As World of Warcraft has grown to over 7 million players worldwide, I’ve noticed something about the game that I don’t ever recall seeing in any other game. The price of the game from Amazon.com goes up and down. Usually when a game comes out, it will start at one of the canonical prices, say $39.99 USD. And if the game is successful, the price will generally drop $10 to $20 to spur further sales and compete better with new titles. After this price drop, there are generally no further price changes over the life of the title.
I’ve noticed that the Amazon price of World of Warcraft does not follow this pattern. I’ve seen it as low as $26.99 USD and recently as high as $36.99. The fluctuations remind me more of a stock than a game title. And like a stock, perhaps there is money to be made on these fluctuations. One possible explanation for the fluctuations are gold farmer account bans. Blizzard periodically bans accounts found to be involved in real money trade (RMT) wherein in-game items are farmed and traded for real money. RMT is a violation of the terms of service all players agree to when they sign up. RMT has grown to such an extent that Blizzard may ban thousands of accounts at any given time. But there is nothing that prevents a banned player from buying a new copy of the game and using a different account to pay the subscription cost to get back in.
This sort of thing happens with all of the big online games, but in a game with over 7 million players we may be seeing the effects of massive bans on the retail price of the game. Companies involved in RMT are not going to go out of business quietly because there is obviously a demand for their services. So buying new copies of the game and setting up new accounts is just part of the business. The sudden demand for new copies after a ban probably pushes up the retail price of the game. So if the enterprising trader can buy copies of the game when the price is low, there may be money to be made after massive bans. I may just start tracking this myself to see if there really is a correlation.