Opportunity costs and GW2 vs. WoW

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I started playing Guild Wars 2 last week, and one of the most significant changes as a Warcraft player (and no, I haven’t given up on Warcraft, it’s just that the content for Patch 5.3 ran out REALLY fast) is that GW2 permits you to spend real world currency for in-game currency. You go to the in-game store and swipe your credit card to buy gems, which you can trade for gold or other goods.

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This radically changes the game for me because now I have a benchmark for how much my time in-game is actually worth. Gold in game can be translated to real life dollars. Here’s an example:

  • Gems cost $10 for 800.
  • $1 will buy 80 gems, in other words.
  • 100 gems can be redeemed for about 2.5 gold.
  • Thus, 40 gems gets you 1 gold and $1 will get you about 2 gold.

If you read up on the Guild Wars 2 gold-making websites, there are farming spots in game which can yield 2-3 gold an hour for grinding out materials by repeatedly killing things or harvesting commodities such as wood, ore, and vegetables. You would frequent these places if you didn’t want to pay real world money for in-game money.

If you grind gold in-game to avoid spending real-world currency, you are effectively working for about $1 an hour.

As a reminder, federal minimum wage in the United States is 7.25 an hour. If you wanted to be as productive as possible in your GW2 gaming, you’d be better off working as a barista or fry cook for an hour than grinding away fictional monsters for an hour.

Believe it or not, this is also incredibly freeing. If you could spend an hour doing monotonous work for1 or 7.25, which would you rather do? Or, if you want to go outside the box, how much could you “grind” in real life in an hour?10? $50? That’s where GW2 flipped my perception of gaming and opportunity cost on its head. I could write a blog post about it with affiliate links and earn more currency I can use in-game by not playing the game at all. Since there’s no monthly fee, they can give different incentives (buy stuff with cash) than Warcraft can, where buying in-game currency with real world money is prohibited and they want you to keep playing instead (and paying the monthly fee).

Here’s a question for you: if you play games in your leisure time, is it possible to maximize the fun you have by not playing them? That’s the essence of opportunity cost: doing the most valuable thing possible at any given time.

Unsurprisingly, by the way, the links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you in advance for shopping with them and supporting the games I play.

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2 responses to “Opportunity costs and GW2 vs. WoW”

  1. I was always very adamant about not putting money into microtransactions – however, that all changed within the last year. I play a lot of FIFA Ultimate Team on 360, and you can spend real money to buy packs. I have found that through buying packs (I’ve spent roughly 40, but play no other games), I’ve been able to get cards/players I wouldn’t have been able to afford without some massive grinding, ex: found a player in a pack worth 230k; on avg, you get 500 coins to game, with a game lasting roughly 12-15 minutes.

    To answer your question, I do believe that the fun I have in the game has been maximized by small microtransactions over the last year (5-10 increments).

  2. This is all good but I was wondering if grinding or buying gold was really necessary. I’m considering the game but I don’t really wanna get it if I’m gonna end up grinding for hours or paying to get the full experience like lotro. I liked that about wow. U could get all the money you needed by just playing

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