Monday, 29 August 2011

Diablo 3: my time is free

It seems to be my week for challenging MMO truisms. Anyone who's played the economic game in any MMO has almost certainly heard the expression "my time is free" usually applied with scorn to people who are selling for lower than production cost. In Eve for example someone might take 150k isk worth of mats, build a ship and sell the ship for 125k - that's obvious not very smart. But a second player might mine the mats, build the ship and sell it for 125k - all it cost him is time. At this point people rather unkindly call him an idiot and point out he could have skipped the shipbuilding and got more for his time spent mining and point to it as an example of the "my time is free" fallacy, of a lack of understanding of opportunity cost. And they could be right but they're only right if isk-making is the be all and end all of the game.

In Diablo 3 I'll be playing to have fun trying out all the moves and mass murdering monsters while playing with my friends. That's the objective. That is, as I define it, leisure as opposed to work which I do for pay.

So what does that mean? That means, my friends, my time is free.

Beating the market is for me an additional part of the game, an additional entertainment, as fun as figuring out how to beat Diablo or how to make a class kick arse. I won't be playing Diablo 3 for money, I won't aim to be a professional gamer, I will play for fun.

Any revenue I get on top of that is a bonus. So if a Brutality Blade should sell for £3.50 but I sell one for £2 I haven't lost £1.50 I've gained £2. My time is free, any income I get is extra to the fun which is the reason I play.

I've seen many commentators giving dire warnings about no one will make any money on the game because we can't compete with Chinese gold farmers. They have it backwards. Chinese gold farmers can't compete with me nor with the 10 million others just like me. Our time is free, those RMT businesses have operating costs to pay and cheap labour is still more expensive than free labour.

I do expect to make money in the game but it's not why I'm playing the game and it doesn't matter. Viewed as a commercial concern my Diablo 3 looks like this:

Money spent = zero (I own a computer anyway, I would have bought the game anyway)
Money earned = 100% profit

That's a dream business, an I can't lose business. And I'm not worried at all about auction house manipulators or Chinese gold farmers because no one attempting to be professional in this game can match my overwhelming economic advantage:

My time is free.


  1. I would agree. If you start out 'investing' into your equipment, so you make more money later, you might very well hear Blizzard say 'thanks, dumbass' from somewhere far away, and then it turns out that the investment wasn't so much an investment and as consumption.

    Which could be fine. If there weren't the bad taste that you fooled yourself ;)

    Don't decide to undertake a journey to a goal as uncertain as making money of Diablo 3. For your 'fun' it is probably much better to just play the game and sell what you find if you don't need it. Try to ignore that you can also buy stuff. D3 will be around long enough. There's no need to be extra fast.

  2. Ha ha well I must admit I am thinking of spending some money on certain items early on. But I'll take the point that spending £2 on an extra 2% magic find is a gamble.

  3. You make an interesting point, and its basically the way I treat virtual currency in mmos today. I never care if I could have sold that stack of ore for 500 silver, and I don't care if I post it for 200 silver and someone else buys it only to repost it for a profit. The time I spent mining that ore was free (to me) and the 200 silver I made was 200 silver profit.

    However, I don't really know if I'm going to feel the same way about real money. If I found £3.50 on the street, I wouldn't think to trade it to someone for £2, nor would I want to spend that £3.50 on something that I could have gotten for £2. There's a huge psychological difference between real money (which I'm going to need to retire someday), and virtual money which has no meaning outside of the game.

    So, you could be right, but I'm not sure. I'll have to wait and see how I actually feel when this all becomes a reality.

  4. Oh I'm not advocating selling items off too cheaply just for the sake of it.

    I'm specifically addressing the point that there's no point selling on the RMAH because Chinese gold farmers will be selling too.

  5. What if you spend more money on auction house listing fees than you get back on sales, due to most of your auctions not selling? That's the one risk I see to the "play for fun, sell some stuff on the side" approach (which is also the approach I plan to take).

  6. Well you get some free auctions each week. So if you want to be casual about it, limit yourself to those. Tbh you're unlikely to find more than 5 items per week that are super valuable. (And if you found a $2000 Windforce as your 6th item it would be worth risking the 10c).

    Don't forget there's also the gold AH. If you're adverse to risking real money on deposit fees sell it for gold and later cash your gold out for dollars.