GTN Suggestion: Regulate the Market

For anyone that knows me outside of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I hope that you did not injure yourself when you collapsed in shock that my topic today is advocated for regulation of a market.  I am always in favor of letting market forces drive the allocation of resources, but when some market participants are interfering with the free flow of goods and capital an intervention is warranted.  This is even more true in a game than real life, because at the end of day this is supposed to be fun!

What’s wrong now?

The problem I’m writing about are the sellers on the GTN that list items for exorbitant amounts.  I have become acutely aware of the magnitude of the problem as I’ve spent the past week writing algorithms to identify and remove these sellers from my GTN data to remove their skew in a less manual way in the long-term.  The process has been long and boring, but hopefully it will be finished later today and I can get back to the more enjoyable content creation that it is preventing.  I was not prepared for the sheer volume and diversity of listings outside of the useful data set from the GTN.

More importantly, these sellers are primarily listing items for prices that can be accidentally selected by tired eyes after a night of operations when sorting the price column incorrectly.  This has subsequently spawned a more noble, but no less problematic, group of sellers that list the items for sums that no player I’ve encountered has available, most often one billion credits, so that incorrect sorting is more apparent to the player.  While this is a helpful safeguard against the nefarious intent of the first type of seller, it is not without its own cost because the sheer volume of listings on the GTN causes the database recall to be quite slow at times and has been cited by developers as a limitation for new content.  For more information on an example, check out the latest Ootinicast which includes information from Bill about a GTN-related feature suggestion for which database workload was a limiting factor mentioned by BioWare.

The result is hundreds or even thousands of single item listings per server for unit values that are illogical at best and manipulative at worst.  There is no database or system that is not hindered by unnecessary workload, so that alone is a worthwhile reason to make changes.  If you add the quality of life benefits to players of a faster GTN and the removal of manipulative sellers, it becomes a big win for BioWare.   So how would I fix it if Musco emailed me and asked?

How can it be fixed?

The simplest solution would be price ceilings on items for the GTN, but this is too broad of an approach and even on a per-item basis would be very limiting.  If the system could handle it, the best solution I’ve come up with so far is a dynamic price ceiling which only allows new listings up to 200% of the current lowest price available.  My thought process is that a dynamic ceiling still allows it to be market driven, but maintains a tighter range of listings.  If there are units available for that much below the price you’re attempting to list your units at, you should be buying them up to sell later or you’re listing well above market equilibrium and should lower your price.

Another simple solution would be to suspend accounts that chronically list above reasonable value, ideally just removing their GTN selling permission if possible.  Start with a short-term suspension and scale up for repeat offenders.  If anyone from BioWare happens across this rant and would like to pursue this option, I’d be happy to provide my exclusion list from my algorithm of sellers to exclude as irrelevant to market analysis to make the process even easier!

Your turn to tell me how I’m wrong!

I would honestly like to hear a lot of feedback on this topic.  Is it an issue?  Does it negatively impact your use of the GTN or dissuade you from using the GTN?  If it is an issue, what should be done about it?  What’s your ideal solution and is that the same as your practical solution?

As always, thanks for reading.  I’ve nearly finished the new algorithms and data base queries which will allow me to post GTN data updates that are more easily navigated and have more information on trends and relative value at current prices built into the output!  I’m also working a lot to build out the back-end system for other new features that will be very exciting, but work keeps getting in the way and realistically that will be an issue for another month or so probably.

– Andrew | SWTOR Economics

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23 thoughts on “GTN Suggestion: Regulate the Market

  1. The problem I see with the dynamic price ceiling allowing new listings up to 200% of the current lowest price is that you’d then be creating the manipulation in the reverse. The users who want an item that is too high will take 1 of that item, set it to a really low listing price, then wait for the system to kick in and have other users selling an item for a huge discount. The dynamic ceiling would also need a dynamic floor and then honestly, it wouldn’t REALLY be too dynamic. I agree about the issue, though I looked at the people putting in 999,999,999 as ones wanting to use the GTN as storage.

    I love the data you provide, it is insightful and I use it to track changes and what is worth selling and not. An example of what you are talking about might be what I do when I don’t see some of the cheaper items on the GTN. I had a load of first aid kits, needed some room in my cargo bay, and there were no listings on the GTN. They are 5 credits on your spreadsheet as an average, I marked them up to 25 to 50 depending on the listing quantity and every last one of those auctions sold pretty quick. Honestly, that was a 500% increase and it wasn’t like I made TON of money, probably enough to cover a few credits I spent. The thing is I couldn’t do that with the 200% cieling and when you are talking items that their low is 80,000 credits, the 200% is 160,000 and the 500% I did was 400,000 credits, it makes a large difference, so I do get to see what you are saying, the solution is far from easy though.

