Is the sky falling? Will patch 4.1 herald the end of the high price for Maelstrom Crystals? The informal communication channels between auctioneers (sharing market analyses with each other in IRC and custom channels or tells in game and on gold blogs) have been abuzz with the frantic analysis that patch 4.1 will drive the price of Maelstroms down to ridiculously low amounts. Personally, I'm not sure I'd blindly buy that.
Buy it? Really?
Okay, I'll stop. But I don't believe that the price move will be as dramatic as is being forecasted, for a few reasons. Firstly, and this can't be overstated: Since everyone thinks it's going to happen, they're all dumping their stock now trying to get their money in before the crash. This has already moved the market quite low and often the effects of this type of speculation will be stronger than the event itself.
Speaking of which, let's take two steps back and look more closely at the facts behind this conclusion. Patch 4.1 will contain a new 5-man dungeon that drops epic loot, and Maelstroms will be available for 3,750 honor or justice points, the same way you can get other valuable trade goods on the live realms. There was some question about "can not be disenchanted" tooltips on the new epics, but I can confirm that on the PTR itself, all the new 5-man epics can be disenchanted and have no such tooltip.
We auctioneers have long memories
In one of the patches in Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard introduced normal 5-mans that dropped epic loot. This took the price for the equivalent crystal down by a factor of 10 or more on most realms, as anyone who wanted fast easy gold could farm up hundreds of these by chain-running heroics for a few hours. Anyone who had stocked up on mats took a loss, and all the scrolls that people had made became worth much less.
Everyone remembers this and expects Blizzard to repeat itself. Honestly, I suspect that we're being a bit presumptuous in assuming that everything will happen the same way this expansion. I am not a gambling man, and making that assumption is a serious bet. The Trial of the Champion instance was remarkably short and boss-heavy; it had no proper trash, and the drops per hour were much higher than our new 5-mans will be.
One thing's for sure: As the price for these crystals decreases, the number being bought will go up. In order for the price to hit some crazy-low price like, for example, 300g each, there would have to be a massive exponential increase to the number being created. The reality is that as the new stock forced people to undercut more heavily to sell their crystals, the best-in-slot enchants would become more and more obtainable to more players, who would snap up reasonably priced stock.
This buffering effect will prevent the price for crystals from plummeting too far.
WoW bubble 4.0
The other sure thing about the economy is that inflation will continue. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the prices for everything are going to continue to go up as the average amount of money you'd find on a player goes up. Let's take a second to define this. Inflation is the increase of the amount of gold available to the playerbase. If you were to go add up all the gold on each player and each guild bank today and compare it to that number from this point in the last expansion, you'd see that it's considerably higher now than it was then.
This is for a few reasons. The organic ones are natural and intended: First, monsters drop more money at level 85. Second, there are more players now than there were then who are looting more monsters. Third, quests reward a lot more money in this expansion. Fourth, a significant portion of players are in a guild with access to the Cash Flow perk.
The possibly unintended, but definitely significant, source of inflation is that right now, 90% of the value of every stack of Obsidium Ore mined will end up coming from a vendor. If all products made out of raw ore had to be sold to players, it would be worth a lot less. As it is, you don't have to undercut to sell 900 cut green gems to a vendor, and all that money you just got didn't make anyone else have to lose any purchasing power.
Sure, there are new gold sinks. Repair costs are higher, and the new vanity mounts cost more than ever. Still, in a couple of months, there will be a significant portion of the population that has access to less expensive, vendor-bought goods for any vendor-based gold sinks. These gold sinks will slow inflation, but they don't balance it.
A rising tide ...
The point is that while Maelstroms will become easier to obtain, the price for everything is going up and will continue to go up as the economy inflates. Combine that with the fact that there's a lot of pent-up potential demand for Maelstroms for BiS enchants normally passed over by players right now due to cost, and I don't see the prices free-falling. They will probably go down, but not to the level they were when we could manufacture them with farmable mats.
All that said, prices for this type of good are supposed to trend downward as the expansion chugs along. More raid drops are sharded, people have more points to throw away, and eventually, it should all settle down to some sort of equilibrium. I'm not betting that they'll go up (at least not right away), but I certainly don't think they'll lose so much of their value that it's worth fire-selling what you have now.
Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped as well as the author's Call to Auction podcast. Do you have questions about selling, reselling and building your financial empire on the auction house? Basil is taking your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.