Dealing with Competition in the Auction House

Players trying to make gold in World of Warcraft will eventually feel the heat of competition in the Auction House. For new players this can be disheartening, if not a little frustrating as competitors ramp up the pressure in an attempt to drive them from their chosen markets. In this post I’ll explain some general strategies for dealing with competition and perhaps make life a little easier when trying to sell your gear in the Auction House.

Life is a Competition

Competition is a fact of life – in the real world and in the World of Warcraft; so I’m always a little surprised when players wring their hands in despair when faced with a little competition on their server. After all, they don’t call it Warcraft for nothing!

But it can be frustrating to see your items continually undercut, no matter what the price or time of day you list them. Entrenched Auction House Goblins will fight with tooth and claw to prevent you from getting a foothold in their chosen market. Their aim is to drive you from the Auction House – or at least from their chosen market – so that they can continue to profit from their sweaty enterprise.

Now, some people love this, calling it Auction House PvP; others hate it and leave the Auction House and take up knitting. But for those players interested in making gold, there is a middle ground where some competition is expected but where the aim of the exercise is to make a profit not to eliminate every other player from the market. A little competition is a good thing in a market. It stops players listing items at silly prices. Fierce competition on the other hand is generally a bad thing. It forces prices down to a point where no one makes a profit. Players spend all their time listing, undercutting then canceling and re-listing with any profit disappearing in the form of Auction House fees.

Review Your Markets

So what to do? Well, don’t panic. Grab a wet towel and wrap it around your head and take a deep breath. Start by examining the markets you are operating in. If you are new to the Auction House and have chosen a popular market to compete in such as Inscription, you might want to chose another, less competitive market as you hone your gold making skills. Go to WoWuction.com and select Global from the menu and choose the tab Top Professions. There you will see a breakdown of all the professions on your selected server by market share. Inscription comes top on my server and Engineering bottom. Tailoring sits somewhere in between.

Niche Markets

Now I gave up Inscription on my server a while ago in favor of Engineering. With Inscription I was making a few silver across many crafted glyphs and spending all my time listing, undercutting, canceling and re-listing. With Engineering I’m making a greater profit on the items I’m listing for much less time spent on the Auction House.

If you are really in love with your chosen profession and have time to duke it out you can often reduce competition by operating in niche areas within a market. A good example in Inscription would be the niche market of Mysterious Fortune Cards. These are easily crafted and still popular across many servers. You’ll find fewer players competing and by focusing on this niche you’ll become an expert on the subtleties of selling this particular item.

Niche Niche Markets

Still too much competition in your market? Then try a variation on the theme of your chosen niche. After I had given up Inscription on my server I still competed in the Mysterious Fortune Card market. I did this by buying up the stacks of cheap card – the result of those PvP Goblins – and turned them into Fortune Cookies. The recipe for a Fortune Cookie require just one Simple Flour and one Mysterious Fortune Card. Players who bought the item not only received a great buff food item (always in demand) but had a chance with a Card!

Tell to Sell

The problem with niche markets is that demand can be a little too low. No one on my server had heard of a Fortune Cookie and so there was little demand. You can change this by using Trade Chat and barking your wares. This stimulates demand and helps shift your gear. Review the article How to Use Trade Chat in The Auction House where I describe this technique. By barking the joys of Fortune Cookies on my server, I was able to make sales and a good profit to boot!

Trade Unique or Hard-to-Find Items

You can compete more effectively in tough markets if you have supplies of something other players don’t have or find hard to get. In World of Warcraft this can translate into hard to acquire patterns and recipes or hard to acquire material. If you have managed to obtain patterns and recipes only available from faction specific vendors at Revered or Exalted, then fewer players will be competing. Again it helps to specialize. An example in Enchanting is the the formula for Enchant Weapon Jade Spirit from the vendor Rushi the Fox of the faction Shado-Pan which requires Revered with the faction before he’ll let you buy.

Control the Supply Chain

If you find yourself competing for a popular item, then you can sometime out-compete players by buying up material necessary to craft the item in that market. Before Patch 5.0 hit the servers, I was competing head-to-head with a player on my realm for the sale of the Tranquil Mechanical Yeti, a popular Engineering companion at the time. The choke point in the crafting of this item is Globe of Water, which few players wanted to grind. By setting up a shopping list on TSM and regularly scanning the Auction House I was able to scoop up and limit supplies of this material to my competitors and hence gain the upper hand in this market.

Automate to Win

If you really must go head-to-head in a particular market then automating all of your selling and crafting processes will help. Efficiency is the key and addons like Trade Skill Master will help you craft, post and scan the Auction House more efficiently compared to those players that are not so automated. This becomes more important if you are crafting large numbers of items as with Inscription and canceling auctions when undercut.

Obtain Cheap Material

If you intend to compete solely on price, then it helps to pay a mule. This is a player who does nothing but farm for you. Yes, there are players that love doing this, strange I know. But pay them a fair, but below market price, for bulk items and you’ll be able to undercut your competition with impunity and still make a profit. However, you need a good supply of gold to do this and it’s probably not for those just starting out in their gold making careers.

Remember to Trade at a Profit

Finally, remember that across many markets, the ‘market price’ is the best price to list your items. If you find a player listing way below this price then don’t panic. Maintain your prices – especially for items that turnover quickly – and your items will eventually sell. Alternatively, you can buy them out and re-list at the market price and still maintain a profit. Buying out a competitor can be a risky business so be careful with this strategy.

Summary

Competition in markets is a fact of life. It’s true in the real world as it is in Warcraft. Competition is generally a good thing as it keeps the market honest in terms of its pricing.

Players can reduce competition by specializing in niche markets. Demand can often be stimulated in these markets by using Trade Chat. Similarly, having access to key recipes and patterns will also help players compete. Search the Auction House for hard to come by patterns and recipes.

By controlling the supply of key materials required in a market players can gain an upper hand. Automation is the key to efficiency, required when competing in tough markets. Addons like TSM can help.

Finally, don’t be panicked into slashing your prices just because you have been undercut. Keep your head and maintain your pricing close to the market price. Remember the Goblin Principles of Trading which tells us that the aim of all trading is to make a profit.

Resources

  1. Cold’s Mysterious Fortune Card Mastery Guide
  2. How to Use Trade Chat in the Auction House
  3. The Five Goblin Principles of Auction House Trading
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