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      • I also agree with Rob here. Unfortunately, consumer moods and prices tend to swing so drastically in this game. Therefore, I don’t think limiting prices to a percentage of the lowest price would work.

        However, I do agree that something has to be done. I was reading some of the comments below. Maybe a non refundable fee for listing in the GTN would bring prices to more rational levels, and also eliminate the players listing items for billions. I am unsure of how real auctions charge for selling items, but if I am not mistaken, they use two fees. One low non refundable fee (fixed or as a percentage of lowest possible offer) for listing an item at the beginning of the auction, and a higher second fee (as a percentage of sell price) after the item was sold.

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    • The solution is easy to fix. Charge people for posting on GTN. (Possibly waving the charge of the item sells in favor of the sales tax) It will eliminate the people using GTN as storage, the ridiculous 1 billion offerings for a single first aid kit as such tactics will slowly eat away credits. Such a charge will cause people to rethink postings.

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  2. Rather than impose an arbitrary price ceiling, eliminate the free ride. As it stands now, cartel market items have a trivial cost to list an item, and even then you get the listing fee back if it doesn’t sell.

    Fix this by making the listing fee a fixed percentage of the price you’re listing the item for, and then make the listing fee non-refundable. Because the rollover on GTN listings is so high, to balance that for ‘regular’ users, you’d want to extend the max length of a listing and credit the listing fee against the percentage the GTN takes on a successful sale, So if the listing fee is 3% of your list price, and the listings can now sit for a week, you can still list that ultra-rare armor piece or mount for cr. 20,000,000, but you’ll be paying cr. 600,000 a week to keep it up on the GTN hoping someone has enough more credits than sense to pay that price.The longer you leave it up at an absurd price, the less likely you’ll be able to make _any_ profit out of it if it sells, and if you hold out long enough you’ll eventually wind up selling at a loss even if you drop the price to something that _isn’t_ jacked to the skies.

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    • This is tantamount to creating an artificial price ceiling as it disincentivizes the listing of legitimately rare and valuable items for a fair market price, for it would often be in the seller’s best interest to sell at a more accessible price. This also creates an undue burden on sellers with large volume, who must relist items over and over as demand may come in spurts (packs for instance). Moreover, there are many items whose fair market value is impossible to determine due to limited market data, eg. a Dathomir Rancor on JC. In these cases a seller must simply test the waters and wait until an item sells, adjusting the price as time passes. If any such ceiling is constructed, I suspect the emergence of private brokers who will sell the items in fleet chat for a discounted fee, exacerbating the spam problem in gen chat.

      To Sean, arguing that only someone with questionable intelligence pays a premium price for an item is unfounded and absurd.

      Bioware could preclude deceptive pricing by rounding list prices up to, say, two significant figures (43,000,000 looks to the tired higher than 43,000,333). Hurting legitimate sellers by restricting their ability to pursue and sell rare items or listing many items at once would fundamentally change the market dynamics, and I caution against pursuit thereof.

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      • Keep the deposit fee refundable, but base it on a % of the list price. Say 10%, most people selling a valuable item have funds on hand. A further refinement would be a seller rating that influed the deposit %, a successful sale would lower the deposit %, an unsuccessful sale would increase the deposit %. Selling a lot in both value and number of sales and you could be down to 2%, lots of failed listings and the deposit may be 25%.

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    • Agree with anonymous about its how you’d kill the GTN. The GTN is how I earn credits a little quicker while grinding the missions that don’t earn me all that much in credits. It is also how I clear my cargo. The thing is it is touch and go on whether people want an item. I posted over 1000 Green Goo and a few hundred Silica over the course of a week, it all sold no issue. I put a usual amount the other day, almost all of it got returned as expired auctions, First Aid Kits and Power Tubes were the reverse, I couldn’t give them away, the other day I put them up because i had WAY TOO many in my cargo bay, it all sold in less than 12 hours. All the money I would of lose from placing the auctions if you really lost it, would leave me with almost no profit to take the adventures to just check out the worlds and get those oddball achievements.

