Paying for a Sub

I’ve written a lot on in-game finances, mostly in WoW. I played that game for a while too, enough that I haven’t paid for a sub since MoP launched. The rebuilding of the WoW Auction House had a rather dramatic impact on the overall economy, especially in the context of stack management and undercutting. What’s interesting about WoW in particular, is that gold is relatively immaterial for most gameplay. Only when you focus on a specific slice of the population, does gold really mean something.

In traditional demographics you have a bell curve, with smaller populations at the low and high ends, with a big bunch in the middle. Of course, that depends on the scales you’re using, but in the larger sense it’s a desirable outcome – if only in that controls applied to the demographic can hit the most people at once. If your population is equally distributed, it’s actually harder to make change. If you have multiple peaks, then it’s nearly impossible to implement change without massive disruption.

The concepts of faucets and sinks in an economy are somewhat easy to understand. Money shows up, money then leaves. In games, the faucets are entirely controlled by the developers and then exploited by the players. WoTLK’s daily quests decimated the market with the massive faucets, to a point where Blizz has never really recovered. WoD’s garrisons were WoTLK 2.0 in that regard, as it was even more money coming in and players having no real obligation to interact with the world (also see the start of mission tables).

Shadowlands’ faucets are similar. WQ regularly award 250-300g. Mission tables are the same (though longer investment). Each calling/emissary quest puts ~2,000g in your pocket. Then there’s the actual drops you get as you go through these motions. Let’s just low ball it at 2k per day. Depending on your server and player engagement the amount entering fluctuates. Let’s say 1,000 people do the daily – that’s 2m gold per day entering the system.

Sinks have not scaled in the same sense. You are still limited to flight paths, repairs and the AH % cut. I made a Kul Tiran Druid for level up fun (heirloom armour). In the leveling process I was able to buy access to every flight skill and 30 slot bags with thousands left over when I was done. The net result is that the “floor” of gold available to people is miles higher now than ever before.

And yet, the cost of a WoW token has been relatively stable for years. If more money is entering, and less leaving, should this token not increase? That begs the questions as to whom is buying and who is selling. Which I can get into in another post.

I won’t bother talking much about the Druid bot infestation. Seeing any Druid with ilvl68 gear picking an herb is an automatic report for me. They are a sink to the economy, as the sales through the AH have a % cut. While they may annoy players, at the system level they do more to normalize than anything Blizz has ever done.

Shadowlands Tools

I mentioned the basic daily faucet of emissaries. Even doing it every day you’re only going to see 50k or so by the end, still well short of 120k. Selling harvest mats can be a major increase of income. Necrolords who have completed their campaign have a distinct advantage of accessing an area that is KOS for anyone else for herbs. With such poor travel options in WoW today, it’s easy to pick up herbs between destinations – and selling them for 2-5k a day isn’t all that hard to do.

I prefer to wait until I have 3 callings at the same time, as often they will overlap. Gives 5-6k in easy gold, then a few piles of herbs to sell. This process was enough to make about 200k in the first month.

Using the AH normally is ok, you can see what stuff is selling and make your choices to sell. If you want to really simplify your life, just installing TSM and leaving it at its default setting is going to be easy money. It should scan everything in your bag, look at what’s on the AH, and then post for a bit less than the cheapest one there. You want simple, and this is super simple.


TSM is a tool. It can be used for many things, but in order for that to work best, you need to customize the tool. High volume items (like herbs) are much different than low volume items (like transmog). 50g profit is a LOT when compared to a 100 crafting cost, but is peanuts when it costs 1,000 to make it. Same as with % gains… you need higher margins for lower values to make sense of things.

Let’s say I find an item that’s selling for 10% of value. I can buy it and repost hoping to get 100%. Doing this for an item posted at 20g means 180g profit. Doing this for an item posted at 2,000g means an 18,000g profit. TSM has the ability to be configured to take this into account.

You can also narrow down searches to categories or even items, so that you speed up the scanning process. I have a transmog category with 3,000 items. That takes 20 minutes to scan through and I certainly need to drop that down. But… I’ve also made 50k in the first day with that larger scan.

Maybe I want to craft items instead. TSM has a per-craft profit calculator, so that I’m buying herbs are lower than average value in bulk, then selling only when the profit it at its highest. I want to make 100g per flask, not 50g, so the system will only post when I am at that threshold.

And similar to the GME debacle, it take analysis to make smart decisions. If the average value of an item is 1000g, and the scan shows that the current post is 10%, I need to make sure this is a reasonable item to flip. Are there other items that area less than the average value? If so, can I buy them all and then flip? Is the projected profit worth the time (I draw the limit at 500g per flip). How much and I willing to extend myself on a single purchase? Maybe I could flip that BoE epic and make 20k. But it would cost me 100k to take that chance. Could I use that 100k on say 50 smaller transactions to make the same amount?

And importantly, how much time do I really want to put into this? All I want is to pay for a month’s sub. There’s no AH dinosaur to go for. There’s nothing that I need. Do I aim for 500k to cover 4 months, and then just play? Do I only bother with 1 month at a time? I could spend an hour or two a day just flipping, or I could spend 10 minutes, or even none.

Future post will go into some of the thought process behind picking a flip, with examples.

2 thoughts on “Paying for a Sub

  1. Every time I read about people working the auction house to make gold so they can buy tokens and play for free the same thing occurs to me: a 6 month sub costs £8.69 a month. That is less than one hour’s paid employment at the UK’s current minimum wage. Unless you can make the gold by doing less than one hour’s activity in-game that you would otherwise not do, you’d be better off just paying the sub. And that’s assuming you only make minimum wage. For a lot of players it’s going to be more like ten minutes or less.

    Even the time it takes to find, install and set up the software probably is going to use up more of your time than an hour’s regular work. Why bother? I can see why you’d want to do it to get the large amounts of gold you might need for an in-game purchase, assuming there are things that expensive to buy, but to pay the sub? Surely it’s just way easier and more cost-effective just to pay for it with money you earn outsied the game. I can only assume people do it because either they enjoy the AH game in and for itself (a very valid reason) or because the knowledge that they have somehow gamed the system to get something for free makes them not notice the time they’ve spent doing something they otherwise could be using to do something they actually enjoy.

    That said, if there was a one-time, fire and forget way to keep the gold pouring in indefinitely, it would be silly not to spend an hour setting it up. I bet it’s never that simple, though.


    • Which is the same argument used for character boosts. Surely you make more money in RL to offset the time sunk on useless content.

      Yet, as you point out, sometimes the journey is the reward instead of the end goal. I know I can easily make the money for a token, the question is in how fast I can do so.

      For the last point, the basic TSM settings are enough to turn a profit if you are looking at the UI. It is possible to set up up more variables/checks to maintain a stock level, automatically buy mats at a given price, and only sell items that are turning a profit. Flipping… that can’t really be automated.

      To me, the most fascinating part of WoW is that the AH game has been relatively the same for 10+ years, and the ONLY one where the rules are not controlled by Blizz but by general market forces. In other words, the process used here is 90% transferable to any other game with an AH.


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