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  • Mysterious Fortune Cards... What's the Deal?

    There have been very interesting discussions concerning the new inscription item, , and given that I'm a total stats/psychology junkie I can't help but weigh in on this. First things first, read the following 3 articles and get up to snuff about the topic:

    Cold's preview: Cataclysm Item Preview: Fortune Cards & Fortune Cookies.
    Wukam's response: Reader Submission On Fortune Cards by Wukam.
    Gnomeozurich's response to Wukam's post: Fortune Cards.

    Essentially, scribes can now produce , which requires 1 and 1 . When used, the card randomly produces a vendor item worth 10s, 50s, 1g, 5g, 20g, 50g, 200g, 1000g or 5000g. The item is not a container, so "drop rates" cannot be datamined for the vendor cards.

    Immediately, goblins want to know the drop % denominations for each prize card, in hopes of giving it absolute value. Let's call it X for posterity. Wukam argued that when the production cost of the card is below X, production is risk free and should be carried on by anyone with the crafting opportunity. Gnomeozurich countered, saying that any investment carries a certain risk, and with these cards, there is still a chance of being "unlucky" and striking only low-value cards. Fair enough, I can agree with both Wukam and Gnomeozurich here, but I'd like to think that most users frequenting these forums have enough gold to eliminate a lot of this risk. Using the aforementioned of 1/1000 for 5k, we know that with 1000 trials, there's still a 36.7% chance of not getting a 5k prize. However, with a 3/1000 chance to win 1k, there's only a 0.2% chance of not striking a major prize through 1000 trials. Not to mention, if minor winnings are "re-invested", the risk is further reduced through additional trials. Of course, the risk is still there, but I think 100,000 trials to eliminate risk is exaggerated.

    Regardless, I don't think X really matters that much. If X was set too high, it would fully govern the price of inks and herbs. I don't think this is something blizzard would overlook. That being said, will most likely carry an absolute value of 3-4g. Even if X is 5g, and production cost is 4g, there is probably more profit in selling the cards at markup to foolish or stupid players.

    What has been overlooked so far is the psychology behind the cards. I used to work at a small casino and witnessed the behavior and mindsets of thousands of gamblers firsthand. In my 2 years at this casino, I observed some pretty concrete trends and gambling behaviors and I guarantee you that these apply (at least partially) to s. Let's make a comparison with Nevada (aka pull-tab) tickets.

    Nevada tickets are the best real-life comparison to Fortune Cards. Gamblers purchase a ticket for, say, $1 and run a chance at winning prizes ranging from $1 to $500. Where I worked, the prize denominations for a 2000 card pack worked something like this:
    • $0: 1526/2000 (76.3%)
    • $1: 400/2000 (20%)
    • $5: 50/2000 (2.5%)
    • $10: 20/2000 (1%)
    • $100: 3/2000 (0.15%)
    • $500: 1/2000 (0.05%)

    So the average return per ticket (to the customer) is $0.825. The pack sells for $2000, and the total payout is $1650. So, if the average customer approaches with $2000 to spend, how much can the casino expect to profit? $350? Nope. Correct answer: $2000. Though it may look like the average profit per pack is $350, it's actually closer to $1900 (95% or so). The vast majority of gamblers will keep turning in their winnings until they are completely broke. I suspect the same will apply to fortune cards, albeit to a lesser extent.

    The second important point I'd like to touch on is the perceived odds for the cards. It doesn't matter if players know there is only a 0.05% chance to win the 5k jackpot. For gamblers, anecdotal evidence is the most important data. That being said, WoWhead comments will play a huge role in influencing gamblers to purchase these tickets (that's a hint). Since nobody will search for these at the auction house, your best bet is to sell through trade. A seller was doing just this on Thunderlord last night, and every so often, a "winner" would follow up with a link to . You guessed it, both were in the same guild and the "winner" was only there to plant optimism.

    In the end, this is a very strange item and I'm surprised that blizzard even implemented it. A new form of addiction has officially been added to an already addicting game (in before Xzibit reference), and I wouldn't be surprised to hear of extreme cases where players would spend real money for gold to buy fortune cards. Whether fortune cards will be more profitable than say, potions, flasks, or glyphs, I don't know. It may simply become part of the "herb shuffle".