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  3. This is what free market does especially when common returns from questing etc do not match the supplier’s price. But most of the exorbantly priced items you really DON’T need, just want. For instance, on Ebon Hawk, I see really exorbant prices for midgrade purple mods…yet with a few commendations you can get close enough mods off of vendors. Cartel market items were outrageous, but then they were also bought with cartel coins which indicates real world currency investment. ther eis no easy way to work around this issue. Capping prices is just shy of communism or socialism, both of which stink. Really the bottom line is to not buy from the market. When there is no demand, prices plummet. Want to really stick it to them with your blog? Take your weekly report and call out the outrageous price gougers. Shame them. Yes that is ruthless and maybe mean. But if I were to see you do that, I’d spread your site around like wild fire. Word gets around, no body buys from that seller. Seller makes no profit from having goods wsting away in his/her cargo bays. Price drops and there ya go.On the same token, look at those selling items at a reasonable rate based upon mats acquired, time put into crafting and what level of epicness. Play positive call outs on these people.
    This is the same principle as word of mouth in a town of which small businesses take care of customers and which don’t.

    Finally, GET RID OF GOLD SPAMMERS! The more counterfeit coin in circulation (ie farmed coin for sale) the less value a credit has on the open market which will drive prices up. Ok, those are just some basic personal thoughts. End thought is, free market will always exist in MMOs, the key is for the players or writers to call out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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    • To be clear, I’m not talking about limiting the price of a rare item, I’m talking about the sellers who are listing very common crafting materials with a vibrant sellers market around say 1,000 credits/unit but listing a single unit for 671,000 credits.

      I don’t want to cap the price on valuable or rare items, just the price on ones with sufficiently large supply available for, say less than 10,000 credits/unit, and not allow a seller to list that same item for 1,000,000 credits/unit. It isn’t a clean or easy system, but this was more about bringing up the topic than saying I have a cure-all solution for it.

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      • But that is indeed what you are advocating in your article with a cap price of, say, 200% of the lowest item.

        The option of pursuing or banning manipulative sellers is also problematic as it is sometimes unclear what does and does not constitute a deceptive price, and cannot be automated with any accuracy. Again, this will hurt legitimate sellers.

        I think the easiest method is to auto-sort in ascending order, eliminate decimal places and round the numbers to like 2 significant figures. I think that these simple formatting changes (and probably others that I haven’t thought of) will help tremendously.

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        • The lowest of that item, not of any other items. I cannot articulate how easy this is to automate, I just did it. These are not legitimate attempts to sell items, they are spam being listed by the same accounts (using bots based on how clustered the expiration times are) at the same price on an endless loop. I was too conservative with 200%, you could make it 5,000% and it would fix the issue I’m describing. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of these which has to strain the system unnecessarily for no benefit.

          I don’t disagree that the formatting ideas are good and more feasible, I just wanted to start a discussion about why these sellers are defended by so many people every time it comes up. I want the most free and vibrant market possible, the cap was just the first idea that came to mind and by no means exceptional. I’d love to see them try formatting changes and any other ideas first, but if those don’t work a 1,000% cap above an existing listing of the exact same item would be better than the status quo if the goal is a free, fast, and vibrant GTN market.

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  4. ah well now that seems a little more clarified thank you. I don’t see the dev’s doing that though. To be honest, I rarely ever buy mats, and I only sell my purple rares out when I have an over supply. Even then I tend to cut the competition price by between 5k and 10k depending on the4 value of item at hand. Still, materials on Ebonhawk tend to be cheap comparatively to other servers. Furthermore, the market is extremely volotile and fluctuates almost daily. I’d love to see what your thoughts were over all not just of the data crunching but of over all marktet analsysis. That would be some good reading. Become the SWTOR version of The Economist !

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  5. The answer is not to restrict the gtn but to allow players to place restrictions on their own spending. Like having a popup if they attempt to spend above a certain limit.

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  6. Excellent, MMO’s have the ability to allow players to become very adept merchants. I think also Game Events and expansions have a direct impact on goods traded and sold. Market analysis of these events within game if done properly can actually forecast intrinsic worth of goods bought and sold. I’ve already tweeted this article because I found it to be intriguing and valuable to players looking for profit. Keep up the good work, I have you on my blog role at forafewcreditsmore.wordpress.com as your articles are solid foundations for the trader at large.

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  7. Back when the game first started, you had to escrow a very large percentage of your asking price. If you wanted to sell an item for a million credits, you were committing something like 50,000 of your own credits to make that listing.

    This was purely escrow. Whether or not the item sold, when the listing ended, you got all of it back.

    This tool prevented people from listing items at insanely high prices.

    It could do so again, were it to return.

