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Report: World of Warcraft Gold Survey 2012

The results are in for the second annual World of Warcraft Gold Survey. I’d like to open with a personal note to thank everyone who helped make the survey such a success, not only this year but last year as well. When I started the survey last year I never dreamed it would evolve to be so expansive and I hope to continue this survey every year.

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 World of Warcraft Gold Survey 2012 ran Sunday, October 28th, 2012 through Saturday, November 10th, 2012 and collected 11,344 usable results. Given these results the study found:

  • The average player gold is 302,593
  • Median player gold was 80,000 gold
  • 81.63% of players are below average

Method

Requests for survey results were run on multiple community sites and independent blogs:

The survey was hosted on site using LimeSurvey software instead of a third part professional survey service as it was the most economical route.

To reduce errors from impossible results or results improbable enough to skew data any result meeting the following criteria was excluded:

  • More than 8 years of play (this was specifically stated in the survey)
  • More than twenty million gold

Goals

The goal of the World of Warcraft Gold Survey is to establish average wealth levels, wealth distribution, demographics, and inflation in the World of Warcraft player base. Essentially it’s aim is to determine how much gold the average player has in his or her pockets. As the second year of the survey the 2012 report is the first opportunity to track changes in player wealth across time and expansions.

Errors

The nature of the survey leads to several potential sources of error. These potential sources of error are listed below with the predicted effect they have on the results:

  • Opt In Survey This survey was an opt in survey, and although it attempted to reach as many players as possible it was not possible to target participants without bias. Because of this distribution method results were more likely to be collected from players who were more dedicated to the game and by those with higher gold levels. Furthermore, players who do not visit any of the sites the survey was advertised on were unlikely to hear about the survey. This skews the results upwards.
  • Entry Errors The survey required manual entry of gold amounts and may have been susceptible to erroneous entries. Extra or missing digits can result in a difference of an order of magnitude in the players results. Given the scale of the survey the effect this has will be minor but will skew results upwards.
  • False Data Many players feel compelled to lie and inflate their numbers due to issues involving ego. This will skew results upwards.
  • Rounding Errors Different players will round to different extents and a rounding method was not specified. This however will have a negligible effect on results.
  • Trolls Many entries contained impossible data and had to be excluded. To minimize the affect this had on results any survey results claiming over eight years of game play or over twenty million gold were excluded from calculations. It is unlikely that such players would enter drastically lower numbers so we can consider this as skewing results upwards.
  • Incomplete Response For unknown reasons 1631 surveys were not completed. While these entries could have potentially increased the accuracy of the survey their absence will not skew results in one direction or the other.
  • Excluded Results To mitigate the effects of the above errors any results over 20 million gold were discarded. While amounts above this amount are not strictly impossible confirmable gold amounts this high are not available. With the highest confirmable gold amount under ten million gold this cap was chosen to allow for the possibility that a small number of players may actually have this much gold and increasing the cap form ten million to 20 million produce minimal difference in the totals.

The total effect of these potential sources of errors mean that the results may be higher than actual. Without raw data from Blizzard it is impossible to say how much these results deviate, but every step was taken to reduce these inaccuracies.

Based on usable results and a World of Warcraft player population between ten and eleven million players, the survey is accurate +-0.9% 19 times out of 20.

Questions Asked

Subjects who completed the survey were asked to complete 5 question sets:

  • How many years they have been playing
  • What activities they enjoy in-game
  • What resources they utilize out of game
  • How much gold they have
  • (Optional) What ToS breaking activities they partake in if any

Subjects were asked about if they participated in any of the following in-game activities and were given the options of “Yes”, “Casually”, and “No”:

  • Raiding
  • PvP
  • Role Playing
  • Pet Battles
  • Auction House
  • Gold Farming

The survey asked if the subject read any of the following out of game resources:

  • The Consortium
  • Just My Two Copper
  • MMO-Champion
  • Gold Capped at WoW Insider
  • Independent Gold Blogs

Finally subjects were asked to rate how often they participated in the following Terms of Service breaking activities (subjects were also given a “No Answer” option):

  • Botting
  • Duping
  • Gold Buying
  • Gold Selling
  • General Exploits

To alleviate potential concerns about security and anonymity subjects were not asked any potentially identifying information.

