Or is that WoW Economic Shock?
As of this week, WoW tokens are not just a way of paying your WoW subscription, but instead can be converted into credit on your Battle.net balance. This means they can be used to buy stuff for Overwatch, or Hearthstone, WoW account services or presumably you can save up for the next expansion after Legion if you really want to plan ahead. Whereas before there was no reason for a goblin to trade his gold for more than one WoW token a month (to pay his sub), now those individuals sitting on vast piles of gold (I’m looking at YOU, the inscription profiteer from Moonglade, you know who you are 🙂 ) can buy up a bunch of tokens and splurge on Blizzard’s other games if they so desire.
This is having a few interesting effects in the short term. Demand for WoW tokens has spiked as the aforementioned goblins turn gold they were never going to use into Overwatch crates. However, because the gold/token exchange is a controlled market with a hard cap of 3% price rise per hour, the price didn’t instantly zoom to its new equilibrium level. Instead, it inched its way there slowly (in electronic trading terms) and while that happened, if anything the supply of tokens went DOWN because anyone who wanted to buy some gold figured they’d hold on while the exchange rate kept moving in their favour. I think you can ask any citizen of Venezuela what happens when the powers that be decree that prices are kept artificially low. For a while, there simply weren’t any tokens to be had at the
state Blizzard mandated price, and due to the way the tokens are implemented, no hope for a black market either. At least WoW tokens aren’t as essential to civilised living as some other commodities.
Incidentally, the shortage does raise one interesting point. A number of commenters back when the WoW token was launched suggested that they were fiat items, i.e. there wasn’t actually a one-to-one match between token buyers and sellers but rather Blizzard just took money from everyone who wanted to buy a token for dollars and gave them gold, and took gold from everyone who wanted to trade the other way. Either that’s not actually the case or they have been especially Machiavellian this week.
In the long run, prices will stabilise at a higher level than they were before – there’ll be an ongoing increased demand for the tokens, as they have more use now, and possibly a slightly reduced supply because whale players need to buy fewer tokens from Blizzard to receive a given amount of gold. It’s a net win for players who have stacks of gold to trade in. It’s possibly actually a net loss for Blizzard if it does drive the number of tokens traded down (because they make a $5 profit every time player A buys a $20 WoW token so player B can have a $15 Battle.net credit). For me personally, it sucks because for the past few months I’ve been making enough gold to pay my sub via token, but not a whole lot more than that. I may actually have to pay for some months this year with real world cash.
The biggest losers, however, are probably the illegal gold sellers, who still exist and do business by undercutting the official WoW token exchange rate. More gold per buck on the official market means that going the illicit route (with concomitant risks of account hack or ban) looks less attractive, which may cut into their business. My heart bleeds for them.