    However, the reason it was eliminated was Cartel Market. BioWare knew that some CM items would demand high prices and they didn’t want to leave this limitation in the way of adding value to their cash shop.

    Hard-coded price limitations would probably discourage sellers from entering markets. I sure as heck would bow out if such a thing were to happen.

    Ultimately, the best control is already there. Buyers need to evaluate the information the game gives them. They have, at a minimum, two opportunities to evaluate anything they’ll buy if it’s even a laughably moderate amount of credits. If they can’t at least do that, oh well, they’ll learn to do it next time.

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  8. How about just letting us ignore specific sellers? I know bioware for chat/harassment purposes will only allow “ignore” to block a character, not an entire account due to the potential for this functionality to be used as a reverse look-up tool.

    Perhaps the Hutts will tighten their grip on the GTN and require sellers to register with them for the right to sell items on the GTN. For your entire account of characters you register once and pick a corporation name for your GTN activities. Then all postings to the GTN from all characters show up under your corporation name not your character name. Now, give the ability to both block (across all your characters) a corporation as well as search for postings by a given corporation.

    I would also support:
    1. return of the previous escrow rules
    2. allow preconfiguration of the GTN interface (preset the min-max credit search parameters) would also be useful.
    3. Fix the formatting/listing/search features

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  9. I usually agree with you 100%, Andrew. But I strongly believe that regulation is not the answer here. The problem is a simple one, and demands a simple solution. The people who post deliberately confusing listings are exploiting a kludgy UI that represents fractional credits in a manner inconsistent with whole credits. They are also violating the terms of service. The UI should be fixed so that credits are represented to a consistent decimal precision (or no fractional credits at all). In the meantime, the individuals who are attempting to exploit this should be warned, have their ill-gotten gains nullified, and/or banned.

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  10. There seems to be two different problems :

    1. Players who offer items for exorbitant amounts, and intend for these items to be bought by other players confusing the high prices with lower prices with decimals.
    I find those offers very often, especially with stackable items, and there can be no mistaking the intent. When browsing the crafting materials to sell or buy, I almost invariably find stacks which seem to be priced at about 1000 credits but which in fact are not.
    In this case, I agree completely with Jay K : Why bother fixing the problem with dynamic price restrictions or detection algorithms, while you could fix the source of the problem just by changing a detail of the interface ? On principle, I also agree that the players exploiting this feature should be warned and if they persist be temporarily banned from the GTN. Players who are using exploits in general are sanctionned, so why should the GTN be an exception ? Of course, the ideal solution would be to fix the source of the exploit.

    2. Players who offer items for exorbitant amounts, and I am not sure why.
    I find those offers from time to time, whose insanely high prices are not easily confused with the usual reasonable prices, and I am reduced to speculation as to their intent.
    Perhaps these players never intend for the items to be bought at all and are using the GTN as excess storage ? Or perhaps they hope someone will buy by mistake ? I really don’t know, so I can’t say anything about possible solutions.

    Side note : the lower price of an item on the GTN is not really representative of the usual prices it sells for. It does not take into account the players who sell items for a very low price, well under the usual, and whose items are quickly bought by other sellers.

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  11. This seems like a good post to tell a story about what happened to me last monday.

    I’ve ignored the GTN in this game for quite some time outside of buying belts and bracers for alts, in part because the crafting mechanics in this game make me feel like a trash collector and in part because the general GTN design in terms of listing price compared to item value compared to inflation makes me feel like I’m probably always getting ripped off. But, I want to max those alliance reps out which means maybe doing the weekly for C2 so off I go to buy some crafting mats…

    And I buy one of the vastly overpriced items because I mistake a comma for a decimal. Because items are listed to the decimal. Even though I have millions and couldn’t give a soaring shit about a half a credit. So I do some googling to see what it takes to get a refund and… they don’t do that. Well alright then, I suppose since I thought that particular item was worth 2 million credits even if only temporarily, it’ll be fine to get 50 and put them back up for that price. Apparently it isn’t scamming, apparently it’s fine, because apparently I’m free to think that’s how much the item is worth. So now I’m part of the problem because I prefer that to being victimized by a shitty market.

    I’m even thinking of maybe sending some of those fake COD emails along to the seller if I can get the right name – or hey even the wrong name, because who really gives a shit? Only thing actually stopping me is that this MIGHT be the line at which it would be considered scamming. But probably not.

    In actuality what will probably happen though is that I’ll get bored relisting all that garbage and just delete it and go back to ignoring the GTN/crew skills.

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