Primary Results

This year 11,344 usable results were collected, an increase of 348% in participation from the 2011 results. The survey saw an increase in average gold of 87% to 302,593 gold per subject. The median gold saw an increase of 128% over 2011’s results with a median gold of 80,000. Finally the average time since subjects started playing World of Warcraft rose 1.05 years to an average of 5.45 years. Unchanged from the 2011 survey 82% of the subjects report gold levels under the sample average.

Wealth Distribution

Lorenz Curve 2012As with previous years the results of this year’s survey have been plotted on a Lorenz Curve, seen to the right. The red area represents the line of quality, what the results would look like if everyone had equal amounts of gold. The blue area represents actual wealth distribution where the x-axis is the bottom % of the population and the y-axis is the percent of wealth possessed. The graph illustrates the disparity between the average population and the mega wealthy.

Gini Index

Given the results of this year’s survey the calculate Gini Index, the measurement of inequality where 0% is perfect equality and 100% is perfect inequality, for the World of Warcraft population is 75.9, a raise of 10.4 points over 2011’s results. To give some scale to the disparity if Azeroth was a country it would have the most inequality in the world, doing even worse than Namibia which has a 74.3. To give perspective to the scale of this inequality Canada and the United States have Gini Indexes of 32.6 and 40.8, respectively.

Benchmarks

Some points of interest include:

  • 10.82% of subjects were under 10,000 gold
  • 39.17% were under 50,000 gold
  • 58.04% were under 100,000 gold
  • 94.10% were under 1,000,000 gold
  • 99.82% were under 10,000,000 gold
  • 81.63% were under the reported gold average (302,593)
  • The first and third quartiles were 30,000 gold and 211,395 gold (respectively)
  • Median gold was 80,000
  • The bottom 75% of players own 16.19% of the gold
  • “The 99%” owns 74.18% of the gold

Demographics

Additional questions were asked about what resources the subjects read, what activities they participated in-game, how long they’ve been playing World of Warcraft, and, new to the 2012 survey, what Terms of Service breaking activities they participated in, if any. This year changes were able to be tracked and so the difference from last years results have been added in parenthesis next to each result.

Activities In-Game

Raid PvP RP Pet Battle Play the AH Farm Gold
Yes 45%
(-20)
20%
(-19)
2%
(-6)
18% 34%
(-9)
12%
(-6)
Casually 42% (+35) 49% (+40) 9%
(+5)
47% 42%
(+31)
35%
(+26)
No 13% (+15) 31%
(-21)
89%
(+2)
35% 24%
(-21)
53%
(-21)

It must be noted here that the 2011 survey had “Uncertain” instead of “Casually” as an answer and this may have had a drastic effect on the response rates. Furthermore two columns, RP and Gold Farming, did not add up to 100% in the 2011 survey and may cause slight anomalies when calculating the change in values over the past year. Only 0.46% of subjects responded “No” to all of these activities.

Next we compare how the average gold value of those who participate in the listed activities to the overall sample.

Response Raid PvP RP Pet Battle Play the AH Farm Gold
Yes +17% (+7) +14%
(-22)
+2%
(+26)
-15% +118%
(+36)
+69%
(+77)
Casually -21% -5% -10% -14% -54% -20%
No +9% -0.7% +0.9% +26% -72% -2%

This year’s results saw a sharp increase in the disparity between players who participated in these activities and the general populous. Players that participated in any of the activities, with exception to Pet Battles, had an average gold level higher than that then the general population while players that responded “Casually” to these questions saw lower gold levels across the board.

As with last year activities that tend to be more competitive, raiding and PvP, saw higher average levels of gold amongst it’s participants while more relaxed activities, Role Playing and Pet Battles, saw lower gold levels.

Resources

The following are the resources subjects were asked if they utilized:

Consortium JMTC MMO-C Gold Capped Gold Blogs
Yes 18%
(+7)
13%
(0)
66%
(-3)
40%
(-22)
23%
(+7)
No 82%
(-7)
87%
(0)
34%
(+3)
60%
(+22)
77%
(-7)

While the readership for Just My Two Copper saw no change in readership amongst participants and MMO-Champion saw minimal change Gold Capped had drastically lower readership in this years survey. One possible reason for the drastic change in Gold Capped readership is the change in sources where responses were gathered. In the 2011 survey most of the responses came from a classified that was run on WoW Insider. While WoW Insider also ran an ad this year the survey also got a substantial amount of it’s participants from /r/WoW which would have diluted how many participants came from WoW Insider. A total of 18% of subjects reported using none of the resources listed.

