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Report: World of Warcraft Gold Survey

Notice

You can find more information about this project and links to the most recent results on the World of Warcraft Gold Survey page.

The results are in from the World of Warcraft Gold Survey, and I’d like to thank all that participated, in all 2,531 usable results were collected! The survey has produced interesting results which I hope can provide insight to the in-game economic condition of the player base, and allow gold theorycrafters to better understand the economy and it’s players.

The results of the survey however may be misleading to those who do not fully understand the implications of the data, so I’d like to take the time to walk readers through exactly what this survey did, and the implications of the data.

I make no claim to have professional or even an amateur Economic or Statistics background. This study was done purely for the sake of knowledge and was not done for any organization or intended for any professional study. I make no guarantee to the accuracy of this data. My apologies to any statistics or economics majors that I give an aneurysm as a result of reading this study.

Summary

The survey started the evening of Saturday, October 29th and ran until the afternoon of Saturday, November 5th and collected 2,531 usable results. Requests for survey results ran on The Consortium, US and EU Official Forums, MMO-Champion forums, WoW Insider’s Classifieds, and several independent gold blogs. Entries which contained data impossible due to the nature or limits of the game were discarded, though such contamination was limited. The survey was hosted on site using LimeSurvey software.

The goal of the survey was to establish average wealth, wealth distribution, and demographics in the World of Warcraft Player base. This survey and report were inspired by Sinshroud’s of The Consortium post on Can The Consortium Be Considered the “1%” of WoW?.

Errors

As with any research the results of this survey was subject to a certain amount of error and the very nature of the survey led to some unique potential sources of error:

  • Opt In Survey This survey was simply advertised for and was not a targeted survey, that means someone can be biased towards completing it or not, and those with more gold in this case would be much more likely to complete the survey than those with little. Many such sites were ones dedicated to making gold and will produce higher than average results. This skews the results upwards.
  • Limited Distribution Since it was impossible for me to go in-game and ask people individually about their wealth I had to rely on various sites to get my survey out there, meaning players who do not frequently visit World of Warcraft related sites would likely not be exposed to the survey. This skews the results upwards.
  • Entry errors This survey was a self-completed survey and is susceptible to data entry errors, fat fingers etc. It is difficult to determine what effect this would have on results, but it is most likely that this would skew data upwards due to added digits.
  • False Data Many people might feel compelled to lie and inflate their numbers on a survey such as this, as with any survey centred around a potential ego issue. Several players, based on responses in several forum threads, did not seem to understand that the question was asking for liquid only, and entered their worth value. This would skew results upwards.
  • Rounding Errors Rounding conventions were not given for the survey and so subjects were left to their own rounding conventions. I believe these errors could swing either way and will for the most part cancel out.
  • Trolls Many entries contained impossible data and had to be excluded, however some other entries may be blatant corruption on a more reasonable scale and did not get caught by my filters. The filters on the questions plus the likely hood of trolls entering too-low data makes it reasonable to assume errors due to this will cancel out
  • Site Trouble Twice during the survey, once due to faulty hardware and once due to server load, the survey became unavailable, potentially cutting of some subjects mid-response, leading to a high number of incomplete surveys. A problem with the survey software prevented some players from continuing the survey.
  • Perceived Security Issues Several players reported not taking the survey due to worries that the information would cause them to be targeted for hacking and account theft.

These errors would create an inflated result, producing higher than actual result.

Questions Asked

Subjects who completed the survey were asked to complete 4 questions, how many years since they’ve started playing World of Warcraft, which activities they enjoy ingame, which out of game resources they frequent, and how much gold they have.

Subjects were asked if they raided, participated in PvP, RP’d, played the auction house, or farmed gold (limited to manual labour type activities). Subjects were asked to answer to these with Yes, No, or Uncertain. Subjects were also asked if they visited various online resources: The Consortium, Just My Two Copper, MMM-Champion, Gold Capped from WoW Insider, or miscellaneous gold blogs. They were given just two answer options for this, Yes or No. None of these questions were mutually exclusive and could answer Yes, No, or Uncertain to any number of questions.

The final question was how much liquid gold the subject had across all characters, realms, and accounts not including the worth of items in their inventory.

Realm or faction specific questions were not asked to help alleviate security concerns and the scope of this survey did not include realm or faction numbers.

Primary Results

With 2,531 results the subjects had between them 408,738,617 gold for an average of 161,493 gold per subject. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this number is way too high, so further data and analysis must be considered when determining how much gold an average player has.

