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Rift Auction House Undercutting

Introduction

If you want to sell some items on Rift's auction house, you have to remain competitive in your pricing. For the vast majority of items, tons of other people are also trying to get theirs sold as well, so if you are not using competitive pricing you will not be able to get them sold.

If there were not a fee for simply listing an item, this would not be a problem, but when you lose money every time an item does not sell, not to mention the time you lost while it was sitting on the auction house waiting to be bought, it can be a little detrimental.

How Undercutting Works

When people go to the auction house to purchase, they usually (or at least they should…) organize all of the listings from the cheapest to the most expensive. This allows them to easily see the lowest prices they can get, rather than spending more than they need to. It makes sense, though, because we also do price shopping when we go to the store. When it really comes down to it, both types of shopping are really the same; we want to get the best prices, because it does not matter how much the difference in price is, you feel like you made a bad choice if you spent more.

Well, the Rift auction house only lists a few things at a time that you can see on your screen. If you want to get a lot of sales, you need to be on that list, and if you really want the best chances of making the sale, you need to not just be on it, but be the first person on it. To do this, you only have to undercut them by the minimum amount possible: one silver. Yes, a single silver, something that in the grand scheme of things, has no real value, is all that you need to lower your price by to get ahead of everyone else on the list.

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This starts up a bidding war, where one person will bid a silver under another, the next will go one silver under him, etc. and this will continue on and on. As the items end up not being sold (assuming they do not), people will continue undercutting each other by one silver with each new listing. This keeps the items on the market for what can be seen as being overpriced, and yet there is really no change since people are only decreasing their price by a single silver.

Free Market

One could argue that Rift has a free market, and that each player has the right to choose his or her own prices. This is definitely true, although there really needs to be a way to change what you can list things for. As an example, when you are bidding on items on, say eBay, you are bound to the rules of each auction, such that in some of them you can only bid in increments of fifty cents, some in the dollar range, some in the thousands of dollar range, etc. Each one of these limitations is set so that people will not keep nickeling and diming each other while not really getting anywhere. Otherwise the bidders would just keep increasing their bid by a single penny each time, even when bidding on an item like a house or a car. This would cause too much trouble, and that is why things had to change.

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In the same way, we really need some way to change how people do their listing in Rift. I do not think that we should lose the ability to treat the market freely and choose our own pricing, but it gets a little ridiculous when people sit around doing nothing but undercutting each other by a single silver in the hopes of getting their sale before you. This is really not such a problem on larger items, but when you get down in to things like artifacts, where the listing price is also just one silver, it means that there is almost no penalty to constantly removing and listing the same item over and over in a competition. And this is happening far too often.

A Possible Fix

I think the best fix would be to simply base the listing fees for the auction house on what you are asking for on it. For example, it should not matter that you are listing an artifact and the NPC's seem to value them as a silver, regardless as to how rare they are. If you are listing an item for ten gold and someone else is listing the same item for twenty gold, they should be paying more in the listing fees. While the sale fees are bigger on the second item, that does not do anything to keep them from “trolling” the market with the same item over and over; it is the listing fee that would stop them from doing this, and it would make a massive difference in how items are priced, and what people are willing to risk.

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How Would it Affect Prices?

I see the effect of this being that a lot of items would become a bit cheaper. This is especially true when we are talking about things like the artifacts or some materials. Because it would hurt people to keep listing things at ridiculously high prices and them not sell, it would help deter that behavior. The result of this would be that people would start throwing up their items for prices that they think they could actually get, rather than just being hopeful that someone messes up and accidentally buys their stuff or something.

You may think that this is a bad thing because it ends up causing deflation in the economy (as prices go down but the amount of gold people have continues to rise) but it would even out over time because the higher end stuff would still have its high value, and the deflation would end up inflating the prices of this high end merchandise. In other words, what should happen with this is that the lower end things should become cheaper and the higher end ones become more expensive. Does this look like anything familiar to you? The leveling curve! Essentially when you are lower level you would be able to afford the items you need, and as you continue up the ranks things would continue getting more and more expensive. While this is true, the amount of gold you earn also goes up, so it forms a sort of linear curve, where you are always earning about on par with what you need in order to buy what you want.

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While what I am bringing up is theoretical, and arguably it is what we just hope would happen, I think it is at least close to what we would end up seeing. If not dead on, we would at least be in the right direction. It is clear that as things are going right now, it is like everything is backwards. New players joining Rift are having issues getting their new stuff because people are charging way too much, and a majority of these items are not even being sold. But as long as the fees are low when listing them, there is no reason to change anything; some will even view the auction house as being like free storage, where you can pay a small fee and then get some free bag slots (in this case, mail slots) and if your items sell, great, if not, at least you still have some empty room for holding stuff.

Conclusion

While I love that Rift has a seller's market, it really does not help the buyers at all. With how things work right now, there are a lot of items that are not only out of the reach of most players because of their cost, but they are not even being bought for the same reason. Rather than helping both the buyers and the sellers out, nobody is getting any benefit at all. With the changes I have brought up, I think this could seriously fix a lot of these problems, and even if they do not actually resolve them, they should at least put a dent in them and allow for further tweaks to make things better.

As a seller I cringe at the idea of having to pay more money when I list items. I am a massive seller and I sell things constantly. But when it really comes down to it, while I think the short term effect is going to be pretty bad, the long term benefit of it should more than make up for it over time. And it would be nice to finally start getting rid of a lot of items that as of right now are going nowhere due to a somewhat dead market!

Games


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