WoW: Cataclysm’s Economy

The economy within each individual World of Warcraft server is unique and in a constant state of changing.
The economy within each individual World of Warcraft server is unique and in a constant state of changing. Since the Wraith of the Lich King expansion has been out for quite a long period of time the economy is rather predictable, with changes happening slowly, if at all. This relative calm is occasionally shaken up by the introduction of a new patch, but for the most part things remain mostly the same.  While we cannot predict precisely what changes the Cataclysm expansion will bring looking at the effects of previous expansions can give us a general idea of what to expect before and directly after the expansion hits.

In the weeks and perhaps on even a smaller scale the months leading up to the release of Cataclysm players can expect their once stable economies to be thrown into chaos. The extent of the chaos cannot really be guessed at and will not be truly revealed until it is upon us. Based on past experiences with other expansions, and noting the fact that Cataclysm will change the world unlike any other expansion before it, I think it’s safe to say that every server’s economy will be broken apart, rearranged, and leave those not prepared for it more than a little dazed and confused.

What exactly does this mean for you the player then? It means that things that normally sell well will be worthless, while things that previously were worth next to nothing will be in high demand and sell for record prices. To better keep up with the changes (some of which are even happening now) players should keep a close eye on their local Auction House and Trade Chat. Here you can easily observe changes in prices first hand. If you see things selling for unusual prices, check the items against what is currently known about Cataclysm (the PTR is your friend here). This will help you decide if the unusual prices are just a passing trend or a semi permanent change brought about by the impending expansion

A good example of Cataclysm affecting prices can be seen right now even though the expansion is months away. Frozen Orbs were once the bane of every World of Warcraft player’s existence. Most players had at least a stack collecting dust in their banks, because you couldn’t even manage to give them way. Then Frozo the Renowned was introduced and everything changed. Frozo will now take those useless Frozen Orbs and let you purchase other more useful (and sometimes hard to obtain) items. This change has made the price of Frozen Orbs skyrocket with no end in sight. I think it’s safe to say that as the expansion comes closer and closer the prices of Frozen Orbs will continue to go up and up.

The prices of other items will change just like the Frozen Orb, becoming infinitely more useful with the coming of Cataclysm. It will be impossible to predict exactly which items will take an upturn in price and demand, but you can make an educated guess. Ask yourself what we know about Cataclysm, and how it will affect the World of Warcraft universe. For example, we know there is a new profession being introduced, by stocking up on items that are likely to be used in the leveling of this profession you can get a head start on preparing for the new Cataclysm economy.

We also know that two new races will be available. It is likely that more than a few players will want to create alts, or even new mains as these races. So from this we can conclude that items and materials that are useful in the leveling of new characters will be in high demand. Cataclysm will also bring drastic changes to several zones such as the Barrens, and Ashenvale. Sellable items only available in these zones (such as vanity pets) have a good chance of no longer being obtainable, making them far more valuable than ever before.

In the months leading up to Cataclysm (you could even start now) you should make a clear plan to clean out your inventory. Hoarding is a very bad idea, as many of the items that are pricey now will become less valuable or completely useless in Cataclysm. Sell these items before their prices drastically fall, or they become so useless it would be better to sell them to the nearest vendor. While it may seem like a good idea to hold out for the price you expect, I would suggest you sell even if it’s not the price you had hoped for before it’s too late. Taking a slightly reduced price is far better than being stuck with a bank full of junk.

The best example I can think of to demonstrate this is purple and blue quality items from instances. Since it is likely that at least some of the green gear in Cataclysm will easily replace the blue and even perhaps purple items players currently have access to, the lack of demand for these items will cause the prices to fall. This means that these items, while once sought after and selling for 3000 gold each will now be selling for perhaps less than half of that, if they even sell at all. This trend has happened in past expansions, and I see no reason for it not to repeat itself.

Drawing once again from experience with previous expansions I believe that the economy after Cataclysm will be even more chaotic, with changes in trends happening  basically overnight. Players who have the time and ambition to push forward, level quickly and begin collecting the new items and materials available will be able to sell them at insane prices. As more and more players level up, the prices will fall, with other items quickly taking their place. No one can say really what these fast selling items will be, although reasonable guesses would be instance items, new materials used for crafting, and new vanity pets.  The economy will eventually settle down, but it will take at least a few months to even out and once again we will be lulled back into the relative calm we enjoy now.

So be prepared for anything, watch market trends, and don’t hang onto items if they probably won’t hold their value and you will be well on your way to becoming prepared for the new unpredictable economy that Cataclysm will bring. Join us on our forums to share your thoughts and preparation plans on the Cataclysm economy.

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