The median wealth was 35,000 gold meaning that 50% of the subjects had 35,000 gold, significantly lower than the average wealth of the sample data.

The average time since subjects first started playing World of Warcraft was 4.4 years.

Wealth Distribution

The results were sorted by wealth and plotted into a Lorenz curve, seen on the right. The red area is the line of equality, if everyone had the same amount of gold, while the blue area is the Lorenz Curve, the actual wealth distribution, where the x-axis is the bottom % of household, while the y-axis is the % of income. This graph shows a drastic discrepancy between the poorer players, and the mega wealthy.

Benchmarks

Some points of interest not well represented in the graph include:

  • The bottom 75% owns 14.41% of the wealth (the bottom 25% and 50% owns 0.88% and 4.37% respectively)
  • The first quartile was 12,000 gold while the third quartile was 108,198 gold, and as previously mentioned the median was 35,000 gold
  • “The 99%” owns only 75.75% of the wealth, leaving 24.25% to the top 1% of players
  • 19% of the subjects had under 10,000 gold
  • 72% had under 100,000 gold
  • 82% of players were under the reported sample average
  • 96% were under 1 million gold

These benchmarks illustrate the disparity between the top gold makers in the game and the more casual players and how top heavy the population is in terms of wealth when 82% of the player base is “below average”.

Gini Index

The calculated Gini Index (the measurement of inequality where 0 is perfect equality and 100 is perfect inequality; lower is better basically) for the World of Warcraft population, based on the sample data, is 65.5. To put that in perspective, if World of Warcraft was a country, it would be ranked the second highest inequality, just below Namibia at 74.3 and just above Lesotho at 63.2, while Canada and the United States weigh in at 32.6 and 40.8 respectively, to give some scale to the disparity WoW players face.

Demographics

Two of the questions included in the survey were designed to collect demographic information about the subjects regarding which activities they frequented in World of Warcraft and which resources they made use of out of game, with the following results:

Activities In-Game

Do you raid? Do you participate in PvP? Do you Role Play? Do you “play” the Auction House? Do you farm gold?
Yes 65% 39% 8% 43% 18%
No 28% 52% 87% 45% 74%
Uncertain 7% 9% 4% 11% 9%

90% of the players answering the survey claimed to participate in at least one of these activities, while 10% answer “No” or “Uncertain” to all the activities.The average wealth of players who claimed they participated in the various activities were compared to the overall sample average:

Raid PvP RP Auction House Farm Gold
Difference +10% +39% -24% +82% -8%

The activities usually associated with high competitiveness, raiding and PvP, tended to have more gold, with the more casual of the two having a smaller increase. Counter-intuitively players who claimed to farm gold had less gold on average, while those who claimed they played the Auction House had the highest average of all the activities. The small percentage of players that claimed they role-played had the lowest average gold of the activities. The players who participated in any activity had an average 8% higher than the sample average, while players reporting no activity in the listed fields had an average 75% below the sample average.

Resources

The following are the results from which resources the subjects used:

The Consortium? Just My Two Copper? Gold Capped @ WoW Insider? MMO-Champion? Misc. Gold Blogs?
Yes 11% 13% 62% 69% 16%
No 89% 87% 38% 31% 84%

In total 92% of subjects reported using at least one of the listed resources. The average wealth of players who reported using the various online resources in the survey were compared to the overall sample average:

Consortium JMTC Gold Capped MMO-C Gold Blogs
Difference +294% +136% -11% +14% +155%

As the target audience of a resource trends towards the more casual warcraft players the average wealth of said audience declines. The Consortium, where content is more focused around discussion of advanced topics and not just a one way flow of information had the highest average, 294% above the general sample average. Gold Capped, where the target audience is more novice and is an almost 100% one way flow of information had a penalty, the average was 11% below sample average despite having the second largest audience. MMO-Champion stands out in despite not being oriented towards gold making, rather general game knowledge, had a larger wealth average in their readers than Gold Capped did. Players who claimed to follow at least one of the resources had a marginal 1% advantage, while those who claimed to not follow any had a 9% penalty.

