#Footnotes is Rachelle Riddle's weekly Explainer column about what's going on beneath the surface of the world of gaming.
Gold has long been a source of contention in #WorldofWarcraft. Back in the nostalgia-fueled rose-tinted old days of WoW's beginning, gold was incredibly hard to come by unless you played all hours of the day. This led to a rise of gold-sellers, often Chinese farmers who played the game all day long, acquiring gold and selling it to busy players in exchange for real money. Eventually the gold-sellers moved from legitimate farming in game to shadier things like gaining access to player accounts in order to strip the gold and use the characters to bot for more gold.
Gold-sellers have been a thorn in Blizzard's side since, popping up like the heads of a hydra every time one is cut down. In 2015, Blizzard introduced the WoW Token, a legitimate way to sell and buy gold, sanctioned by #Blizzard. The token can be used to pay for a month of subscription time or, more recently, exchanged for Battle.net balance to pay for other games. This cut into the gold-selling market, staying competitive with current prices and offering players an easier option, but it also had other benefits for Blizzard as a whole.
A Legitimate Source With Competitive Prices
Suddenly the gold-sellers had competition. Since tokens are actively purchased by players to sell on the in-game Auction House, the prices varied by demand. Gold sellers found it hard to keep up with the low prices of gold as players flocked to the Auction House to buy or sell. Gold-sellers spend time acquiring gold by trying to get into accounts or botting, while players could just get it with a click of the button.
It's incredibly easy for players to buy gold from Blizzard over outside sellers. Instead of going through an outside party, handing over your payment information or accessing a sketchy site, the #WoW Token is at their fingertips in game. All they have to do is pull up the in-game shop from the menu and purchase a token with their saved method of payment. The gold is delivered automatically when it sells and you're always guaranteed the price when it was put up, no matter if it has since risen or fallen.
It Normalizes The Economy
Gold inflation has been a minor issue for years as players earn more, but there's not much Blizzard could really do about it. They can put gold sinks in game via repairs or pricey mounts, but the frugal players will still hoard their gold or make more. The WoW Token redistributes that gold.
Players who have a hard time making gold will purchase a token for $20 to sell. While they receive that large chunk of gold in exchange, they're likely to spend it right away since who would want to spend real money just to let gold sit in their pockets? And for those wealthy players who always have a lot of gold? They're dropping large amounts on the tokens, reducing their personal fortune and putting more gold back into the economy through other players' hands.
It Makes Blizzard Money
By allowing an official way to buy or sell gold, Blizzard is raking in extra income. Every single WoW Token sold on the game's Auction House makes Blizzard more money than a regular subscription. Yes, many players use the token to play for "free," buying their monthly game-time with in-game gold. But for every token purchased with gold, that's $20 in Blizzard's pocket, an extra $5 over the base $15 monthly subscription. Players may be playing for free, but Blizzard is still making $5 more than if those players were to purchase a normal monthly subscription with real money.
It Props Up Microtransactions In Other Blizzard Games
Most importantly, the WoW Token is far-reaching to other Blizzard games. When it was first released, the WoW Token could only be redeemed for a month of WoW subscription at the base amount of $15. When Blizzard suddenly added the equivalent Battle.net balance as an option as well, gold prices skyrocketed. Players were spending all their gold to convert it into #Overwatch cosmetic items, #HeroesoftheStorm skins, #Hearthstone expansions, and so on.
Every time there is some sort of seasonal event or expansion going on in Blizzard's other games, the WoW Token prices jump. When #Destiny2 was announced to be on Battle.net, the prices jumped drastically. Overwatch events and Heroes of the Storm new skin announcements make prices rise as well. The recent #Diablo3 Necromancer DLC brought prices up yet again.
Many players are loathe to purchase cosmetics items with their hard-earned cash, but they'll readily purchase it with WoW gold they aren't using. And the busy but casual players in WoW, who don't have time to play often enough to make gold but have expendable income, fund these exchanges. WoW is still the MMO behemoth making Blizzard a lot of money, and if the players of WoW can help fund other games, then everyone benefits.
Have you purchased or sold WoW gold with the WoW Token?