“Price gouging in the Auction House”

Michael Giberson

A complaint is posted to an online forum:

… something needs to be said. I have always noted that price gouging is something that occurs on the [Auction House] and notion seems to be prevalant that “If there is someone out there stupid enough to pay that much, I’m going to charge that much.” Okay, I can see making a sweet bit of profit even though I disapprove of price gouging as being simply wrong. However since the inception of F2P, I have noted that the price gouging has gotten wildly out of hand. Take for example the one auction I came across on the [Auction House], a pair of recipes, a Heavy Elven Cotten shoes recipe with starting bid of 5 gold and a buy out of 8 gold. Or the Elven Travellers recipe for 950 silver starting bid and a by out of 1 gold. And neither one of these recipes were anywheres near being at supreme level. Something seriously needs to be done about the price gouging… If people cannot be honest and regulate themselves perhaps it needs to be done for them with caps on pricing.

… As a matter of fact I have seen quite a number of people taking the items they get in their ‘gift boxs’ when they start a new toon and immediately sell on them on the trade channel or the ah for outrageously high prices. Consideration, at the very least, needs to be given to these immoral and unethical offenses. Thank you.

The setting is the Lord of the Rings Online [LOTRO] game. “F2P” is the September 10 switch in online business models from subscription-based to “Free to Play,” no cost to download and play the game (you can subscribe and get additional benefits and they’ll be happy to sell your character items in the LOTRO stores, but you can get started for free; see also this assessment).

I don’t play LOTRO, the forum post simply showed up in a Google News search on “price gouging”; I don’t know the auction house rules. The description in the complaint makes it sound sort of like eBay. Probably the switch to F2P brought in a bunch of new players, anxious to accumulate resources and not so familiar with prior market prices. Experienced players trying to pick up an item or two in the auctions, and accustomed to lower prices, may find the price boom unpleasant. I’d predict that prices will settle back into ranges that experienced players can live with once the initial F2P-inspired boom in demand has been accommodated.

The forum post inspired a significant back-and-forth discussion. It is an interesting application of the term “price gouging,” but my response would be more or less the same as the first commenter:

lol at trying to apply morals to prices in a video game.

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