Length of Play

The number of years since the subjects started playing World of Warcraft with the following results:

<1 1-2 2-3 3-4 4-5 5-6 6-7
Percent of Players 5% 9% 17% 19% 20% 19% 11%
Difference from sample average -40% +1% -31% +28% -19% +7% +43%

The trend from this data (seen in graph on left) indicates that as a player gathers more experience ingame, the more likely the player is to have an above average level of gold. This data threatens to be invalidated due to inflation of gold over the years, however since accumulated gold does not earn interest and most inflation happens at set points for everyone (expansions, patches etc.) it is safe to leave this data in for comparison.

Conclusions

The results of this report highlights a large gap in wealth between the upper and lower class players in World of Warcraft. With such a large percentage of players below the mean wealth level, the whole ingame economic system is an extremely top-heavy one, leaving large sums of gold sitting idle in the top players pockets kept isolated from contributing to the economy, which is especially detrimental if one considers that a server economy is the simple flow of gold and materials. One can argue however that by holding such large sums of gold such players can more easily influence and correct markets, keep inflation in check by keeping the sums of gold out of the hands of the masses, and provide buyers for big ticket items such as TCG Mounts.

It is also clear from the results of this report that activities that tend to attract more competitive players, Raiding and PvP, tended to have larger wealth averages amongst it’s participants while more docile activities, Role Playing, had a significantly lower average.Similarly, resource aimed at intermediate to advanced subjects and audiences provided a marked increase in wealth levels, even if the resource was not focused in gold making.In-game “age” proved to have a positive effect on the average wealth levels of players, though whether this is due to pure time to accumulate said gold or from the experience of playing so long, is yet to be determined.

About the author

Eric Dekker

Gamer. Student. Nerd. Author of The Golden Crusade. Find him on + and Twitter.

24 comments

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  1. K.

    How are you accounting for assets in your statistics? Any wealth survey is meaningless without that element as the really high end wealthy don’t (or shouldn’t be) keeping all of their wealth as liquid gold.

  2. Anon

    Great article and similar results to a guild poll from a smaller guild that has a good mix of people. I would love to see a report from blizzard with a gold by account break down. I can only imagine that some of their pricing for mounts, gear, pets, etc is semi determined by how much the wow players have as gold. IE Specialty items like hogs, vial of sands, mammoth have very high vendor price tags vs items in Molten Front that t he general population is likely to buy/use.

  3. Skorpsy

    Interesting survey. The average gold per subject is actually slightly lower than I would have thought it would be, considering the targetted audience and people most likely to notice the survey I would have actually expected to have a higher average, though I actually think the truly average player probably has less, and probably would be less likely to read gold blogs or see the survey.

    Then again, my husband told me last weekend (as he hit 100k for the first time and was all excited and i replied with “omg dude if i ever dropped to a 100k I’d be mortified!”)that I have a completely skewed and out of touch opinions regarding gold.

    Great article!

  4. Eric Dekker

    @K: specified not to include assets in the gold amount to keep things simple for those that don’t keep up with gold making

    @Anon: Thats an interesting point I never considered Blizzard might look at gold data

    @Skorpsy: The day WoW Insider ran my ad in the classified the results nearly tripled, so that helped reach a much broader audience than just goblins

    Thanks for the input everyone!

  5. K

    @K: specified not to include assets in the gold amount to keep things simple for those that don’t keep up with gold making

    Doesn’t that make the results wildly inaccurate and basically meaningless beyond a certain point though? It’s probably reliable for people under 100k or so, but beyond that I’d expect it to not really be reflective of actual wealth.

  6. Eric Dekker

    True the name wealth survey is a bit of a misnomer however I wanted to keep it simple for those unaccustomed to caring about gold, and to avoid problems and inconsistencies evaluating items (or achievements, learned mounts etc)

  7. Tirrimas

    To provide a (possibly) more accurate rendering of a character’s worth, shouldn’t the “all gold looted” be included somewhere? I know I’ve spent a lot of gold on leveling professions and buying things like pets and mounts. I don’t have a lot of “liquid gold”, but consider myself relatively well-off, considering I have a full stable of Horde alts on my main server, including 3 85′s and those have nearly-maxed professions.

    Also, I found it kind of awkward that there wasn’t a “sometimes” answer for some of the activities. I’m not a regular raider, but I do, once in a while. I don’t “play” the AH, but I do actively sell stuff. I don’t PvP regularly, but Tol Barad’s kind of fun…

  8. Bory

    Blizzard had said recently that it did not see the need for more gold sinks in game. Based on this data I would argue that potential inflation is being kept in check by the top percent of players and their huge stores of gold not being spent other than to buy more low prices goods to be flipped or value added. Interesting study.

