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Is the thought of the Black Market Auction House bugging you?

Anne Stickney

Ever since the Black Market Auction House was mentioned, people wondered what the heck would be in it. We were told it would sell rare items, but what we weren't told was the extent of those rare items. It's not just level 90 recipes and things along those lines; it's also rare mounts and items that have been removed from game. This includes the elusive tier 3 that was lost presumably for all time when Naxxramas was changed from a 40-man raid to a 10- and 25-man raid and moved from the Eastern Plaguelands up to Northrend.

As shown in the screenshot above, this also includes the Ashes of Al'ar, a rare mount drop from Kael'thas Sunstrider in Tempest Keep. And that seems to be a hot topic for a lot of players right now, particularly players who already have the mount and obtained it the old-fashioned way. It's an even bigger topic among those who don't necessarily have gigantic piles of gold stashed away, because it's obvious the prices on these items are going to be incredibly high. Some have said that Blizzard is catering to the 1% of players who have stockpiled mass amounts of gold.

Well, that's not it at all, really. And the Black Market Auction House is something that we've needed for a very, very long time here.

Bloggers have been chiming in about this topic as well, discussing the various merits of this new feature. The Harpy's Nest takes a pointed look at all the rares obtained over the last several years and whether or not other people's obtaining this items will have an effect on Harpysnest's feeling of accomplishment. Meanwhile, In An Age doesn't seem to think this is a big deal and notes that Blizzard is still pondering what to put on the Black Market and how to make it work. It's not a deal set in stone yet -- the interface isn't complete, and the items aren't guaranteed to be there. We're still in beta, after all.

Harpysnest has a good point with all of this, however: It's not the item itself that people should be attached to, it's the memories made while obtaining it. Would I be upset if I suddenly saw Benediction go up on the Black Market? I have to admit I probably would be, but not for the reasons one would think. I'd be far less upset that people are carrying around the beloved staff I earned in vanilla and far more upset that they didn't get to experience the marvelous quest chain that went along with obtaining it. It was a really cool piece of content. I'd rather see the quest chain reimplemented so people could play through that really cool piece of content, you know?

But that still leaves the complaints of those who don't have a lot of gold currently. Look, I'm no Gold Capped columnist, and I don't play the Auction House regularly. I have a tidy nest egg that I've managed to save over the course of Cataclysm, but I'm not really swimming in gold by the standards of those who do play the Auction House. However, I do understand that there is one really big upside to the Black Market that affects all players, and I understand that the Black Market Auction House represents something we've desperately needed for a long time: a gold sink.

Most players recoil at the thought of a gold sink, and the common complaint seems to revolve around the idea that since Player A does not have a ton of gold, introducing something that costs a ton of gold does nothing for Player A. But that couldn't be farther from the case. More often than not, the reason players don't have a ton of gold is because they either don't do dailies, or they don't really sell anything on the Auction House. In addition to this, these players may also be purchasing from the Auction House, whether it's for herbs or leveling materials or flasks or whatever the need may be.

Here's the problem: Prices on the Auction House are usually pretty darn high. People charge outrageous amounts of gold for herbs or epic gems. Common sense would say that nobody in their right mind would pay that much for some of these items, but common sense would be wrong. The reason the prices are staying high is because, somewhere out there on your realm, there is someone who is perfectly content paying these prices and will happily do so. That's because that someone has either been playing the Auction House or running dungeons and dailies until they had a high surplus of gold in their pockets.

Does that sound fair to those that don't have the time to endlessly farm? Not particularly. And that's where the gold sink comes in. A gold sink isn't just something to give these players with lots of gold something special -- it's to take their gold and remove it from the economy altogether. That's what the Black Market Auction House is doing. Because these are NPCs selling the items and not players, it means that once that item is sold, that gold is gone, nowhere to be seen again.
And the less gold people have to spend, the more, theoretically, the prices on common items like herbs and flasks are going to go down on the regular Auction House -- because people simply won't have the gold to pay those high prices anymore. Player A, who has very little gold, will suddenly have a little more gold, because they won't be spending it all on herbs and other necessities. Player B, who has a ton of gold that they can't really spend on anything, suddenly has less gold to throw around.

It evens the playing field and redistributes the gold in a way that should have everyone with just enough gold to keep them going but not so much that they're staring at it and wondering what to spend it on. If you've got a ton of gold, bidding on the Ashes of A'lar is certainly an option. If you don't have a ton of gold, then you can still go farm Kael'thas every week and take your chances with random drop rates.

Is the Black Market a perfect solution to ridiculous server economies? Well, that's still up in the air at this point. But it is a very direct attempt by Blizzard to even out the distribution of gold. Whether you've got a stash of gold worthy of Scrooge McDuck's swimming pool or you're pulling lint out of your pockets in despair, the Black Market is going to represent a change for you. And it's not a bad change at all.

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