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There's no doubt that Rift's auction house listing fees are quite low, and while some find this to be good, there are negative aspects as well. Different games handle their auction houses in different ways, and even if they were all handled the same way, there could be different outcomes. There are a lot of variables that work together to form an auction house, not the least of which is the community.

The goal behind the cheap auction house fees is simple: the cheaper it is, the more items people will list (as there is less of a loss involved). To go about this, Trion chose to go with an item-by-item price, where your listing price is irrelevant. For example, all artifacts are 1 silver. It doesn't matter if you're listing it for 5 silver or 9000+ platinum.

For most sellers, this seems like a great thing. After-all, the cheaper it is to list, the less you lose if items don't sell. This in turn helps out the buyers as well, as it more often than not results in more items being listed.

At the same time, however, this also has its negative impact. Due to the low prices of listing, people will list items (especially those that are somewhat rare) extremely high. Furthermore, it's not abnormal for people to keep the market on some items on lock-down by constantly buying all of them that are listed, then re-listing for a significantly higher price. The way they look at it is that if they don't sell them, they didn't lose much on the listing fees and those who are waiting on cheaper prices will just have to continue waiting. If they do buy, they made a lot of money.

In essence, the current market fluctuates both ways: with some items it's a buyer's market, and with others it's a seller's market. Depending on the items you're looking for, as well as when you're looking for them, this can either benefit or hurt you.

Now then, let's compare this to Guild Wars 2, TERA, and just about any other game with a market. In these, the price of listing items is based on the selling price. The more you list an item for, the more you risk losing by doing so. And how does this fare?

For the most part, these markets are all buyer's markets. The fees essentially cap out the prices people are willing to list for (and risk losing), and cause the undercutting to start at a much lower threshold. As you might guess, this hurts the sellers by forcing them to either undercut (making little profit) or list at a “decent” price and risk not selling, and losing what could be a big chunk of change. At the same time, it also ends up hurting the economy as less money is passing from hand to hand, but this can be dealt with by having a lot of money sinks.

As a seller myself, I'm personally more for Rift's style as it allows more experimenting with pricing. But for those who are buyers, making smart purchase decisions can save you a lot of money in the long run.

As for when I do a lot of buying, I prefer games that use the variable fee, because of the pricing differences. In a game like TERA, for example, people are much less likely to list items with ridiculous prices, because if they do and they do not sell (which they probably will not), there is a lot of gold that is lost. This creates a bit of fear and more cautious listing policy many players employ to ensure that you are staying within what could be considered as the “normal” range of prices for any given products. Of course, for items that have very volatile prices this can become overly difficult as well, because it means the prices drop and raise quickly and you have to determine whether you want to list at the higher end of the spectrum (and risk it not returning to that point) or at the lower end (and risk getting the sale and then the prices being boosted again). This type of market is easily dominated by a few players with a lot of money, too. Being that safety is practiced when listing, it keeps the average prices down. Because of this, someone that has been saving up for a long time (or someone with a lot of friends, like a guild leader) can come in, swiping up all of the items to a certain price point. They can then go and re list each of the items at the higher end, making a nice profit as they sell. This still has some risk attached to it, but it works enough that it is worth mentioning.

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