be a bit wacky these days due to low participation (for example, I don’t think Eldre’Thalas is at a close to 80-20 split between Alliance and Horde), but population differentials of 60-40 to 70-30 were quite common back when that census project was getting a lot of participation.

The main pain of unbalanced servers used to be the queue to get into a battleground.  There was a time when you could spend hours waiting for a battleground on a server that was really out of whack.

Blizzard has addressed that with cross-server battlegrounds.

For me, now, the main pain of server imbalance is the auction house.  If you’re on a server’s weaker faction, the auction house can be really bad.

Unless you are trying to sell something, especially raw materials for trade skills.  Then it can be the goose that laid the golden egg, as with no competition you can gouge your fellow players something fierce.  And somebody will always pay, no matter how much you charge.

But if you want to buy something, if you need some herbs to make just one more vial or ink or some ore to notch that engineering skill, then life is miserable.  There are days when you feel fortunate that somebody is even bothering to try to gouge you, because the most likely response to your search is no items found.

And this is especially painful if you play a class that gains a new armor wearing ability at level 40.  You want to trade in all that leather and buy some chainmail for your hunter or your shaman?  Good luck on that!

Try back tomorrow, I might have something then!

Try back tomorrow, I might have something then!

So I think Blizzard ought to just bite the bullet and unify all the auction houses.

I’m not even suggesting something that might be considered herasy.  This isn’t like, say, allowing people to change the faction of their characters. (Not that I am actually concerned about that in the least, but it seemed like a sell-out to some people.)

There are already cross-faction auction houses in the neutral cities of Azeroth: Booty Bay, Gadgetzen, and Everlook.

The problem is that almost nobody uses them, except to transfer assets from one faction to another. (You need a friend to help you out, since you cannot bid on auctions created on the same account.)

So I say combine the whole lot of them into a single, unified server-wide auction house.

The upside:

  • More choice for buyers
  • More customers for sellers
  • Auction houses in neutral cities might seem viable

The downside:

  • Can’t think of any

I am sure that somebody will come up with a reason why this is a bad idea, but none leap to mind here.

So why is this a bad idea?

10 thoughts on “A Call for a Unified Auction House

  1. Jalann

    The only downside might be tracking gold sellers. I thought gold sellers used Auction Houses to help transfer gold. Like if you bought gold, you would put up a loaf of bread for 1000 gold increments and the gold sellers would buy them from you.

    Do they still do this, or just email it to you?

    I don’t know I’ve never used their services.

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  2. Bhagpuss

    Generally I prefer the maximum possible separation of Auction Houses, Brokers and Banks. I prefer them to be unique, not just to the faction, but to the city they are in. I like being able to spend hours travelling from one city to another to a third, checking the various brokers for bargains or items I want.

    It was the over-availability of items on the EQ2 broker that finally made me decide to move to Test as my main server, where you are lucky to find anything on the broker at all (that and the bloody flying carpets…). I loved Vanguard’s continentally-separated brokers and banks and FFXI’s crazy city-based Dutch auction system.

    However, despite my personal preference for having everything to do with trading made as awkward as possible, I have to agree that there’s no real benefit to the way it’s separated in WoW. They are two totally discrete systems, with a third neutral system that gets almost no use at all (on my server at least). It seems a clumsy system with no real benefits.

    Rather than unify it into one, I’d prefer the system that EQ2 used originally: separate AHs for Alliance and Horde, but each having some black market Auctioneers, preferably in irritatingly slow to get to places, where each side could buy from the other at a moderate premium.

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  3. syncaine

    On an interesting side note: WAR servers broken when the Order/Destro ratio got above 5% to either side. WoW has servers at 70/30. Given that, left unchecked 70/30 servers create themselves, it’s good to see yet another PvP MMO release with two pre-set sides…

    On topic, I would love to come up with something here about how Blizzard sucks because of it’s AH issues… but yea, I don’t see why at this point they don’t allow cross-faction AH. The time of Alliance vs Horde has long since passed.

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  4. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Bhag:

    I was going to mention EQ2 because of their cross-faction auction scheme, but it developed into a long diversion, so I cut it. Primarily, the fact that EQ2 charges the buyer a commission based on the faction of the seller lets EQ2 be a little more flexible. WoW charges the seller, and while I suppose they could take an extra cross-faction cut out of the pay-out, it would probably cross the “too confusing” barrier.

    On a side note, EQ2’s broker always seemed a little too convenient, with items just appearing in your bags when you bought them.

