WoW Tokens and Opportunity Cost

I wrote about Opportunity Cost a while back (2012).  The premise is simple enough, how much are you losing by doing one activity instead of another.  These are purely logical constructs.  Say I take a day off work to do some renos at home… I may be saving money by not having someone do it for me, but I’m losing a day’s pay.  Different for everyone.

I had an interesting conversation with my father in law on this topic, related to the costs of renting vs. owning.  In North America, home ownership is the pinnacle.  But if you spend money every year on upkeep, and the housing market isn’t super, then you are actually losing money.  In the most logical sense, someone who buys and doesn’t invest a penny until they are ready to sell will have the best return.  They’ll live in a house that’s in disrepair, but they’ll make more money.

Back on topic.  WoW Tokens are at about 170,000g on US servers.  These are by far the cheapest of all prices, and each gives you a month of playtime.  That means that to keep playing “for free”, you need to make 170,000g + your regular expenses.  This is to save you $15US.  Or just under $19 igloo-dollars.  Right.  It’s nearly 10,000g for $1.

Let’s math it out a bit, in USD to keep it simple.  The US minimum wage is $7.25.  It’s certainly higher in some places, but let’s take the bottom level because it works out to 2 hours of work for 1 WoW token (for 1 month play).  But that’s gross, not net (taxes after all).  So let’s say a 30% tax rate (which is high for this pay rate), which would give ~2.5 hours of work for $15.  This is again ignoring that people need to eat/live on that money, and certainly for some $15 is a lot.  That is the contextual piece.

More context, what else is ~$15 a month?

  • a coffee every other day
  • 2 beers + tip
  • Netflix + Spotify
  • One uber ride
  • A week of bus rides
  • 2 lunches
  • A day’s parking

True Cost

A side effect of playing WoW is accruing way more gold than you could ever use in normal play.  There are gold sinks (to remove WoW gold from the economy) but they are all optional.  Gone are the days where you were short on gold to get something (TBC in order to buy flying was the last time for me).

Syp is running some work on this and he points out some good items to make some cash.  They are all active ways to gain gold, yet they are all tied to activities he’d do anyways.

Let’s say it’s 15 minutes a day to sort out Order Hall missions.  There only purpose of these is to unlock quests.  The rest is for artifact powers / gold gains, which can be accrued at much higher volumes elsewhere.  But 15 minutes.. and even doing it on a mobile device is a decent thing.  Especially if it nets you 1500g a day.

Some people make money with pets, others with crafting, others with trading.  Each requires some amount of time, and the activity presented must be valuable in itself.  So while the cost of doing world quests might be an hour a day, if you were already planning on doing them the cost is actually slightly above zero (since you’ll pay closer attention).

True cost = cost of an activity to make gold – the cost of an activity to have fun

Token Cost

I mentioned earlier that there are regular costs to just playing.  Either you craft items to use, or you take flight points, buy pets, repair gear.  Whatever your monthly costs are, you need to make even more than that to get a token.

And if we break it down into play chunks, let’s go casual and say you log in 3 days a week (argue that if you want).  That’s 12 days to make 170,000g or just over 14,000g per day that you need to make as profit.  That’s a high number.


Remember, you are competing against 2.5 hours of real-world effort to make this WoW gold.  That’s a need to make 70,000g per hour in-game spent doing things you wouldn’t do otherwise.  Maybe it’s an extra 5 minutes on world quests.  Maybe an extra 10 on class hall missions.

Or maybe, just maybe, the act of getting the gold is itself the goal, rather than just filling up the coffers – and then you are not spending any time not having fun.


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