Tag Archives: WoW Tokens

WoW Tokens Five Years Later

The WoW Token turned five years old earlier this month.

The WoW Token highway has no exit

You can tell when I have started doing my month in review post as I am suddenly all about things that happened five or ten years ago, and such is the case now.

Way back on April 7, 2015 I posted about the launch of the WoW Token.

The purpose of the WoW Token, and other like items such as EVE Online’s PLEX or Daybreak’s Krono or Anarchy Online’s GRACE, is to fight illicit RMT, which has all sorts of fraud and theft issues associated with it, by giving players a legitimate way to buy in-game currency that both gives the developer a cut of the money and doesn’t dump currency into the economy.  The company is merely the agent between players trading the in-game currency for subscription time.  It is RMT, but “good” RMT so far as the developer is concerned.

That Blizzard and CCP and other companies have done this, and kept up with it over time, must mean that it is working for them somehow.  If nothing else, it is another revenue stream in a world where a monthly subscription is often a barrier for players.  Whether it has made a serious dent in illicit RMT I cannot tell, though it was interesting that some gold sellers seemed to revive with the coming of WoW Classic, where you cannot sell a token for gold.

And, of course, it isn’t any sort of panacea that will save a game.  WildStar built its plan initial business plan on their CREDD idea and that didn’t save it from going free to play then shutting down.

In WoW the idea itself took a while to grab players, at least in North America.

North American Prices – Apr 2015 to Apr 2020

When it launched at a starting price of 30,000 gold per token there were some people who declared that now was the time to jump in, that there was nowhere to go but up!

And then the price dropped immediately, landing below 20,000 gold in the first month.  It revived eventually, getting back over 30,000 in September, then starting to really climb come 2017 and peaking in 2018.  But there was an initial stretch there where it wasn’t all that attractive relative to illicit RMT.  Over the five years:

  • Avg Price – 109,057
  • Median Price – 117,552
  • Max Price – 238,572 on Jan 31, 2018
  • Min Price – 18,296 on May 3, 2015
  • Current Price – ~120,000 as I write this

The NA start was in some small contrast to the EU token prices, which started at 35,000 two weeks later and only went down a bit before beginning a fairly steady rise.  I am sure that says something about the two markets, though I am not sure what.

European Prices – Apr 2015 to Apr 2020

  • Avg Price – 173,225
  • Median Price – 180,158
  • Max Price – 401,827 on May 17, 2018
  • Min Price – 30,352 on Apr 25, 2015
  • Current Price – ~180,000 as I write this

Still, even though the token prices vary, the pattern of the prices over time looks remarkably similar when charted.  And no doubt they probably ought to in reaction to outside events, like when you were able to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 with WoW Tokens, which accounts for that peak price in 2018.

I am curious as to how people feel the advent of WoW Tokens have affected the game over the last half decade.

I, personally, have been only somewhat attached to the game over the last five years, playing it to see the game but not getting that deeply invested in it.  I have been a casual WoW player during that time for certain, and it was only the advent of WoW Classic that got me really back to Blizzard.

I have purchased two WoW Tokens.  My daughter pleaded for one so she could buy some RP gear for her RP guild when the price was around 100,000 gold and I bought one for myself one day when I was logged in and saw the price was around 220,000 gold and thought I might never see that price again.  But then the game sort of rains gold on you these days… going back to get flying in Battle for Azeroth I was shocked at how much gold I was given for random things when in WoW Classic I am grubbing for silver coins still… so I have earned more gold since just playing than I bought. (Mostly during Legion.)

My closest experience with something like WoW Tokens has been PLEX in EVE Online.

There I don’t buy it to activate game time but just to get a ship SKIN now and then.  But I’ve seen people who get pretty caught up in the idea of “PLEXing” their accounts every month, which becomes a mania with some people.  People who “crab” a lot… mine or run anomalies for ISK… are often suspected of being in it for RMT purposes.  And they often are, but not for illicit RMT and supplying ISK sellers and such.  They need to make the ISK to buy the PLEX in order to pay for their subscription.

