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Is that an imbalanced score or what? Seriously – since the Trading Post finally came up and stayed up for the masses of GW2 players, a lot of people have been amazed at how low the prices are, and how hard it is to get rich as a crafter. I wasn’t surprised at all – not once I understood that the Trading Post is game-wide, not just based on your home server, and once I realised how tight the supply of money is in the game and how little it goes up as you level, compared to the enormous level-based inequality in other games. Then again, I’m the sort of person who reads at least layman texts on economics for fun, and it’s pretty clear from looking at the world around me that most people… don’t.

A market exists to enable trades between players. There’s always some profit in a trade – each party gets something worth at least as much to them as what they’re giving up, or they wouldn’t bother to trade. What varies is how the pie is divided up, that is how much of the benefit each side gets. In a seller’s market there’s a scarcity of the good, so the price goes up until demand drops to match the available supply, i.e. it’s so expensive that it’s barely worth buying this stuff, and the benefit of the trade goes almost entirely to the supplier. If supply is plentiful, then the buyers get bargains instead. In Guild Wars 2 there’s an abundance of almost every good apart from certain dyes, jute scraps and mystic coins… and cold, hard cash. Because GW2 doesn’t have the rampant inflation in cash supply as characters reach higher levels, coin is also a scarce commodity meaning that people trade relatively little of it for the goods they want.

To make money in a perfect market, you need to be supplying something scarce – because only you control the source, or because the cost of setting up in competition with you is too high for most people – e.g. it took the resources of an entire guild to get me to max out weaponcrafting in DAoC, so for several months I was one of only three people supplying top end weapons to my realm. Apart from being in that blessed position, the only other options are to try and control the market to create artificial scarcity that you can profit from (e.g. corner the market and engineer a monopoly), or take advantage of or create an imperfect market by manipulating the information flow – by scamming, or by creating misleading auction house listings that make your real listings look like a bargain. These are standard tactics for WoW ‘auction house goblins’ but they only work because they are big fish in a small, fragmented market pond. The GW2 single market is too big for one player, or even a cartel of them, to control, and gives buyers and sellers too much information on what the other offers are to make it easy to scam or manipulate your customers.

Going forward, I suspect money will remain tight in Tyria – the supply is relatively limited and the game design has a LOT of cash sinks built into it. Demand on the market will continue to be for crafting materials as lots of players will pour the cash they have into levelling crafting as a way of powerlevelling their characters (remember that with enough cash, you can go from 1 to 80 purely by levelling up all crafting skills). There will also be an ongoing market for consumables, as in any MMO, so find the foods or buff items that are most popular and either supply those, or farm the materials needed by the people who can make them. Finally, you can try and take advantages of any imperfections in the market – for example, if you think demand for some commodity is going to go up you could buy loads now and sell it later when the price improves… however, in a free and liquid market it’s a lot harder to get ahead of the game that way than most people realise. Chances are others have already thought of the same thing and so it has already effectively been factored into the price. Remember kids – economics is actually pretty simple. It’s getting rich from it that’s hard!

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