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Gold Capped: The wild west economy of the patch 4.3 PTR

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Fox Van Allen and Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aim to show you how to make money on the auction house. Feed Fox's ego -- or offer him instant bargains -- by emailing him or tweeting him at @foxvanallen.

One of my all-time favorite television shows as a child was $ale of the Century. It was a simple question-and-answer game show with a twist: All correct answers only awarded contestants with $5. However, at various points in the show, contestants would be given the chance to buy thousands of dollars worth of prizes for next to nothing -- a new recliner for $8, a trip to Hawaii for $17.

It was a special economy all its own. A trip to Hawaii could cost $2,176 in one place while costing $17 in another. It's the same good ol' U.S. currency -- it's just that $17 has a far greater value in one context than $2,176 has in another.

Like said game, the patch 4.3 PTR operates by a bizarre set of economic rules all its own, if you can even call them rules. It's the wild west of economies. Anything goes. The fantastic BOE Mekgineer's Chopper is normally valued at 15,000 gold. But today, on Sale of the Azerothian Century, that Chopper can be yours for only ... 1 silver. Or 240,000 gold. Depends on who your seller is.

The nukes are coming, comrade

I absolutely love studying the WoW economy on a theoretical level. It's one of the best approximations of the real-world economy that exists. People work to find relatively scarce resources and raw materials. Others buy that raw material to make more finished goods. Still others take the salary earned from running dailies and do nothing but consume finished goods. You can invest. Obviously, there are plenty of differences, too -- the most notable being how WoW makes money out of thin air. Still, all considered, World of Warcraft makes a pretty interesting sandbox to see how markets will react to extraordinary circumstances.

What would happen to our real-world economy if we all knew an extinction-level event was coming in 24 hours? Would the price of a loaf of bread skyrocket to $1,000? Or would people just give them away for free?

Until those nuclear missiles get launched, we'll never know for sure. But we can take a look at the PTR as an interesting approximation. That particular world is transitory -- its nuclear missile will be hitting in a month or so, or whenever the PTR closes down for the live server launch of 4.3. And yet, that server still has an economy, still has people crafting items and listing them for sale.

But what's the point? We could sell that loaf of bread for $1,000, but do we really need that money? After all, there are more loaves of bread out there than people to eat them. And what are we going to use that money for, anyway?

Such a scenario isn't necessarily a breakdown of an economy -- merely a significant shift in one. Things still have value; it's just that the loaf of bread no longer does. Similarly, there's no value in wasting time haggling over the price or even in putting in a full day of work at the store to sell the damned thing.

You want my loaf of bread? Take it. I'll be too busy enjoying my proverbial wine and women to care about selling it. And that's the same approach I take -- and want you to take -- with regard to the PTR. Don't waste your time amassing fortunes. The missiles are coming.

Time for an instant bargain

When I logged on to the PTR today, trade chat was abuzz about the fact that someone posted a Mekgineer's Chopper on the AH for a 240,000g buyout. Several were listed, in fact. The general sentiment: That's way too high. And they were right. Sort of.

Immediately, I remembered that I had a spare Chopper key sitting in my bank. To make a point, I told trade that I'd sell the first person to whisper me a Chopper for 1 silver. Two people whispered me. The first person opened a trade window, put 1 silver in the money field, and got his Chopper. The second person was kindly informed that he was 5 seconds too late on his whisper.

The first whisperer was thrilled to get his prize. He followed up on the trade with a "o.O," followed with "Why?" He couldn't believe that someone would give away a Chopper. So I explained: The PTR economy is a meaningless fraud. Money has no real worth; no value there. Need money on the PTR? Pool all your money into one character's account on the live server, and then copy him over. Then, send that money to another of your characters, and copy that one. With a few minutes of work -- literally, this takes maybe 2 minutes -- you can send yourself hundreds of thousands, if not millions of gold, even if you're not rich on the live server.

Is a Mekgineer's Chopper worth 240,000 gold on the PTR? Sure. It's also worth 1 silver. There's almost no distinction between those prices when I can effortlessly send myself another Chopper tomorrow.

So. There's one guy riding around on the PTR on a shiny new Chopper that he scored for 1 silver. And that second guy? He whispered me in reply: "I'll pay 200 gold!"

Head, meet desk.

Don't expect me to advocate against capitalism again

This is generally a capitalist column, but today I'm dipping my toe into socialist waters. If you're on the PTR, help your fellow man. Spread the wealth. Use what you need to enchant and gem your gear. Make the glyphs you want and need. And what you don't need, pass on to a fellow player without asking 240,000 gold in return.

Trying to make money off of people is counterproductive to the spirit of the PTR. It's not a place to get rich; it's a place to test content and report on bugs (in a perfect world, anyway -- I know that most of you people are only on the PTR for a sneak peek). And, like I said, even if you do get rich, it's a pointless exercise. Save your effort for the live server.

If you do participate in economic activity, do it in a way that makes more sense: barter. I've got an enchanter, but I don't have a jewelcrafter. You've got a jewelcrafter, but you don't have an enchanter. We can -- and should -- help each other out. You're given a bunch of stuff by default when you create a unique, level 85 character from scratch on the PTR -- gems, leg enchants, and consumables, to name a few. Almost certainly you'll be given more than you need, and just as likely, you'll be given stuff you wouldn't even want to use.

Give it away. Take a minute and craft a couple enchants or make a couple gems, and give them away too. Whatever you don't need, give it away, because you can always copy it over again. It's the least painful act of charity and goodwill you'll ever have the pleasure of undertaking.
Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped. Do you have questions about selling, reselling, and building your financial empire on the auction house? Fox and Basil are taking your questions at fox@wowinsider.com and basil@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Economy, Gold Capped

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