The big nerf that hit last week with the Surgical Strike update will break the game for some people because they are invested in super carrier ratting… super carriers were pretty much invulnerable up until last week as they could kill small groups of subcaps and could survive to be rescued from larger groups… and with the changes they won’t be able to PLEX their accounts.

Azeroth is a lot different than New Eden however.   I know people who obsess about earning gold in WoW, but I am not aware if it has reached that level.

So how do you feel about WoW Tokens five years in?  I’m okay with them, but I am also out of the loop enough to not see or care much about the impact they might be having.  I’ll even put in a poll here.

If you cannot see the poll above this line… well, your web browser and ad block settings are keeping you secure.  I cannot argue with that, but you don’t get to vote unless you use the browser on your phone or something.

Data for this post cam from WoWToken.info and WoW Token Prices.

The latter has nice charts on their front page, while the former wouldn’t let me see any of their charts even with ad block off and security down.

Seriously, I am looking at the ads but they still won’t show the charts

The latter site pointedly makes reference to this if you have ad block on.  But the former has all the historical data available as a .csv file, which I was able to download, so I have to give them credit for that.

There is also data for the WoW Token markets in Taiwan, Korea, and China, but I did not dive into those as there are different dynamics in play there that I am even less aware of.

WoW and the Token Subscriber

I was interested to see, in the wake of this week’s subscription announcement, how a few people commenting on the 5.6 million number felt the need to clarify that this included people who were subscribed via WoW Tokens, the PLEX-like item that Blizzard introduced to Azeroth back in April.

The WoW Token highway has no exit

The WoW Token… it’s like recycling, see the arrows!

My inference from this is that they somehow view those who subscribe using WoW Tokens as not being real subscribers.  After all, they aren’t actually paying to play the game any more, they’re just using the gold they have accumulated.

I’ve heard that same line of reasoning in EVE Online as well.  And it is completely bogus.

In fact, it is almost the opposite of the truth, because every single one of those WoW Token funded accounts is actually paying more money into Blizzard on any given month than I ever did with my account.

I tend to go for the “every three months” option, which gets me a small discount while not committing me to a long stretch.  It works out to $13.99 a month.

But a WoW Token, good for 30 days of game play, that is $20 here in the US.  Anybody financing their subscription with in-game gold is handing Blizzard $6.00 more than I am for the month of August, and I am getting 31 days while they are only getting 30.

And the quickly seen objection, that they are not, in fact, giving Blizzard any money out of their own pocket is irrelevant, because SOMEBODY is.  Saying that they are not a subscriber is like saying somebody isn’t a subscriber because their mother pays their bill.  Money has in fact been given to Blizzard that, in turn, has been used to add time to an account, and more money than Blizzard would have gotten otherwise.

Yeah, I know Tobold already posted something like this last week, but I had this written already and I need something for Blaugust.  Besides, I don’t think the topic is “used up” yet in any case.

Anyway, while we’re on this track, I have also seen people claiming that WoW is already free to play because of the WoW Token.  Again, no, because somebody has to pay for every active account.  Remember when WildStar tried to make that argument back before launch, that their CREDD system, another PLEX-like currency, effectively made their game free to play? (They liked to call it a “hybrid” model.)  Well, guess what they are working on right now?  Yes, they are actually turning WildStar into a real free to play game, because their claims about CREDD were marketing BS.  Free did not enter into it.

Finally, I was interested to see how some reaction in the WoW Token market during this week’s double whammy of announcements from Blizzard.  Looking at the WoW Token Info site, you can see that the price of a WoW Token in-game finally got back up to its original 30,000 gold price, peaking just beyond the 32K mark.

WoW Tokens this week...

WoW Tokens this week…

I am not sure what that means.  Why would it spike on the fifth just before the subscription number announcement, before dropping back down to its usual range, and then jump back up again after the Legion announcement?  And why was this a US WoW Token market only phenomena, as the markets for the other regions remained flat through the same period.