    I know that you stats robots and psychology gurus lurking here will probably pounce at this article, whether you agree with me or not. Either way, I'm eager to hear what people have to say.

    Sterling beaming out!

    Edit: Don't forget the monthly contest! Prize pool is up to $125!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mysterious Fortune Cards... What's the Deal? started by Sterling View original post
    Comments 34 Comments
    1. Undine's Avatar
      Undine -
      From a lazy goblins perspective, I see these cards as no different than any other commodity. If I were to scribe these cards for sales, I'd ensure that I could obtain the mats for a cheaper value than the market value of the finished product. Then I'd gauge demand vs whomever else is selling and go from there. Ultimately this market will be a wild tangent in terms of buyers, no one needs these items, it's just a matter of who 'feels lucky'.

      I'd say the best way to get sales is to drum up your stock over /trade and make the high-end rewards a clear and baited factor for your potential buyers. Sure, they may not buy a lot, but if the supply of these cards is low, the novelty value to someone could make them worth a substantial amount more than you paid to craft it. It could very well be only 4g in mats, but if competition is low you could price higher and fetch 30-40g a card. To a goblin this expected profit seems dream-like and almost unobtainable. But we have to remember, we're in a market where the context of the demand is slightly different. No one needs these items, it's all about potential luck and star-struck buyers seeing that 5k carrot on a stick.

      I think a better question of profitability with this item would be; How far can you string them along?

      ;D
    1. Athkatla's Avatar
      Athkatla -
      You might be able to AH the 5k card for a little more than vendor price - it's the most reliable way to transfer excess gold across servers.
    1. Zerohour's Avatar
      Zerohour -
      @Undine: Answer: Forever. Human nature takes over, which is why gambling is such a profitable business.

      Maybe a contest here, see how many you can sell to 1 individual, post your results.

      Let us try an experiment, a la carnival barking. Toon 1 is your Scribe, spamming trade. "Hurry, Hurry! Step right up and try your luck! The store is open for business! 10g per card!"

      Toon 2 is your second account, who will be a random character that you spam something like (forgive the low browness here), "I'm rich, bitch! !!! 5k!"

      Toon 1 should take the credit immediately for selling it, "Another winner! Get your !"

      Be prepared to answer tells where you got them on your low level alt. I hate to scam people, but with this thing it kind of requires you to puff it. "How many tries?" Like 22. "What are the odds of the good one?" Like 1 in 52, I'm pretty sure.

      Like a real casino, you will probably have better luck in the later evenings when people are drunk or stoned and can easily get hooked into shoveling their gold over.
    1. Aeg's Avatar
      Aeg -
      I strongly disagree that this is a good item to AH as an easy way for people to move gold across servers for a number of reasons.

      First of all the AH deposit cost is based on the vendor cost and a 5k vendor card would be expensive to keep on the AH for the occasional times when people will be looking for it.

      Secondly the limit was recently raised to 50k gold for a transfer and as such it is less needed. Also the new alchemy mount would be best value per bag slot for moving cross servers (similar to the way people used choppers to move cross server).

      I do however think there will be the random trade person looking to buy these to transfer servers with and as such if I do get involved in this I may hold a couple 5k cards just for that purpose. (Assuming I have no need for the gold elsewhere).
    1. Rorstchach's Avatar
      Rorstchach -
      I'm not so sure how feasible will be to turn this into a profit oportunity. But, on day 1 of Cataclysm i made an experiment:

      Crafted 3 cards, keep 2 and put 1 on the AH for 250g (to cover the cost of all)

      From the 2 ones i keep they turn into the 10s vendor ones, booo!

      Fortunately the one on the AH was sold the next morning, so no loss.

