Would Mega-Servers Help the GTN?

I’ve been gathering GTN data for some upcoming content which led to an interesting thought experiment today.  There have been assurances from BioWare that a long-term solution to the issue of group content queue times is coming and most people seem to be expecting some form of mega-server to result. Although I know nothing about the situation other than what I’ve read online and heard on podcasts, I’ve begun to wonder how the eventual changes will impact the GTN as we know it today.  The thought experiment is brief and boring if their solution maintains server differentiation of GTN content, so let’s assume that the result is a single, unified GTN sometime this year.

It seems reasonable that one issue when BioWare attempts to anticipate the impact of new game content, like a slot machine maybe, is that SWTOR is not a single organism but really a collection of similar but autonomous ones.  Each server has a unique population both in size and makeup.  It would be interesting to study the meta-data for the days between the slot machine initially appearing and the day the drop rates were slashed because I am confident that while the servers had similar directional movements in material prices on the GTN the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen is that the magnitude of those price drops varied meaningfully.  This is intuitive since each server has varying portions of their population that are active in the crew skills and GTN material market-making realms.

The positive impact of a single GTN would therefore hopefully start with better implementation of new content and its economic impact.  The next benefit would be an increased population of buyers and sellers, creating a more efficient market in finance terminology.  There is an intrinsic benefit to combining multiple markets into a single market due to a more even distribution of supply and demand than the current system.  If all of the server economies were at a similar equilibrium in the current arrangement the net impact to prices would be zero while volatility during periods of rapid change would be decreased.  It seems likely that the servers are not currently at the same equilibrium points of supply and demand though, so there would be short-term disruptions that would rile up members of the community that have been able to manipulate the GTN supply and pricing for a corner of their server’s market for profit, but that’s a net positive for the broad community.

Hopefully this is part of the vision that BioWare has for the future because it would make their jobs easier in the long run even if it is extra time investment this year.  Many of the complaints that I’ve seen regarding the game’s economy are focused on the GTN and a result of its partitioning under the current system, there just aren’t too many issues with the process of grinding daily missions to earn credits (an MMO core concept) or crew skills (maybe due to capitulation by critics) other than the unceasing desire for a crew skills app of some sort.

What do you think about this thought experiment?  Is it a pipe-dream? Is there an obvious point or problem that was in my blind spot?  Comment below or on Twitter, my goal is to create content that invigorates discussions about SWTOR while bringing data-driven answers to economic questions in the game as well.  Look for my next post in the next couple days to focus on the question “how would you fix the slot machine balance issue?” that someone posed on Twitter this weekend.

Thanks for reading.

– Andrew | SWTOR Economics

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7 thoughts on “Would Mega-Servers Help the GTN?

  1. One of the best things the devs did in City of Heroes was to unify the auction house, not just across servers in a region but globally. A single market ensured more stable pricing and supply for all players, not just those on the biggest North American servers. It’s been on my wishlist for other MMOs ever since.

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    • Thats a game I’ve never gotten into but I’m glad to hear that is has been done somewhere before, that probably increases the chances of it happening in SWTOR compared to being the first game to attempt something like that.

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  2. This is an interesting idea. It would probably be detrimental to my own swtor ‘business’, as the prices of the goods I sell are currently quite high on my server (they used to be 3 times as low on my server in the first year of the game) and I’m sure they’re much lower on some servers. But yeah, sure, that would be better for the ‘customers’. ^^

    Because of the market being more efficient, it would probably mean an advantage for the die-hard crafters with a whole army of crafting gathering alts (aka the ‘tycoons’ xD). I’m not sure if I’m such a fan of that idea. I’m not *that* much a fan of selling on the GTN; I just do it because it’s more time efficient than running dailies.

    On another note, I did happen to track the price of midlithe crystals on my server during the course of the slot machine debacle for an economy-based blog article of mine. I didn’t collect the data in super much detail, but I have a gist of the curve. Within a week, the crystals were worth 10% of their original price. I’m looking forward to your more professional insights in future economical shifts like this! 🙂

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  3. For at seller combined GTNs would be a bad thing. In a combined economy you would have more irrational sellers and that only hurts the rational sellers. You have to realize that games like SWTOR does not have a perfect system because the “survival” of people in those games are not the same as in the real world. In the real world I have to accumulate wealth in order to survive. No paycheck -> no food. So I act in a rational way marketwise to accumulate the wealth that my survival depends on. In SWTOR and other games you can get by or “survive” by doing nothing. This means that you can act in an irrational way by real-world standards. If I want to go out and farm mats for hours and sell them all for 1 credit because I view this as a profit if I don’t value my time the same way I do in real life, there is no stopping me. I will not die from starvation like in the real world.

    In a market is only takes a few or even just one irrational seller to screw up the market for the rest. By combining GTNs the risk of this happening is even higher.

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    • I’m not sure I follow your thought process. There are influential market makers in the GTN that would immediately buy up something listed for an absurdly low price, that already happens. It would be bad for sellers that are currently able to manipulate GTN prices on low population servers because it is easy to corner the market in a large swath of materials, but you don’t see that on The Harbinger or other decent population servers for the same reasons you wouldn’t see it on a unified GTN either. I think we may just have fundamentally different views of market structure, which means we will just inherently view this thought experiment differently. Thanks for reading!

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      • I know my example is a bit far fetched, but I was only trying to illustrate that profit is not the motivation for all people in the market and also profit is not viewed uniformly by everyone. The latter is the actual crux of the problem. If the value(profit) that one person derives from selling an item is a feel of contributing to the community or other fulfilment that is not monetary then the competition is scewed. They don’t need to make an “hourly wage” and can undercut everyone else to the point where there is no profit to be made. That is not sustainable in the real world. That is why we are seeing fair trade initiatives in very poor developing countries. The market there has been undercut by well meaning wellfare and charity organisations as well as aid from first world countries (as well as corporations with questionable business practices), and has left local markets and economy in shambles. Farmers can´t sell their goods at fair prices because the market is overflowed with very cheap or free products.

        I do agree with you most of the way. My point is just that we can´t really rely on real world market economics when trying to predict what is going to happen in SWTOR. The basic drive in the real world is not there in the same way and therefore it is not going to behave the same way as a real world economy would. I’m not saying it won’t happen, I’m just saying there are enough people acting irrationally compared to real world markets, because in real world markets they are on such a small scale and quickly disinsentivized to continue that behaviour.

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