Are US subscribers going on hiatus and just keeping their accounts ticking along with the piles of gold they have accumulated?  Because an increase in demand is the only explanation for a price spike in this sort of market.

 

CCP Copies Blizzard’s WoW Token Idea

I suspect that the headline above is how some World of Warcraft players will react to PLEX, should they ever hear about it or the existence of a game called EVE Online, now that Blizzard’s WoW Tokens are going live in North America.  That is the way these things tend to go.

But $20 will apparently get you 30,000 gold in WoW a some point today.  (There is even a video to show you how it all works.)

The WoW Token highway has no exit

The WoW Token highway has no exit

You and I though, we know better.  We know that EVE Online has had PLEX for over five years at this point.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

And we know that, after CCP introduced PLEX into New Eden other MMOs adopted similar currencies to allow their players to exchange real world money for in-game currency.  So we have:

  • KronoEverQuest & EverQuest II and maybe other titles.
  • CREDDWildStar
  • GRACEAnarchy Online
  • DUELDarkfall
  • REXRift
  • APEX – ArcheAge

Interesting experiments, with a mix of subscription-only and free to play titles to observe.  But those are all small time compared to WoW, with populations totaled all together barely matching a small percentage of the 10 million players last reported in Azeroth.

With WoW Tokens, the PLEX idea is hitting the big time and, going forward it will like be the benchmark system against which all others are compared.  PLEX may have come first, but WoW Tokens will likely be the biggest such item for a long time to come.

Of course, Blizzard is taking steps to cover itself on the WoW Tokens front.  The WoW Token market is setup region-wide, so they have populations larger than EVE Online to keep the prices stable.  And should stability be an issue, they have setup a system where they can control prices.

I will be interested to see where the prices go over time.  30,000 gold for $20 seems like a reasonable price, enough to steer people away from illicit RMT.  We will have to see if, over the longer term, 30,000 gold is worth 30 days of game time to the richer players in game.  That joke about CREDD might come true for some in WoW.  And I do find it interesting that, while the starting price for WoW Tokens is 30,000 gold, the intro video I linked above shows a payout of nearly half that.

15,864? Where is my 30K Gold?

15,864? Where is my 30K Gold?

I am waiting for somebody to setup a site to track the pricing and compare it across regions.  It will be interesting to see what sort of split, if any, ends up being necessary to support pricing sufficient to fight illicit RMT.  How much gold will Blizzard have to inject into the WoW economy in its own version of quantitative easing?

Will WoW Tokens have the same effect that PLEX did in EVE Online, where suddenly everything can now be converted to a real world value, where we know how much a titan is worth in dollars and euros and yen?  The mainstream press obsesses over that conversion when it comes to EVE Online because dollar amounts make for better headlines.  I am waiting for the WoW addon that converts all gold values to real world currencies.

Also, now that WoW gold will effectively that have a real world monetary value, we can examine the exchange rates between currencies in various games.  Right now it looks like about 27,000 ISK in EVE Online will buy you 1 gold coin in WoW, which feels about right I guess.  That would give me about 200,000 WoW gold worth of currency in EVE Online.  More than I have in WoW, but ISK is probably more important to me in New Eden than gold is to me in Azeroth.  Necessities versus luxuries.

And, finally, I am now waiting for some site (like maybe The EVE Onion) to start valuing the cost of battles in EVE Online in terms of WoW gold.  So that 75 billion ISK brawl in Pure Blind the other day, that was worth nearly 2.8 million gold!

Hrmm, I might need to put together a conversion spreadsheet to track that exchange rate.

Anyway, others writing about WoW Tokens on their launch day:

And, from the comments, a site to track the price of WoW Tokens.