The average gold levels of each site’s readership was compared to the overall average with the following results:

Consortium JMTC MMO-C Gold Capped Gold Blogs
Difference +141%
(-153)
+94%
(-42)
+8%
(-6)
+16%
(+27)
+76%
(-79)

This year the advantage of reading any of the resources dropped across the board with the exception of Gold Capped readers who saw a marked increase in their gold advantage. The Consortium still dominates with it’s readers having the highest gold averages in the survey but the gap has closed since the 2011 survey. With this year’s survey the readers of independent gold blogs lost their advantage over Just My Two Copper readers though while Just My Two Copper readers remained the same readers of gold blogs increased by 7% so the increased readership may explain why they lost their edge. One last change of note was Gold Capped readers now have an advantage on the sample average while the 2011 results reported they had a penalty.

Length of Play

Subjects were asked how many years ago they started playing. Below is this data broken down into ranges with what percent of the sample reported playing that long and the difference of that groups average gold levels compared to the sample average.

Length of Play (Years) Percent of Players in Category Difference From Sample Average
<1 3% (-2) -63% (-23)
>1 & <=2 6% (-3) -28% (-29)
>2 & <=3 8% (-9) -6% (25)
>3 & <=4 13% (-6) -9% (-37)
>4 & <=5 16% (-4) 0% (+19)
>5 & <=6 18% (-1) -7% (-14)
>6 & <=7 19% (-8) 7% (-36)
>7 & <=8 16% 33%

Because of the length of the survey no subject who took it this year will be in the same category as last year. Players who have been playing since the first year of World of Warcraft, this year’s 7-8 years range, increased 5% in participation over last year’s survey.

This year’s results displayed a much more linear results when comparing the averages of each group to the sample average. In general as the time a player has been playing World of Warcraft their gold levels increases, as shown by the graph below.

Years Played Versus Deviation From Sample Average

ToS Breaking Activities

New to the World of Warcraft Wealth Survey in 2012 is the addition of questions asking about player’s use of Terms of Service breaking activities such as botting, gold buying and selling, duping, and general exploits. To encourage honesty and participation subjects were given the option of “No Answer” if they felt uncomfortable answering the questions so for the following results each results can be considered +/- the percent of “No Answer” for that given question.

Frequency Botting Duping Gold Buying Gold Selling Misc. Exploits
Never 92.04% 96.65% 92.23% 94.71% 93.61%
A Few Times a Year 2.21% 0.26% 4.88% 1.87% 2.82%
At Least Once a Month 0.70% 0.10% 0.20% 0.54% 0.60%
At Least Once a Week 1.18% 0.05% 0.03% 0.26% 0.23%
Daily 1.45% 0.06% 0.08% 0.16% 0.24%
No Answer 2.42% 2.88% 2.57% 2.47% 2.50%

The use of bots and gold buying were the most common activities with up to 8% of players participating in these activities while duping items was the least used with 96.65% of players claiming to have never duplicated an item. In total 84% of subjects claimed to have never participated in any of the listed activities while 1.96% responded “No Answer” to all of the questions.

Below you can find the frequency plotted against admitted participation:

Frequency versus Participation

Finally we can compare the gold average for those who participate in these activities to that of the sample average:

Frequency Botting Duping Gold Buying Gold Selling Misc. Exploits
Never -5% -2% +2.33% -10% -3%
A Few Times a Year +4% +69% -56% +203% +50%
At Least Once a Month +35% +600%
(*)
-84% +352% +107%
At Least Once a Week +11% +333%
(*)
-95%
(*)
+573% +51%
Daily +288% +498% (*) +108%
(*)
+632% +297%
No Answer +16% +19% +28% +54% +12%

(*) With such low response rates to Duping and Gold Buying in the At Least Once a Month, At Least Once a Week, and Daily options the averages displayed here may be unreliable.

The data provides clear indication of trends across the players that participate in these activities. With the exception of Gold Buying all of these activities gave players gold averages above the sample average regardless of frequency with a trend of more gold the more frequently a player participates.

