Monday, March 28, 2011

Auction House Espionage Guide

Your Competition Is Watching You

Auction House Espionage

All of us auctioneers have a few players that we are battling in specific markets on the auction house gold making scene in World of Warcraft.  We get a slight feeling of enjoyment when we see that we can undercut this enemy and steal a few of his sales.  "This guy needs to drop out of my market and quit undercutting me!"  We've all been there.

The best time to undercut your enemy is just after they log off.  This way you can be the cheapest on the auction house until someone else comes along and undercuts you.  These undercutters tend to be the same people over and over with an occasional new player attempting to enter the market.  So how do we keep an eye out for these enemies?

Spying On Your Competition
The common ways of watching your enemy players activities include:
  1. Friend's List - Add your competition to your in-game friends list.  This way you can easily moniter when that greasy little undercutter is online and when he logs off.  Set up a note with what markets he competes with you in.  Once you start adding enemies to your friends list you want to be able to keep track of them all.  This is especially important if you use any add-ons that allow your friends list to be shared between characters. 
  2. Raid Marks - Fluxdada (of Power Word: Gold) gave us a guide to marking your auction house competition earlier this month, which is a good read.  You can see the raid marks from a very far distance and can visually track where your enemy is going.  You can see when he's at the mailbox, when he's in the auction house, and when he's just afk crafting.  The raid marks make it much easier to follow the enemy movements and monitor their actions.
  3. The Undermine Journal - With The Undermine Journal and its wonderful features, you can track the posting times of your competition.  You can look for a pattern in there posting times that reveals what time slots they do not post on the auction house.  Using this data can help to determine if there is an opportunity for you to be the best price seller on the auction house over a longer period of time.  You can change your own posting schedule to a better timeslot where you will have beeter extended exposure.  An example would be finding out that your enemy only posts before 6 am and after 5 pm, probably from a full time job.  You could realize that if you posted at 6:30 am before your job, you would have the whole day with ideal pricing instead of battling with him every night at 6 pm.
  4. Add-ons - Although I don't use any, there are add-ons that you can use to track your competition as well.  These tend to allow you to spy on them and always know what zone they are in and if they go afk.
Covert Tactics

We can assume that if we are watching them, then they are probably watching us too.  They are using tactics to keep an eye on what we are doing and when we are doing it.  What can we do to make it harder for them to know our every move.
  1. Alternate Characters - Using your alternate characters to post is an option when using tactics against competitors.  In a market that players tend to swoop in for a piece of action when the price is higher, it is very beneficial to have multiple characters of your own displaying the same item.  Each of the characters undercutting each other can make the situation appear as if an undercutting war is already underway.  Or you can make the market appear saturated with sellers and scare away players searching for new markets to enter.
  2. Re-Rolls - Some players go as far as to delete and re-roll a new bank toon every few weeks or so just to get a clean slate from all of the competitor tracking.  It is only a matter of time, before players target you as a major competitor.  Time for another re-roll!
  3. Remote Auction House - The Remote Auction House additional fee per month service offered by Blizzard is a great way to combat a lot of the spying tactics used to watch your auction house activities.  When you are posting with the remote (mobile or web based) auction house you cannot be logged into the World of Warcraft servers. Thus many of the tracking options are unable to moniter posting from the remote auction house.  The Undermine Journal will still be able to track your posting times, but that is a retro-active data find once the items are already live on the auction house.
  4. Vary Your Posting Times - You can try to fool up your competition instead of sticking to an obvious pattern or easily timed schedule.  Do different things at different timesto throw off the watch dogs.  You can do some auction posts on one character, log onto an alt and post, then log back to the original character.  Maybe you competition saw you log and posted their items and quit.  Did they take the bait?
Do you have any other tips or tricks for watching your competition or hiding from them?

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  1. I post to the AH from 5 alts, all with names which sound like a main, some of whom move guild from time to time, in a pseudo-organic fashion. I also have another alt with a very obvious bank farmery name, which throws competitors off the scent, too.

    They undercut each other, sometimes, and sometimes they can support each other when I'm trying to reset to a high price for an item. It gives "social proof" that the high price is viable.

    Finally, I never post my main's name on the blog ;)

    Thanks for the post, I'll be replying to your comments about the maturing/growing wow economy once the builders have left my house!

  2. I greatly enjoy the AH game, but not to the point of not playing the game... I.E. raiding and leveling toons.

    I chuckle at the lengths people go and the tricks found to eek out that little bit more in sales. To me slow and steady is the only game, trying to make slow and steady go faster... well seems like trying to hurry up the decent of a million year old glacier. Pretty sure, it would not work in my market. The server population is just huge. And I dont think I want to try and find out either.

    It does sound kinda fun though, and I enjoy the read... thanks for sharing.

  3. spend the money the money to get anther WOW account and dual box... its helps since you cant track someone if they are on 24/7 with a constant /afk and no auto dismiss away

  4. No matter how many times my competitors switch alts, it's pretty obvious who they are simply by what they post - even without something like undermine journal to confirm it, the alt-switching competitors don't have separate strategies for these alts and simply post the same things in the same ways at the same times.


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