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Gold sinks and entitlement in WoW


I recently published a news piece about the price hike of the Grand Expedition Yak from 60,000g to 120,000g in the Mists of Pandaria beta. I was not overly surprised by the reaction to the piece at first; I had expected something of an outcry, as there often is at the introduction of gold sink items.

But then I began thinking about why. Why do gold sinks promote such ire in the WoW community? I first approached the question from the angle that it's hard to earn that sort of gold. Whatever you think, for the beginning Auction House player, it is. It's hard to transform 500g into 120,000g. And it's hard to imagine that such a transformation would ever be feasible when you're the person with 500g across all their characters or even the person who's always sat at about 30,000g -- no more, no less -- despite having a go at playing the Auction House.

That latter one is me, by the way. I do try at playing the Auction House; I'm simply not very good at it or very dedicated! Worrying, really, when you consider I used to work for a hedge fund. I was managing real estate, in my defence.

A difference in attitudes

So, it's not easy to earn 120,000g, and unless you're lucky enough that your guild or some kind millionaire will give it to you, there's not another way to get it. But, taking mounts as our example here, is there a similar reaction when a new Gladiator's Drake is introduced? Is there the same response to the introduction of the mount for Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider rewards? Both of these are pretty darn tricky -- even impossible -- to get for the individual who doesn't really raid or doesn't really PvP.

It seems to me that the logical followup question is why there's a difference in attitude. It seems the only discernible divide between the rewards from heroic raiding or high-end Arena, and the gold sink mounts is the possible notion that the raiding and Arena awards require gameplay skill, whereas the gold sink mounts require Auction House skill. But the Auction House is a game, isn't it? Is the Auction House player less skilled than the raider? Or the PvPer? Or are they differently skilled?

I would argue the latter. Watching markets and knowing when and what to buy and sell is a skill. It's a skill augmented by addons such as TradeSkillMaster, sure, but in response to that I offer you DBM and GladiatorLOSSA.

So perhaps there's an idea that gameplay skill is somehow more worthy, more valuable than Auction House skill? Does this notion exist? Or is it more that there is some societal dislike for those who strive after gold rather than after the slaying of dragons and the betterment of themselves via loot and item level?

If you view things like the Black Market Auction House and the jewelcrafting mounts (and, of course, the yak) as the end-game rewards for playing the Auction House at a relatively high level, does their price and exclusivity become less objectionable? And if not, why not?

Entitlement? Elitism?

Have things like the Raid Finder increased the sense of entitlement among players? Now that a brand new 85 decked out in mostly PvP gear can kill Deathwing, are people beginning to feel that they should be able to have it all with minimal effort? Does the nerfing of mount grinds like the Winterspring Frostsaber (amongst others) make people think that things should be easy -- or easier -- to obtain? Is this combating elitism? Is elitism bad? Is it seen as unfair that the people who are good at what they do within WoW are given a reward?

I'm not sure what the answers to any of these questions are, but I was surprised at just how many people seemed upset by the price hike of the Grand Expedition Yak. I, like many others, will simply employ my hearthstone to get myself to a reforger. I'm not bothered at all by the fact that I will almost certainly never have one of these yaks, any more than I'm troubled that I will likely never have the Reins of the Twilight Harbinger. But then, my mage only has one mount. It flies and moves me faster than running, so I'm happy. If I was really into mount collecting, then I'd consider earning 120,000g for a yak a grind that was among the harder ones, but I know full well that there have been far more tiresome grinds.

I appreciate I'm asking more questions than I'm answering here, but that's because I genuinely don't know the right responses. What about you? What do you think? Are you bothered by gold sinks more than the difficulty of obtaining PvP reward mounts or Glory of the Raider rewards? Do you think entitlement exists in WoW? And, of course, why?

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