      Now, I cant assure if the card on the AH was sold because of an interest on the gambling matter of the item or because it was a brand new item on the very first day of the expansion.
    1. drockrock's Avatar
      drockrock -
      This brings up some very interesting ethical issues. How far are you willing to go get the most out of the buyer? Is it wrong to misrepresent the likelihood of hitting it big by having another player link an item that they don't have? For me the answers are very obviously yes, and they are things I wouldn't practice in real life ever. In the context of a game however, with pretty rigid rules on what's against the rules and what's not, I can't say how I would act. Barking in trade to whoever will listen is way different from high pressure sales (like if I hounded someone in whispers).

      Also as it's been said already, there's a very good chance that the people who would buy these frequently aren't the kind of people who would do research to figure out it's probably a -EV situation. They've made up their mind that they're going to play it, the only question then becomes how much will they pay?

      /goblin Then again if an item has value to a certain person who are we to deny that person the item they desire for the value they desire it for?? As a goblin that seems unethical in itself
    1. Tadedra's Avatar
      Tadedra -
      @Aeg

      I think if you are putting the Mysterious Card on the AH, its using the vendor price of 2S for the Deposit. At least that is the listed sell price on the Tooltip. It's only after you 'Consume' it that the true value becomes revealed.

      When it comes to ethics, I don't see anything wrong with creating the Lottery ticket and then posting on the auction house. Its only when you Plant someone in the trade chat to "Create Optimism" that it's actually wrong in my opinion. Sellers will get buyers without resorting to cheap theatrics.

      I would like to think guilds doing this as a guild fundraiser or even a toon fund raiser. I don't mind people trying to make money, I just resent lying to do it.
    1. Azuriel's Avatar
      Azuriel -
      I highly doubt these bottom out at 5g for a reason no one in any of the blogs has taken into account: these cards are the principal mat in Fortune Cookies.

      Given that the buff the Fortune Cookie gives (potentially) displaces more expensive mats for similar buff food - and can be used by every class/spec - I would imagine the price would be buoyed by the utility + novelty. Keep in mind you get the "flipped" card after eating the food, so the Fortune Cookie is technically always worth more than just the card.
    1. Sterling's Avatar
      Sterling -
      Quote Originally Posted by drockrock View Post
      This brings up some very interesting ethical issues. How far are you willing to go get the most out of the buyer? Is it wrong to misrepresent the likelihood of hitting it big by having another player link an item that they don't have? For me the answers are very obviously yes, and they are things I wouldn't practice in real life ever. In the context of a game however, with pretty rigid rules on what's against the rules and what's not, I can't say how I would act. Barking in trade to whoever will listen is way different from high pressure sales (like if I hounded someone in whispers).

      Also as it's been said already, there's a very good chance that the people who would buy these frequently aren't the kind of people who would do research to figure out it's probably a -EV situation. They've made up their mind that they're going to play it, the only question then becomes how much will they pay?

      /goblin Then again if an item has value to a certain person who are we to deny that person the item they desire for the value they desire it for?? As a goblin that seems unethical in itself
      Agreed. I would say that straight-up lying is where the line is crossed. If a player asks you "did that other buyer just win 5k?" you should tell the truth.

      The way I look at it, the player will be spending his/her gold on something stupid and I might as well be the one receiving it.


      Quote Originally Posted by Azuriel View Post
      I highly doubt these bottom out at 5g for a reason no one in any of the blogs has taken into account: these cards are the principal mat in Fortune Cookies.

      Given that the buff the Fortune Cookie gives (potentially) displaces more expensive mats for similar buff food - and can be used by every class/spec - I would imagine the price would be buoyed by the utility + novelty. Keep in mind you get the "flipped" card after eating the food, so the Fortune Cookie is technically always worth more than just the card.
      Fortune cookies are covered in Cold's Blog, the first one linked in the article named Cataclysm Item Preview: Fortune Cards & Fortune Cookies. The buff is +stam and +prime stat, I doubt this will take precedence over pure +dps food, especially at 5g each or more.
    1. KuRIoS's Avatar
      KuRIoS -
      After having made 130k of these fortune cards last night I told the guys on IRC about it and Mageshadow tested it out, from what I could gather he earned 20k from it in a few hours. So yes they are quite profitable atm, with a good macro.
    1. Cold's Avatar
      Cold -
      Quote Originally Posted by Athkatla View Post
      You might be able to AH the 5k card for a little more than vendor price - it's the most reliable way to transfer excess gold across servers.
      That's exactly what I said in my post.

