What World of Warcraft can teach us about the knowledge economy

Warning: this content is older than 365 days. It may be out of date and no longer relevant.

In the World of Warcraft, there are a number of professions you can have. Some are gathering professions, where you gather up raw materials, such as mining, herbalism, and skinning. Other professions make use of the raw materials to create finished goods, such as blacksmithing, alchemy, jewelcrafting, and leatherworking.


What most of these professions have in common is that the raw materials professions ensure a consistent level of demand for their wares, but their earning potential is constrained by how quickly they can “farm” up their respective materials. The manufacturing professions have demand for only some high quality items but command premium prices for them, well above the cost of the materials.

If you wanted to maximize your profits in World of Warcraft, one of the most reliable routes is to pick one of each profession (you’re limited to two) – mining and blacksmithing, or herbalism and inscription, or skinning and leatherworking. This keeps your materials costs relatively low in financial terms (at the expense of time) and allows you to create high level, high price items.

Now think for a moment about the information age, the knowledge economy, the world in which social media, new media, exists in. What are the raw materials of this economy? Knowledge. Information. Data. Knowledge is unquestionably valuable, but with the power of the Internet, Google, and ubiquitous content creation tools, knowledge is very much a commodity. What else might be raw materials in a digital economy? Trust, perhaps. Relationships. The network itself, your network. All of these things are raw materials, and they’re valuable…

… but are they as valuable as they could be? Are you able to command the prices you want? How do you get to the point where people are willing to pay a premium for the digital assets you have?

World of Warcraft points the way – you have to take your raw materials, such as knowledge, trust, experience, and craft them into something else. You have to forge them into something else. What’s that something else? Think about what makes raw materials usable: service. The blacksmith takes raw ore and through the application of his own knowledge, forges it into armor or weapons. The herbs in the hands of a skilled alchemist become magical flasks for improving what you are capable of.

The true expert practitioner in the digital age doesn’t just have knowledge or a social network or a large database. The expert practitioner has the ability to take those digital raw materials – your digital raw materials, if you have any – and craft a powerful solution to your actual problems. Just as a pile of saronite ore isn’t useful for slaying dragons (but a Titansteel Bonecrusher is), so isn’t a large list of blogs or a large network of followers on Twitter versus the ability to create a desired result.

If you’re not earning what you think you should be in new media, take a few moments to investigate whether you’re trying to sell raw materials or crafted goods. You may find that you’ve been leaving a lot of money on the table!

You might also enjoy:

Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get updates here:

subscribe to my newsletter here

AI for Marketers Book
Take my Generative AI for Marketers course!

Analytics for Marketers Discussion Group
Join my Analytics for Marketers Slack Group!


One response to “What World of Warcraft can teach us about the knowledge economy”

  1. “Knowledge is unquestionably valuable, but with the power of the Internet, Google, and ubiquitous content creation tools, knowledge is very much a commodity.”

    ‘Commodity’ denotes a good for which there is demand but little product differentiation. It does not mean ‘easily available’. Even by this latter definition, all knowledge is not on available for free on the internet as some people seem to believe.

    Stick to Warcraft buddy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This