Frequency Versus Deviation From Average

Conclusions

This year’s survey finds an ever increasing gap in Azeroth’s mega wealthy and “working class” players where if Azeroth was a country it would have the most inequality of all countries tracked by the UN. In Azeroth’s defence it’s economy is seeing an extreme level of inflation. Taking the average of the first, second, and third quartile along with the mean gold Azeroth’s economy saw an inflation of approximately 115% with the most inflation seen in the first quartile and median gold and the least inflation seen in the third quartile and average (mean) gold.

Activities that tend to be less competitive continue to have participants with gold levels higher than normal though players that participate in anything casually saw lower gold levels across the board. Players who have played World of Warcraft longer continue to tend to have higher levels of gold. As expected using any of the listed resources yielded higher gold averages though the use of Reddit was erroneously excluded so no data is available on the effects the Reddit community has on wealth levels.

The results from the questions about the Terms of Service breaking activities yielded their expected results with increased gold levels with the exception of players who bought gold. While this may seem contrary to expectations players who buy gold are more likely to buy just enough gold to buy things they want and spend it immediately, leaving very little gold in their pockets. Also seemingly contrary to expectations players who admitted to selling gold had extremely high levels of gold, this can be accounted for by the way gold sellers operate. They tend to amass gold in bulk before selling it to resellers so it’s likely that with enough gold sellers taking the survey several will not have sold their inventory recently.

As the game evolves so to does the in-game economy. This year’s survey is only the second data point in tracking it across time and spans the release of an expansion as well as a year. While this year’s survey provides valuable information we won’t be able to truly track trends until we gather another data set.

About the author

Eric Dekker

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

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  1. Cold

    Oh look: Cheaters make more money than non-cheaters.

    We also discussed the survey on The Eviscerated Gaming Podcast and linked to it from both Eviscerated.net and Cold’s Gold Factory in the show notes posts.

    1. Stede

      Actually what stood out to me was that Consortium readers make the most gold.

      Probably worth a discussion on the next CtA.

  2. Lasagna

    http://wow.4fansites.de/artikel,10055,Fragen_und_Antwortenrunde_zu_MoP.html (you have to scroll near the bottom)

    “Question: Are there any plans to increase the old 50k gold cap limit when transferring characters at level 85 to a higher value for level 90?
    A: No, an extremely tiny fraction of the playerbase has over 50,000 gold and we feel it’s good for in-game economies to have these players utilize the market to offset their total gold amounts.”

    I think it’s only a few days old.

    Also I think an interesting question for your next survey would be “How did you make most of your gold?” and choices could be glyphs, gems, transmog (that’s how I made most of mine), flipping items (non- transmog), crafting armor/weapons, bought from gold-seller, etc. I would be very interested in this information.

    1. Eric Dekker

      That’s why I put in the bit about how many had under 50k gold. Honestly we don’t know how many is “an extremely tiny fraction” is since the blue didn’t post it, and honestly I suspect it’s just anecdotal, I really doubt Blizzard’s ever really calculated something like that.

      1. Lasagna

        I bet that they do calculate out stuff like and and lots more. They have all the info at their fingertips. It’s not like they have to do their own surveys.

        They probably use this type of info to set how much we get for daily quests and the prices that they put stuff out on the BMAH, how much the big yak (120k gold) cost, the cost for flying, etc.

  3. Anna

    I found this to be a bit surprising on the statistics. I have found it so easy to make gold, to the point that I can spend 200k on an item and I don’t feel set back at all. I have never actually hit the 1mil gold mark, but I have so many items and crafting mats, that if I sold them I would probably have well over that (I think at the moment I am sitting on about 750k in liquid gold). My view on it is, while it is shiny, if I can’t get the things I want, when I want them, why bother having the gold!

    It amazes me that people resort to duping/botting/buying etc when it requires only a little bit of time and some knowledge of the market to make so much. I didn’t realize it was quite so prevalent.

    1. Eric Dekker

      I’m sure someone a lot smarter than me could make a statement about how it’s an instant gratification society :P People want the shinies without the work, but to me that’s just not as fun or rewarding.

    2. Stede

      It tends to happen more on servers where the pratcice is already widespread. It’s very difficult to compete with certain bots.

      As I tell everyone who doesn’t understand it – I’m happy for you. Be glad!

  4. Jackspot

    Interesting results, you did a great job collecting these datas :)

    Despite the potential sources of error (especially False Data & trolls …), I think results seems to be a good reflector of the current wow economy at least as much as I imagined it.

    Thanks for sharing

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