Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A look at the uneven distribution of wealth in World of Warcraft

According to a survey of a sample of the World of Warcraft population, strongly uneven distribution of wealth isn’t just for nations like the United States, but extends to the characters that populate the fictional realm of Azeroth as well.

The survey consisted of a little over 12,500 active players and measured the amount of gold per player. The results showed that the bottom 75% owned 25% of the total gold wealth and the top 25% own 75% of the gold wealth. While it’s a much better distribution than 99% versus 1%, it’s still well outside the expected norm.
The survey started the evening of  October 29th and ran until the afternoon of Saturday, November 24th and collected 12,531 usable results. Requests for survey results ran on The Consortium, US and EU Official Forums, MMO-Champion forums, WoW Insider’s Classifieds, and several independent gold blogs. Entries which contained data impossible due to the nature or limits of the game were discarded, though such contaminations were limited. The survey was hosted on site using LimeSurvey software.

The goal of the survey was to establish average wealth, wealth distribution, and demographics in the World of Warcraft Player base. This survey and report were inspired by Sinshroud’s of The Consortium post on Can The Consortium Be Considered the “1%” of WoW?.
With 2,531 results the subjects had between them 408,738,617 gold for an average of 161,493 gold per subject. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this number is way too high, so further data and analysis must be considered when determining how much gold an average player has.

The median wealth was 35,000 gold meaning that 50% of the subjects had 35,000 gold, significantly lower than the average wealth of the sample data.

The average time since subjects first started playing World of Warcraft was 4.4 years.

This is not a perfect survey, but it is a very thorough one. And again, while it is a pretty uneven distribution of wealth, 75-25 is still better than the often quoted distribution of wealth in the United States. It’s a distribution that happens when you have a small percentage of the population that just puts in a hell of a lot more time, work and dedication to the accumulation of wealth than everyone else.

However, this is a closed environment with a small set of rules and very few options for attaining wealth. In the real world, things are far more complicated than just quest and dungeon grinding. Does it show the existence of a 99% within WoW? Not really, since all players, no matter wealthy, have to abide by the same sets of rules and the top 1% aren’t constantly re-inventing the rules of the game to make themselves richer, but it is an interesting control study.

Read more here

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