    But if you want a market place where you can use inconvenience to make money, EVE Online is the place. While you can see the region-wide market at a glance (there are many regions), the effort required to go pick things up when you buy them means that two jumps pretty much nullifies and undercutting competition for anything small than a ship.

    @Syncaine: It does seem that WoW was a pretty big indicator that, left to themselves, customers will array themselves in such a way as to break your game. Aion is going the route of gating the factions to keep them balanced, which is certainly a short-term solution. If they end up better than WoW or WAR in the long term remains to be seen.

    While I have never been vocal about WAR needing a third faction, it does seem to have a lot of merit. After all, we don’t call a well balanced game “Rock and paper.”

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  5. Josh

    What you’re suggesting I too have been considering and would like to see implimented into the game. If it can’t be integrated for all of NA then at least get unification within battlegroups. However my preference would be that all AH will be integrated for the benefit of all players. Besides a unified AH another change that I would like to see in conjunction would be to be able to place buy orders, like Eve.

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  6. syncaine

    Especially given WARs IP, why Mythic did not start with each race being it’s own faction I really don’t understand. It’s actually lore-breaking that Dark Elves, Orcs, and Chaos are working together, and given how each races is structured (tank, healer, mdps, rdps), they all could be their own side. Stick a war camp for each side in all the RvR lakes, and bam, enemies all around and the threat of a mega-zerg rolling around is greatly reduced. The PvE and all that is already in place, just need to add the originally cut capital cities back in (and now you can make them similar, since Orcs won’t be able to run the Chaos city dungeons).

    Total guess here, but I think the two faction thing is WAR trying to be WoW-like, as I’m thinking some bean counter in a design meeting said “the players will be too confused with 6 factions, make it like WoW”. I’m sure Games Workshop would have been all for all the races fighting each other, since that’s what they do in the Warhammer universe already.

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  7. pjharvey

    I was going to argue that Horde and Alliance simply shouldn’t mix, but even Blizzard have given up on keeping the two factions separate. Even if I can accept the occasional quest to rescue Thrall, or similar, the ‘sanctuaries’ of Shattrath and Dalaran actively disrupt the idea that Horde and Alliance are at odds.

    It makes sense to put cross-faction auction houses in the Sanctuaries at least, if not then link them all up server-wide and have them all run by goblins.

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  8. Rcurrie

    After initially reding your post, I thought you were suggesting cross realm Auction Houses. What are your thoghts on that? A unified, cross-faction, cross-realm economy?

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  9. E5

    Re: Rcurrie

    I’m all for it. It would cause the AH markets to become more “efficient”.

    A common misconception is that “all prices would plummet due to all the other supplying the same item” or that “all prices would rise due to all the other people consuming the same items that I want”.

    Anyone who has taken a micro class can do this on an supply demand chart and see that moving both the supply and demand lines properly result in the intersection of the two (market clearing price) staying in the same spot.

    As a more concrete example: consider you’re one of 3 grocery stores in a neighborhood 10,000 that is separated from another nearly identical city by a Berlin-wall-esque type barricade. On the other side there is another 10,000 people who are served by another 3 grocery stores. To assume that the removal of the wall would result in way lower prices “OMG you just doubled the amount of people supplying groceries” makes as much sense as assuming that the it would result in way higher prices “OMG you just doubled the amount of ppl who are buying groceries”.

    While I agree that to the extent that one realm has any significant inefficiencies that people are currently exploiting (lack of one specific item, for example) those would be closed, this is generally what is meant when people say the market would become more “efficient”. So for career AH-players whose main focus is scouring the AH for inefficiencies to exploit, there would be less of them, but for people whose main focus is playing the game and see the AH as a means to this end, a more efficient linked AH market would provide fewer drastic price swings and inefficiencies, but wouldn’t necessarily result in overall mass changes in prices or “economic chaos” as most people seem to think.

    To continue with my above example re; grocery stores: If my main job is as a commodity trader (an AH trader in WoW) who profits from price swings by buying and selling various produce contracts, then i would prefer the wall be intact (more inefficient smaller economy = more opportunities), However if my main job is as a chef where I buy raw materials, do something to them, then sell the final product plus a value-add for my service (similar to an enchanter or something in WoW), then i prefer the wall be torn down regardless of whether or not my side of the wall is a generally ‘more expensive’ side. I would be indifferent to whether I have to settle for less for my final product as I can now buy the materials cheaper too. However the more efficient market allows me to perform my value add service faster.

    Hope this made sense.

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