Blizzard is implementing a new item into World of Warcraft called the WoW token. This token can be purchased using real money and sold in-game on the auction house for gold. The purpose of the token is that it can be redeemed for a 30 day extension to your World of Warcraft subscription. This allows players to use their gold to buy play time, or for other players to buy gold from other players. This practice has been going on for years with players purchasing 1-month subscriptions to the game at local stores then selling them to other players for their gold. The new WoW token allows Blizzard to directly control this practice, but also makes it safer for players, preventing players from scamming other players.
This new item is a direct gold to U.S. dollar conversion in the game. This brings up the question, how valuable is your time? A high level player can grind out fifteen to thirty thousand gold pieces in 30 days fairly easily, but if that player also works a full time job, an hour of work at their actual job may actually be equal to approximately fifty thousand gold pieces. Or if a player has no job and plenty of time, they can use their time playing the game to get more time to play the game.
This a major change that blizzard is implementing into the game. Not because it allows players to purchase game time with gold, or buy gold from other players, but because it allows calculations on the exact dollar price of every sellable item in the game. This aspect is already in other MMOs. Take EVE Online for example, a space-based sci-fi MMO. The game has a direct in-game currency to USD conversion rate. The game develops even as players aren’t online, so just because you have work doesn’t mean an opposing faction isn’t destroying your ship. After some money transferring errors, a large battle erupted, lasting an entire day and consisting of more than 500,000 players. Many ships were destroyed and the calculated cost of the entire battle using EVE’s exchange rate is approximately $330,000. This is the most costly of any fight that has occurred on EVE, but not the largest. Many of the ships destroyed in the battle were “titan-class starships” that are valued at $3,000 each, with each one taking several months of actual time, not game time, to build.
Expanding on the essay by Scott Rettberg, Corporate Ideology in World of Warcraft, before the game was teaching players about business practices with the presence of guilds and raids. But now, one can now buy gold, and have an exact dollar worth of the gold they already possess. With different expansions released by Blizzard, some of the examples he mentions are no longer true, but his ideas of the capitalist makeup of the society in World of Warcraft still hold true. One can still take loans and pay back those loans with interest. The fact that a real-world dollar amount can be fixed to this gold may cause interest rates to shoot up or down. If you could get a loan from your guild for 10,000 gold pieces and be required to pay back 15,000 gold pieces, it just may be easier to purchase one of the tokens and sell it. If guilds still wish to function as banks and earn money through loans, then they will need to adapt to the new exchange rate.
One reason the token is so different than any other item in the game is that it will have a set price on the auction house. The price will change as more or less of the tokens are being sold on the auction house, but this price is directly controlled by Blizzard. They could inflate the price to extreme heights, lowering the dollar cost of all in-game items, or lower the token price to raise the price of weapons and armor. Because this is all in the game, there is no limited supply of gold, no limit to how much money they can print. Blizzard controls the total amount of gold in the world and also how much the gold in that world is worth.