  9. Theronie

    Very interesting survey results, and overall nice analysis. While I don’t fit the average in the report, no single person ever fits the average which is why it is an average.

    I find the result “The 99% owns only 75.75% of the wealth, leaving 24.25% to the top 1% of players” of most interest when compared to the real world.

    A recent World Wealth Report by Cap Gemini (http://www.au.capgemini.com/insights-and-resources/by-publication/world-wealth-report-2011/) shows that “Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals (defined as those having investible assets of US$30m or more) account for 36.1% of global wealth and represent 0.9% of the global population”. To me this indicates that wow “wealth” is not really that far off the real world.

    Also to note the CG survey considered wealth to be investible assets excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables and consumer durable. Which sort of falls in line with what Xsinthis was trying to do here.

  10. Anon

    I take issue with the comment ” keep inflation in check by keeping the sums of gold out of the hands of the masses”.

    Players with accumulated gold are not keeping it out of the hands of anyone and it has no impact negative or positive on other players or the game. It is not an inflation check on prices in AH as if prices are “too high” no one will buy.

    The net wealth of a player is a function of their ability to gather and sell resources not the size of the bank account of a tiny 1% of the participants.

  11. Skorpsy

    imo it takes 3 key things to make enough gold to be wealthy in wow. one, money, the old saying “it takes money to make money” is certainly true. two, the personality/willingness to spend said gold. three, the ability to spend said gold on something that will in some way generate more than you invested, some basic knowledge is helpful to make that successful, though I’ve seen some do it on intuition and luck alone.

    RL is not too different. Two, I think is most peoples downfall. I know a lot of people in wow who totally fear spending any gold on investing in something for fear it won’t pay off and they could lose. Losing is always a risk, but those who do not take the risk are the ones that are constantly living day to day, always broke. Or in real life, from payday to payday. It is harder to take the risk in real life because the risk of failure is a bigger thing looming over most than it is with fake currency in a game.

    However one thing that holds true probably in both, is that the more money you have the more you make, it is an exponentially ever increasing cycle.

    I am fairly convinced that if I, a dumbass middleaged housewife can do it in wow that not only can anyone do it in wow but probably in real life as well, utilizing similar techniques. Though I have not tested it yet in real life. fear of losing with real money gets me there!

  12. Saliira

    This was an interesting survey, thanks for putting it together.

    When I was taking it, I did wish for a couple additional options:
    - A category for Questing/Achievements. This is my main activity and it falls between Raiding/PVP and RP in terms of “competitiveness”.
    - An option to specify “liquid gold” or “liquid plus stock for sale”. I’m currently dumping about 50% of my liquid into mats to sell once 4.3 drops and so I gave the amount I had before I started stocking up instead of my current liquid amount.

  13. Eric Dekker

    Unfortunately the real world stock market is a much larger and more complex system skorpsy, so a lot more “basic” knowledge is needed, and you’ve got a lot more moving parts.

    Saliira you’re right I completely over looked quesitng and achievements.

  14. Skorpsy

    Yes questing and achievements as well as a sometimes/occasionally answer instead of just the yes, no, or undecided would have been cool. I do not raid nor pvp, though i go through big spurts where I quest or do random achievements inbetween my ah postings. I also would say that I “occasionally” farm, though when forced to choose between yes or no, I finally decided no was more accurate than yes simply cuz my attempt to farm something once every few months when I get bored of auto posting probably was not often enough to constitute an actual yes.

  15. papadoc

    Just to add to the non gold wealth comments. I never let my gold exceed 100k. I always turn it into xpac inflation protected assets that will maintain their relative value. I would estimate that my real wow wealth to be 4 to 5 times greater.

    Informative article – I would have like to see a more detailed graph with numbered axises.

  16. moo face

    i hit half a million gold last week. The only person who knows is a real life friend. Otherwise, I keep it quiet. I spread the wealth around on my toons so that someone who’s clever and inspects, don’t see a pile on one toon.

    My experience (playing since Vanilla), is that most people don’t believe that someone can have that much without buying it.

    I like playing the auction house, which is how I’ve made much of my gold.

    In real life I’m a decent investor, with a large 401K that I make solid contributions to, and no consumer debt. Make of that what you will. :)

  17. Gnug315

    “…large sums of gold sitting idle in the top players pockets kept isolated from contributing to the economy.”

