Unless you live under a rock (which might be a good way of naturally heating and cooling your home) you will have heard about the remote auction house. This is where you can access the auction house via the web or an iPhone app. It is now in open beta on all the us (and just starting on eu) realms so I recommend going and checking it out while it is still free!
It is going to be a partially paid service. For $US2.99 a month you will be able to create and place bids on auctions. However, anyone will be able to browse the auction house without paying the fee.
From my quick playing, I like the interface. It is easy to work with and has some good sorting options which I've got used to with the likes of auctioneer. The create auction page is also similar to the appraisals tab from auctioneer. The best feature, however, is that you can post auctions directly from your bank (no guild bank access though) or the mail box. So, even if you don't end up signing up, the beta is a good time to clean up your banks (I have a lot of Burning Crusades mats for example).
The main limitation I've seen of the system (and a good one) is that you still have to log in to be able to convert the goods bought into a value added product. You will still need to log in to the game to smelt your ore or disenchant the greens you bought. So I'm predicting greater competition for the schemes of making gold that involve buying low and selling high! You are also limited in the number of transactions you can perform in a day to 200 (25 in the beta). This is there to stop abuse of the system and is subject to change.
Advantages for the time limited?
So what are the advantages for us with limited play time?
Play, play, play
The most obvious one is that we can fully dedicate our playing time to playing. We can play and then do all our auction house 'work' on the train to work (my phone isn't capable but I do write my blog posts then so if a word doesn't make sense have a look at your key pad for an anagram using the same keys - predictive text is a boon and a curse) or in our lunch hour or when we have access to the Internet but not to the game.
For me, this is an intriguing concept. If you give me the option of running a dungeon or tinker on the auction house the choice is simple I will always choose the dungeon. However, if I could do my auctions later then I'd be more likely to get into playing the auction house. I'd still have to log in and do all my crafting and watching the crafting bar is not my idea of a good time! However, it would markedly reduce the down time without having to worry about mailing and logging over to my bank alt.
That said, the greater availability is a reason not to sign up! The temptation to do so at work would be too great!
Alternative auction times
Another advantage for some one like me who only plays on a couple of days of the week is that I could place auctions on days and times when I don't normally play. For example, all the auction house guides talk about the price peaks on Tuesdays for raiding goods (Wednesdays for me in Australia). Therefore I could post or repost auctions even if I don't play. Alternatively, I've noticed prices for goods are generally more expensive on the weekend. So I could take advantage of the Thursday prices for goods I wanted to buy even though I rarely log in on a Thursday.
Also it gives you the chance to get some of the rare or high competition goods by increasing your window of opportunity. You could regularly log into the remote auction house if, for example, you were leveling your alchemy and needed some of those late vanilla WoW herbs.
The thing I'm looking forward to most, however, is the ability to browse the auction house. This will be available without subscription. Two ways I see of making use of this is as follows:
- Being able to work out what gearing or leveling a tradeskill is going to cost me roughly. I've made use of the online databases in the past for estimating the costs to level herbalism and engineering. But realm prices vary and they didn't have much data for my realm.
I also predict the likes of wowhead will start mining the data through the client and will provide more accurate pricing information.
- Being able to see the current prices for goods I want to sell without having to log over to my bank alt. I've already made use of this - checking the different prices for Dragon's Eyes versus Nightmare Tears. By looking at the online auction house I could see that Dragon's Eyes were selling at a very low price while Nightmare Tears were making a good profit and the market wasn't flooded. So I made the tear instead.
You cannot place bids or create auctions if you are logged into the game, but you can still browse. So you can just tab out of WoW and check it on the web (or even easier if you have an iPhone).
Is that a good idea, Daddy?
The only other question worth asking is how will this affect the game? Has Blizzard started down the slippery slope of no return by adding a paid for service that confirs some in game advantage? All the other paid for services offer no or very minimal advantage (the differences between races offers very little).
Gold is an advantage - but is changing the point of access a big deal?
However making it easier to make gold can provide a big advantage. As I've seen in my guild one of the members returned from travels and immediately outgeared the hard work I had done with my tank by dropping a whole lot of gold on all the best crafted and BoE gear (I'm not complaining we needed more tanks). However I think it isn't that big an advantage because firstly if you were looking for that small gain you would be stuck in front of the game already.
Secondly, the limit on the transactions means that it wont be overly useful for the heavy traders. The second comment on the mmo champion post announcing the change was to that affect - they do thousands of transactions per day and so 200 remote transactions was just a drop in the ocean.
In-game is still required
Lastly, as you can't do anything with what you buy except resell it without logging into the game you still have the usual cycles. It isn't an instant money maker. Lore in his weekly marmot said he was looking forward to being able to do more remotely like your tradeskills. That would be a different level of change in combination with the auction house change. The potential to automate the auction and tradeskill processes through a web protocol is very high. I haven't looked at the terms and conditions of the remote auction house, but I'm predicting tools that will automate the whole process regardless of the rules. In game Blizzard controls the methods of interactions and requires some human interaction. But over the web there is no such control. With trade skills included it would be a one button money machine.
In reality this is a change for the casuals - the time poor, money rich players like me. I can really see it being a useful tool for a few more dollars a month. It is a good move on Blizzard's behalf. The casual gamer's dollar is a highly fought for dollar and this is just one more tool to enable time limited players to keep apace with those with more time and to not have to constantly play catch up.
So I am in favour of it. Will I subscribe? Probably not - I am a cheapskate and I don't need any more distractions! If I had an iPhone it might be a different answer though.
How about you?