Friday, December 12, 2014

Steam's Solution

I woke up to find Steam had gone and implemented their fix to the problem that occurred when people duped up billions of event gems. They basically undid everything except pack creations. They accomplished this by deleting all gems, then giving people gems for everything they'd disenchanted yesterday, then refunding every purchase of gems through the marketplace. All gems, no matter what you ended up doing with them. They didn't say what they did about the people who did the duping, but that's not terribly surprising.

This means I was refunded the entirety of my gem purchase, and got to keep the 67 packs I generated through the make a pack feature. Which basically means Steam's exploitable event launch has earned me a free copy of Final Fantasy XIII-2. I'll take it!

But now, what about the event itself? What are gems actually worth? Well, there are already some pretty high bids up in the silent auction and there's still over two days before the first auction round ends. Have people bid close to the final bids now or are people saving up their bids to try to snipe in right before the auction round procs? For now I'm going to assume the winning bids are going to end up at 150% of their current bids. This gives room for the bids to go up without having them get too out of hand? I actually think this is probably lowballing if anything actually.

Take Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, which is one of the games that I'd probably bid on if I had tons of gems. The current bid is 70100 gems. 50% more is 105150. Call it an even 100k. The game would cost $50 to buy, though presumably it will go on sale during the winter sale for at least 20% off. So call it $40. So to break even on value I'd want to get 2500 gems per dollar. This auction thing is variable with no guarantee you'd even get the game you want so you'd really want to do better than break even to make it worth looking at. So it's more like I want to get 3500 gems per dollar.

What about the escape hatch of buying packs? Well, I'm estimating a card at being worth 10 cents and a pack costing 750 gems. So I could turn those 3500 gems into $1.40.

Hold the phone. The fallback is better than the auction. If I could buy 3500 gems for a dollar I'd be better off buying packs, not buying Civ for 100k gems.

Ok, so that means the current bids, or at least the one on Civ, is actually about where it needs to be. If I remove that 50% more multiplier the auction is 3500 gems being worth $1.50 while buying packs would be worth $1.40. Still very close in value. Getting Civ has the advantage of not taking any extra time. Getting the packs has the advantage that I can build my own badges or I can do a lot of research to find a better card value to pack cost ratio. So Civ is really probably too expensive as it is.

Oh, and you can't buy gems.

Yeah, they disabled putting gems on the marketplace. Maybe they didn't actually fix the exploit and just decided to pour cement on the cellar door rather than put a lock on it. Your only way to get gems is to disenchant stuff. You can buy stuff on the marketplace and then disenchant them as a roundabout way of making gems. And using the pack generation option we know breaking even will sit at about 2500 gems per dollar. Looking at some stuff in my inventory a CS:GO emoticon goes for 10 cents and is worth 100 gems. So I can get 1000 gems per dollar by disenchanting these emoticons, and that's nowhere near the 2500 gems per dollar I need to just break even. In fact, 3 cents is the lowest you can pay for an item in the marketplace and that only gets you up to 3333 gems per dollar.

At that price point you can gain about one extra pack of cards for every dollar you invest. So you can make 30 cents per dollar you invest. If you get an emoticon worth 100 gems (some only disenchant for 10), and you get it for the minimum possible cost, it's a profitable and time consuming thing to do. Otherwise buying stuff to disenchant is bad.

What about selling stuff to other people and letting them disenchant it? Well, Steam takes 2 cents off of every sale and if you're selling things worth 10 cents that means you're losing 20% value. It works out that you're only getting a ratio of 2000 gems per dollar in this manner. Which is pretty close to our breakeven point for cashing in on packs.

What does this mean? Well... At least for the CS:GO emoticons it isn't worth buying them, and it isn't really worth selling them either. Just blow them up yourself.

There are going to be market inefficiencies that can be exploited. Maybe there's a game with a better dollar per gem ratio that you want than Civ is. Maybe you can find packs to buy with gems that are really valuable. Maybe you can actually find those emoticons worth 100 gems for 3 cents. All the power to you if you want to do that. Me? I'm going to try to sell the emoticons worth a lot of money (>.10) or worth low gems (getting even 1 cent for a 10 gem card is fine) and disenchant the rest. I can't imagine I'll have enough gems to bid on games so I'll just get some card packs and move on with my life.


Vienneau said...

Have you considered applying these analytical/arbitrage skills to a larger market such as, say, commodities trading?

Heck MTGO trading is likely more profitable. And you can set up a bot and automate it!

Nick Page said...

Some combination of being risky averse, poor, having no self confidence, and thinking that manipulating the real life economy is an inherently evil thing has made that not happen.

The incompetence of Magic Online's development team drove me away from that platform at a time when I could have had the inventory to do that. At this point it's not reasonable.

Sthenno said...

I think, considering the size of the transactions, the market "inefficiency" is that 2 cents goes to Steam, and they are the only ones who are going to be able to exploit that.

Brent Oster said...

Re: applying these skills to other markets, I've thought occasionally about that sort of thing. The problem that I see is that gaming markets have weird rules to them. The "I'm playing a game and I want it NOW" effect really warps the marketplace, and I'm super dubious about being able to find similar opportunities in a real-life market.

However, I will say I've had a lot of fun making billions of ISK in EVE Online purely by trading goods around. You need to learn about the game to do it more effectively, but other than avoiding getting blown up it's not THAT big of a deal.

EVE certainly isn't for everyone, but there's something attractive in a game where everything is cut-throat PVP, including the marketplace and things like scamming other players in-game is explicitly allowed.

Just to give you an idea, I think I average about a billion ISK profit per week or so. Currently a month subscription costs about 800mil ISK and would cost you somewhere around $10-15 depending on how you bought it. Real money transactions aren't allowed, so you can't cash out, but it's kind of cool to amass wealth in-game that you can translate into monetary terms.

I wouldn't say that my results are typical (in fact, most people live hand-to-mouth in EVE even after paying their subscription), but if you ended up playing I could give you tips and help.