    What do you mean “contributing”? The only “contributing wealthy players can do is either give their gold away, or pay too much for stuff bought on the AH. In both cases, all they’re doing is increasing inflation.

    Gold herders are effectively gold sinks, and thus hugely beneficial to combatting inflation! Be glad there’s a high-end cap.

  18. Eric Dekker

    @moo face yea I know what you mean, it seems the majority won’t believe you, or think you bought it, which is so damn annoying, and I touched on it in a previous article: http://thegoldencrusade.net/2011/10/what-kind-of-a-force-are-goblins-in-a-servers-economy/

    @Gnug315 I mean “the 1%” has large amounts of gold pooling in their pockets, and it doesn’t usually go back into the economy, as opposed to if it was more spread out

  19. HaRe

    Chinese wower fly coress…

  20. tony

    ….

  21. Dr_Zinj

    EQ2 has a slightly easier method to calculate total wealth.
    Figure the total value of coin currently held and add that to total coin generated by merchant/vendor sales, and you get a good approximation of the total wealth of the player.

    Yes, that does discount high value items gained by raiding, and losses by transmuting and rents. But it is a lot easier for Sony to monitor.

  22. I used to Play WoW

    For those people that are trying to compare the result of this survey to real life and the OWS Moment.. here’s a few things to consider:

    1) This survey measures wealth… meaning how much gold players have, vs Adjusted House hold Income… which the OWS slogan 99% and 1% came from. (or in simpler words: How much you have in your bank account vs how much you make per year) It’s like comparing apple to oranges they are still fruits but they are very different things all together.

    2) The results of the data shows that people who are more aggrassive (PVP and Raiders), knowledgable (ppl who went to forums and got better info), Experienced (people who played 6-7 years) having more wealth. There’s nothing that suggest that it should be the contrary. In other words… Working as Intended.

    3) WoW economy is in no way compariable to real life economy. WoW is an open economy (Infinite amount of gold in the world) Our banks cannot keep printing money. If Jobs are defined as a mean to get money, WoW would have no unemployment as well since players can make money whenever and in whichever way they want. It’s also more elastic because if you are really desperate you can farm gold for 24 hours and get a lot of cash right away; such opportunity are just no available in real life.

    The fact that inflation is kept in check is NOT because 1% players can control the market to keep prices down. It’s because supply (mining nodes, Primal Fire/Air/Water/earth/life, cloths, leathers, etc) are also infinite in the long run. In the short run they are limited by their spawn rate. Prices are determined by 1)Rarity and 2)usefulness of the item; If people found out a primal fire can sell for 100g, people would farm them, and because they’ll want their stuff to sell they’ll go lower and lower until there’s no more Primal fires to sell. or 2) People will no buy a rare item because they can get something better for that 100g.

    4) Wow players rarely has any recurring upkeep cost: They need gold to repair, spell components (candles, portal runes, etc) and flightpath. Arguably they have a one time expense of training for skills when they level, mounts, bag, and bank slots. In real life our expenses are a much higher and covers a much larger precentage of our income. That means that while income distrubtion is uneven, no one is so broke that they cannot afford to live. Even the lowest first quartile can make enought gold to cover their repairs and are not sunking into debt.

    That also has another implication: Saving up for cash is harder in real life, managing your expense becomes that much crucial. Sadly, a lot of ppl don’t know how to do that and live beyond their means.

    5) Wealth means nothing in WoW after a certain amount. Sure players can have 1 million gold in their account, but they can’t go and buy out Ironforge or Orgrimmar. In fact the millionairs in WoW probably do the same thing you and I do when we log into WoW. They might have a faster and more awesome mount but that really doesn’t affect anyone else’s gameplay. No one knows they got 1 million gold and no one would be able to tell. Most of the best equipment in game are raid drops and can’t be bought with gold. In other words, in order to feel truly epical and decked out in purples, they’ll have to raid just like everyone else.

    If anything, drawing parallel between WoW gold and Real World Income would justify the income disparity. People who plays more and knows more gets more money. I believe that what shocks people is that they expect the relations between wealth and “skills” to be linear, while both in real life and in WoW, the relationship is exponential and the 1%, who just knows just a one more little trick to make gold/money, earns a lot more gold then the rest. Quite Frankly, the simiarlities between this survey and real life is no concidence.

  23. Omar Pinedo

    Hi, i’m an economist and I’d like to see your DB so we could see the result of some regressions.

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