WoW Tokens – PLEX with Price Supports

Well, they went for it.  I was predicting against it due to the frenzy of bitterness left over from the Diablo III real money auction house fiasco, but it looks like there will be a PLEX-like item from Blizzard, as was previously brought up, that people can buy for real world money and then convert into in-game gold in World of Warcraft.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are ~800 million ISK in Jita

Called WoW Tokens, Blizzard will join the other games that have followed EVE Online and its PLEX model to help combat/sate the pressure some players feel is on them to buy the in-game currency in order to get what they want out of the game.

The WoW Token highway has no exit

The WoW Token highway has no exit

While Blizzard is not the first to take their cue from CCP on this front, though they do appear to be one of the few, aside from SOE, to avoid a cute acronym.  And even Krono (as in “Chrono” as in “Time”) strikes me as a bit cute.  But for WoW it is just a token.

Past versions of PLEX from other companies include:

  • KronoEverQuest & EverQuest II and maybe other titles.
  • CREDDWildStar
  • GRACEAnarchy Online
  • DUELDarkfall
  • REX – Rift
  • APEX – ArcheAge

Avoiding a cuteness however is not the only thing that sets Blizzard apart on the PLEX-like front.

Process diagram

Process diagram

First off, the WoW Tokens are good for one sale and one sale only in-game.  You cannot buy one from another player, then hang onto it until the market price goes up in order to resell. This avoids speculation and investment buyers that have been driving up the price of PLEX in EVE now and again.

Then there is the gold you get for your WoW Token.  As World of Warcraft has over 500 servers outside of China the last time I looked, the market would seem to be fractured in the extreme.  Yes, the more recent server pairings have reduced the effective number of servers by joining them in every way short of a full-on merger, there are still a lot of servers out there.

The Blizzard plan appears to be to join WoW Token sales into unified markets based on regions.  These regions will be:

  • Americas, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Europe
  • Taiwan
  • Korea
  • China

This should prevent the low population server problem, like Daybreak has with their Krono, where prices can vary wildly because of demand on a given server.

Within these markets, you will get a price quote up front when you list your WoW Token for sale.  I find this to be the most interesting bit, as within this special marketplace, it really looks like Blizzard wants to be able to inject gold into transactions to keep the market stable.

Blizzard is setting up a region-wide, cross server, cross faction market, with no fees, promising a specific amount of gold up front, and not necessarily matching up buyers and sellers directly the way it works in the auction house, all with an eye towards stopping illicit RMT.  It does not seem like very much of a stretch for Blizzard to step in now and again and complete outstanding orders now and again when the buy and sell prices get out of alignment.

That makes complete sense if you view this as Blizzard attempting to apply a topical antibiotic to the festering sore that is illicit RMT.  For this service to have any impact, it needs to feel like a viable alternative to the gold sellers.  So I suspect that, when this service goes live, you may end up buying a bit of your gold directly from Blizzard.  I suspect somebody diligent like Gevlon will watch this market and will be able to “prove” at some point that Blizz is kicking in some gold now and again.

All that is left is to set the price of a WoW Token.  Blizzard has left that in the TBD file, but the price has to be more than $14.99 to cover the additional overhead that this program will entail, but I doubt the price can exceed $19.99 per token if Blizzard wants it to succeed.

And then we will have to see what the in-game market will bear.  A quick Google search shows gold sellers going down to fifty cents per 1,000 gold.  Now Blizzard doesn’t have to match that price, since they offer a safe and legitimate method of buying WoW gold, but they can’t be off by a huge factor either.  So I couldn’t see a WoW Token for selling for less than 30K gold given a high estimate price of $19.99 per token.

Which doesn’t seem that bad I guess.  Blizz might not even have to get into the price support business to aggressively at that level of pricing.  But how that will play out in the longer term will be interesting to watch.

Anyway, you can read the sum of all knowledge on the topic over at Blizzard’s site.

And, of course, this being a WoW related topic, lots others have opinions.  It is big enough news that my wife caught it on a Yahoo headline.  A few posts from the local blogesphere you might care to peruse: