GW2: The Value of Virtual Currency

I’ve always found games that offer a way to swap between a cash shop bought-for-real-life-money currency and an earnable in-game one rather fascinating. (As a layman observer anyway – I’d make a poor economist or statistician.)

Partially because it enables me as a player to make the decision to trade up my time or my cash for similiar benefits, but also mostly because it allows me to roughly peg a value on items being sold for the in-game currency in terms of real life money.

It’s kinda the same comparison as “Should I buy a $25 mount?” (or say, spend it on five starbucks drinks or 2-5 indie games instead) just a few more steps further.

(For the record, for me specifically, the coffee and the other games would win. The intrinsic enjoyment inherent in the latter beats any urge to prance around showing off to other people something shiny to make them envious, when other mounts are just as functional… and that thing looked hellaciously ugly to me – gimme a flying lava dragon on fire, maybe THEN I’ll have a dilemma.)

Some other people go even further and start pegging in-game currency earning rates with real life money equivalency at an hourly rate. Which is rather ruthlessly logical and makes a certain kind of sense.

Except I think it fails to take into consideration the kind of experience you’re having for that hourly rate. If your work is crummy and soulless, one is going to have a more miserable time for the extra cash you ‘earn’ versus leisure time spent/’wasted’ playing a game for enjoyment. If you’re grinding dungeons or farming mobs to the point of it feeling as crummy and soulless as work, then please examine if your days and nights are best spent ‘working’ at the game and in real life. (And if your work isn’t crummy and soulless and tires you out at the end of the day, you’re having a ball working overtime -and- earning lots of money to happily spend on the game, then I want your fucking job.)

Anyhow, Puzzle Pirates was interesting to me because I wasn’t willing to put down more than 3 bucks for a couple of Doubloons, and preferably spend no real life money at all, but I was quite content to “grind” out a couple hours each night a gold haul in pirating booty and exchange that for Doubloons until I had enough for the modestly priced badges that unlocked other aspects of the game.

My main purpose there was simply to get a taste of everything and practice puzzling, for free if at all possible, so it worked out well for me to stand around in rags with holes in it (swabbie pirate style, y’know) and offer up the in-game cash that was a byproduct of my game experience to others who were a lot more committed to the game and willing to feed real money into it.

Spiral Knights made me get the calculator out.

Pretty much anything you want to do in Spiral Knights will cost you some amount of Energy. If you’re a very casual player, you can wait out 24 hours for 100 ephemeral Mist Energy to recharge, but past a certain point, you’ll find you’ll need more than that (to craft better weapons/gear, or start a guild, etc.) and have to get it either via cash or by trading the in-game gold for it. I was okay with the concept, likening it to a sort of arcade game which costs you a quarter for each play and so on, but I wanted to figure out if the amount I was being charged was reasonable before I even gave them any real life money.

Now, the most expensive way to get Energy is to buy it for $2.45 which nets you a mere 750. Each “map level” you play through in Spiral Knights will cost you 10 Energy to experience. That figures to 3.27 cents per map. (That’s before calculating any potential returns from the gold crowns you earn while playing through it. I wasn’t, as I didn’t want to make myself ‘expect’ to earn a certain minimum sum in order to break even.) I was okay paying that amount for the experience of playing the game, assuming I played through 10 levels, that’s about 30 cents for some entertainment. Seemed reasonable to me.

The fun thing with Spiral Knights is because nearly everything costs Energy, you can put a dollar value on it very quickly. The death penalty in Spiral Knights occurs when you revive, as it has an associated Energy Cost. Depending on the tier of difficulty you are at, the first death and revive starts out pretty negligible, and then steadily ramps up to a frankly insane and uneconomic $3.27 (or 1000 Energy) by the 8-10th death. The interesting thing is where each player chooses to stop in the middle, of course, and whether they stop only when they run out of Energy for good.  (And I’m sure kids who have their Energy bought for them and people who don’t think about these things and just buy it when they run out contribute a huge amount to Three Rings’ coffers from this death tax. For the record, I back out after the third death most of the time. Repeating the level grind just means more opportunities to earn in-game cash rather than spend real life money.)

Want to start a guild? It’ll cost you $1.64, or 500 Energy. You can craft Tier 1 and Tier 2 weapons for free by waiting for your Mist Energy tank to refill each day, but at Tier 3 and up, it costs 200, 400 and 800 Energy respectively plus some amount of in-game gold crowns (which again I didn’t bother converting as I just wanted to get a ballpark feel.) That means a T3 item costs 65.4 cents to make, a T4 item $1.31 and T5 $2.62.

That last bit took a while to swallow for me. Facing the prospect of spending 2 odd bucks for a top of the line weapon, and possibly thrice that for an equivalent armor, helmet and shield meant around $10 for a max level character, assuming no experimentation with other weapon playstyles (and I love experimenting and playing around and didn’t want to be taxed that badly for it.) Was this a game I wanted to invest time and money in, knowing the ballpark ranges of how much it might cost at the top?

In the end I decided it didn’t seem that over the top in comparison to other blatantly pay-to-win games where a really good sword might cost upwards of $50 or more. (Won’t find me in those, ever.) And that I’d re-evaluate as I got closer to tier 5, as there was plenty of other content in between where I was starting and where ‘max’ might be.

Ultimately, I ended up dilly dallying around T3 with an odd T4 weapon here and there as the difficulty peaked, and I’m quite content with where I am and what I paid for the period of time experiencing the game, with the option to go back and play, only paying money when I decide to actively enjoy the game again.

With prior experiences like that, you’ll find that I’m quite comfortable with the concept of the Currency Exchange in Guild Wars 2, where players can exchange gold for gems or vice versa.

It’s a good way for players with too much free time and players with too much spare cash to trade with each other the scarcer resource, with developers taking much of the profit in cold hard cash for designing a game experience worth spending time on.

What is currently now perplexing me in GW2 is the surfeit of choice of things to spend $$$ on, and in which currency should I be doing it in.

Y’see, after very patient daily farming for an hour or two in Southsun and selling off most of the T6 materials (mournfully watching my Legendary hopes recede further into the distance), the odd rare collecting here and there, and selling off all the heavy loot bags that drop in WvW for me, very steadily, day by day, my banked gold increased by 2-4 odd gold until my short term goal of hitting the Golden title was reached yesterday.

(This is, of course, absolutely nothing compared to how much the dungeon farmers and TP traders make daily, but on the other hand, I’ve not gone insane, burned out on the game or become even more misanthropic from partying up with people I can’t stand, which is a net positive.)

Bottom line is, I now have 200 gold that have fulfilled their purpose screaming “USE ME” in the bank. And I’m pondering what to do with it. It’s not like it’s earning any interest in there.

A wise trader would naturally say, invest the gold in something, so that you can flip stuff on the TP and make your money work for you and all that sort of thing. I admit to being mildly interested in learning how to dabble with that sort of thing, but a casual look at the TP suggests there are already TP flippers in residence in many niches, and that I might lose money making unwise speculations while trying to start out. Still, it might be worthwhile reserving some amount of gold towards learning how to invest/speculate/sensibly gamble.

On the completely luxury spendthrift other hand, I am still watching prices for the Molten Firestorm miniature. What can I say. I have developed an unhealthy obsession about it. I blame spending way too long a time breathing in those lava fumes in the Molten Facility. The buyout prices are hovering around 72 gold. Take the current rate of approximately 3 gold for 100 gems, and you’ll find that this completely unnecessary and fairly useless (but prettily animated and fairly heftily sized) item costs an equivalent of 2400 gems. Or $30.

DUDE, THREE YEARS AGO YOU MADE FUN OF PEOPLE BUYING A $25 SPARKLE PONY. If you buy a $30 mini-robot, even with in-game cash, you’ll never live it down.

So… yeah. I could buy all the baby miniatures for less than that, and I haven’t bought any of ’em because they ain’t cute enough for me (the lion cub’s not too bad, but I’m waiting for the kitten to see if it tempts me.) As much as I would get a kick out of having a Firestorm the size of my Asura running around with me, shooting off its cute rocket jets, I just cannot bring myself to buy it at a $30 equivalency value. Which makes me a little sad, but possibly not as sad as I would be if I bought a $30 miniature and had the other voice in my head make fun of me daily.

A third more insidious voice in my brain points out that I had been overlooking something. When I buy stuff off the TP, I generally want it -now- and thus am very used to using buyout prices to benchmark my willingness to buy. In this case, the voices have a consensus that $30 is too much, no matter how fucking awesome I think that mini is. But if I put up a custom order, and the custom orders are hovering at around 55 gold (most of them flippers, I’m sure), ie, 1834 Gems, or $22.93…

Oh. So now that’s -less- than a sparkle pony (barely), with in-game currency, and it would be up to fate whether anyone would be willing to sell one to me at that price.

That is somehow slightly more palatable. I am not sure why.

Thing is, there’s plenty of other things I could be using the gold for.

I -could- spend all of it on a quest to build my Legendary and probably still need a shitton more gold to do it, which seems like pointless treadmill running to me. I’m already somewhere between 50-100 T6 materials just playing the game how I like it, so in about twice or thrice the time period I’ve spent, I’ll fill up to a stack of 250 without really noticing it that badly (and I do quite enjoy materials farming in peace and quiet and have learned a bit more on how to go about it since Southsun.)

I kinda want a really posh magic find set of armor and weapons and runes and all. That is, exotics and Ascended quality. With a similar Charr cultural look to my berserker set. Other people are running around with 400% mf in Southsun and I’ve been hovering at 300% in my cheapo rares, feeling somewhat inadequate and not as efficient as I could be. That would cost gold too.

I’ve also been dabbling with my extremely crummy thief in WvW, which I decked out in level 80 rares just to get a feel for it before deciding to go condition or crit. Fights are… not going so well. I’m not used to thief timing and playstyle to begin with, so it’s been uphill going with comparatively poorer stats. It’s been sufficient to see potential promise but it looks like I’ll have to invest in exotics and superior runes to get a proper baseline. So that would take gold too.

I -could- buy both a condition and crit suit for him so that I can keep swapping traits for 3 silver. But a) that would be very annoying without a way to easily save specs. b) they’ll soulbind to him and be useless for any other character, and he’s a bloody huge Norn, which is making me think is at least -some- of the problem of not being that stealthy for a thief. (Don’t ask me what I was thinking, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) So maybe one suit and build is good enough for him and I should make a new Asura thief too to try the other type of build.

Character slots cost money too, y’know. An altholic’s brain never rests, and has been desiring a female Norn warrior, an asura thief, mebbe a Charr thief, an asura mesmer or elementalist or both (asura master race! furry charr at heart!)… you get the picture. For 24 gold each, that seems okay to help unlock more character slots, rather than paying 10 bucks each time because I’m still reserving my rl cash budget for the Consortium pick and/or logging axe (if they ever show up.)

I got a bank slot that needs unlocking too. And one more bag slot for my asura, who keeps filling up with loot too fast in WvW and has taken over as my primary there, while the Charr is relegated to PvE. That’s 30 gold to gems.

Put like that, I can see 200 gold disappearing in a hurry. Just got to figure out which to prioritize first.

Decisions, decisions. Which would you guys go for first, and why?

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2 thoughts on “GW2: The Value of Virtual Currency

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Started to reply but it grew overlong so I turned into a post over at mine. Short version: I get so much for free these days I end up spending next to nothing either in real or imaginary money. And I like it.

  2. Rakuno says:

    Hm. Tough question. My practical side says to buy gear that would help my performance in groups. While my fluffy side says “Cultural Armor! Moar character slots! Minis!”

    I guess it would depend on my situation at the time. If I wasn’t happy with my performance in dungeons and other group scenarios I would see if there isn’t some gear I could invest the money into. Otherwise I would just invest into fluffy.

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