Supply, Demand, and Perspective

It’s really fascinating how financial models apply to online social interactions – in particular anonymous ones. If you don’t have a known person, then it’s no different treating a box or AI. The empathy gap is serious, and there’s a VERY large thread related to the pros/cons to internet anonymity. That is not this post.

This post is about the concepts of supply and demand in relation to WoW’s Mythic + content – M+. In order to access M+, you need to complete basic Mythic difficulty dungeons. Your performance gives you a key to access higher levels of M+. Those events are then timed. There are three end conditions

  • Beat the timer and get +1key to a different dungeon, and 2 pieces of gear.
  • Beat the dungeon but not the timer and you lose a key level to a different dungeon, and get 1 pieces of gear.
  • Leave the dungeon without completing and the key goes down a level, but stays the same dungeon (allowing people to manually downgrade the key level)

This makes it so that the risk of success / failure is entirely borne by the owner of the key. The penalty for not making time is not horrendous. It’s not that you need to redo the dungeon, its just that you get a slight downgrade on the key. In this context, the supply of keys is limited, as it gates access to content, and by proxy, the supply of key owners is also limited. Further, due to the difficulty / reward structure of M+, there’s an even further limit to the number of high level keys. I think it’s something like 3% of all runs are currently M15.

Since it takes 5 people to run a dungeon, there’s 5x more people without keys than with keys. This means that the supply of all possible players is larger than the amount of keys. Not that they don’t have keys (they likely do) just that only the key used to start the dungeon gets upgraded, and you’ll have plenty of people with +2 keys trying to run +10 dungeons.

Financial math says that systems with low supply and high demand put the power of decisions with the owners of supply (read keys). If there are only 3% of M+ runs that are at 15, that means that of the 100% of players in M+, 97% of them will not get in. It’s not to say they won’t try, it’s to say that they won’t get in.

Falling back to the reward item above, the owner of the key loses a LOT if they don’t make the time on the clock. They are incredibly incentivized to select the best options to improve their odds of winning. If they have the choice between someone who is overpowered for the content and pretty much everyone else… they are going to pick the former. If they have two equal power candidates, then they are going to look at the meta specs (e.g. tanks are going to be DH, not Warrior).

Which, a small tangent, I agree that the meta is not representative of the masses. However, the meta of M+ has a psychological downstream impact.

Let’s compare that to you having a barrel of blueberries in front of you, and the task of baking a single pie. You’re going to select the best looking berries and ignore the ones with twigs, or bumps, or too tiny. The anonymity of WoW makes it so that people are effectively the same – they are just numbers. The odds that you group with someone twice from a LFG / LFR structure are astronomically small.

Now, if you’re the blueberry this stinks! It certainly feels like those job postings that are entry level and asking for 10 years of experience. How is that reasonable? Well, it’s reasonable because there are people with 10 years experience willing to take entry level positions. Your perception is one that the system is unfair, and there’s no way for you to get that experience if you’re not given the shot.


Run your own key groups. You may ethically think that you won’t be so prescriptive, and it’s certainly possible that’s the case to start. But power corrupts, and you’ll find out why the system works the way it does pretty quickly. This would increase supply of keys, and reduce demand of other players.

Only run with a guild. This is a great option for those with guilds who are large enough to support the structure and various combinations/levels. You can also run this with friends too. This exponentially changes the supply/demand metric, to the point where it may not even apply.

Blizz makes systematic changes that reduce the penalty for not making time. We are in expansion 3 of M+ with zero changes to the way this works. The meta of weekly rewards has been tweaked (the Vault now), but nothing on the individual mechanics, structure, or incentives. So… not likely to actually change.

Blizz makes it so that more people have high level keys. While this sounds cool in theory, it would also mean that more people need to step up to leadership positions. The supply of keys would skyrocket, but the supply of people wanting to lead groups… that’s a big ?

Blizz somehow implements a scoring system. This would effectively be an automated screening tool for making M+ groups, using in-game measurements. You couldn’t apply for things you’re not qualified for, and people would have less applicants to stream. Raider.IO is just another version of GearScore from yore. Modders will fill the void.

It’s absolutely fascinating to see this situation unfold, and the various perspectives applied. With Blizz all but mandating that M+ is the core activity in WoW (there are M+ invitationals after all), it’s no surprise to see so many people enter and push the system forward. Victim of their own success really, with a highly complex and competitive environment somehow trying to be accessible to the masses. Imagine if LoL didn’t have ladder ranks? Or rocket league didn’t have a casual mode? Quite curious where Blizz goes from here… if M+ is the content of choice and piles of people are not able to access it… do we get another LFR?

3 thoughts on “Supply, Demand, and Perspective

  1. In terms of dungeon outcomes, you can also significantly beat the dungeon timer and gain +2 to key level. I think this is also the circumstance where you get 2 pieces of loot, I think (although would have to actually pay attention next run to confirm, hah) that +1ing the key only grants 1 piece of loot.

    The other part to consider is that the supply/demand of high level keys as discussed here only really applies in the context of a single week. If you complete a +10 key run (to any definition of complete, incl. not beating any timers but still killing the final boss) in your grand vault the following reset you will gain a +9 key to a random dungeon.

    For all that, we try mostly to run within guild in any case. It doesn’t always work out with the low tank count vs. other roles but that certainly shifts the demand equation to the side of people rather than availability of higher level keys.


    • Thought I had replied earlier… these incentives for completion are great, just maybe it’s gotten a bit too crazy.

      I had missed a potential incentive here, that completing a dungeon with 3/5 guild members would have some sort of benefit, with potential scaling at 4 and 5.

      The challenge for me here is not understanding Blizz’ vision for what they want their game to be. Tangent to the MASSIVE amounts of bots I see in game, which should be pretty damn easy to spot, yet no word on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It seems to me that they want to undo everything they’ve learnt about loot = fun. I think they’re trying to determine just how far they can push the line back to extend the time to gear and by extension, the average length of time the fly by nighters (like myself) hang around after the expansion has launched. 😉

        …Also slightly less cynically, they want to put the focus back on raiding as the one true path to loot. At least early on.

        Mythic+ dungeons will still end up being the path our guild takes to that tier of loot, I don’t expect we’ll raid mythic difficulty, capping ourselves at a heroic clear.

        Otherwise… shrug …I think I’m nearing the end of my ‘high engagement’ period though, dropping into a more regular pattern of logging in to raid (or other scheduled events, e.g., Mythic+ nights) and support the raiding activities (i.e., get the legendaries I’m interested in to max) and little else.

        Liked by 1 person

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