      This is also a way to sell gold "legally" with in game items. Is Blizz going to be watching the in game trading of these 5k cards like they watch mass gold transfers between characters?

      Quote Originally Posted by Azuriel View Post
      I highly doubt these bottom out at 5g for a reason no one in any of the blogs has taken into account: these cards are the principal mat in Fortune Cookies.
      Guess you didn't read my post or even the title which is obviously about fortune cards and fortune cookies.
    1. Aeg's Avatar
      Aeg -
      @Tadedra

      I was talking about the sale of the 5k fortune card (not the mysterious cards) on the AH. I just dont see it being worth the deposit costs.

      @Cold

      These may be a safe way to sell gold untill Blizzard realizes and starts watching them (if they are not already). Either way it is still a bannable offense and I will be taking no part in it.
    1. Undine's Avatar
      Undine -
      I honestly don't really think that these 5k fortune cards will become a problem. You'd have to think about this in logical terms first and determine if it's practical. Meaning, do you think someone's going to find enough of these to make much of a difference? How about multiple people on the same server? I'm sure supply of these won't be high. Crafters who make them and are actively looking for these cards are probably doing so to cash in on the mats cost ratio vs probability of getting one. Silly people who're buying them randomly to win on an impulse are most likely going to vendor them in the same notion. It will take someone very patient in gathering a stock of these and then also being at the right place at the right time to find a buyer that's willing to pay the providers fee for getting these cards. This would also edge out gold sellers, because lets face it, they're too impatient to stock something like this. Hell, their farmers and account hackers sell items at rock bottom prices simply because they don't plan to profit off items, they just want any amount of gold they can get and they want it asap. They don't craft or trade, they liquidate.

      Even if transferee's did manage to snag some, the item is a commodity just like any other valuable good that they could bring over and essentially exceed their 50k net worth. The main concern with these lay on the buyer that wants to transfer more gold, because they're being charged a fee instead of making money off their transfer.

      The smarter route would be, for example, to transfer something like epic gear that's worth a fraction of the cost on a populated server to a low populace server and make a killing off the AH. Or any item that has a good trade off between the 2 servers. ( in instances where you may be moving to servers with the opposite relation) Sure, not everyone plays the AH like that in server moves, but the option is there and it's a lot more lucrative than essentially buying your own gold and paying a fee.

      (I edit my posts way too much ._. )
    1. Stede's Avatar
      Stede -
      This is a good read and a very interesting subject, but there are a few things I feel are worth adding to the discussion. From a macro-economics point of view, if shuffling these ever gets to a point where it's a guaranteed gold-maker - Blizz will have to nerf the proc rates. If everyone were to jump on a profitable shuffle, it would pump so much money into the server economy so fast, and it would lead to runaway inflation - new players would have no way to keep up with prices, and the game would die.

      For the last week, I've been wrestling with this topic, as I really thought the blogosphere was analyzing a shuffle, which made no sense to me. Now that I see we're actually talking about reselling to other players, and the prices these things are going for, it just makes me wish I had a high-level scribe.
    1. calianna's Avatar
      calianna -
      Stede, I don't think that's really possible. At some point, we will have enough information about these cards to know the expected value per card (over long periods of time). At that point, you can easily backtrack and figure out the herb price required to make the shuffle profitable (again over long periods of time). For the sake of argument, let's suppose that price ends up being 10g per stack of herbs. There will never be an infinite supply of herbs less than 10g per stack. Demand would cause supply to fall and cost to rise.
    1. Zerohour's Avatar
      Zerohour -
      I still can't see sitting in trade barking these - although I still think my idea is a good one.

      "Scam? This is an ugly word, this "scam". This is a business, and if you want to be in business this is what you do." - The Freshman

      In-Game ethical discussions are interesting. I think it's unethical to spam trade looking for an item above market price, while posting the same item in the AH and hoping someone buys it to sell it to you. But posting unreasonable odds in trade is not unreasonable, someone could easily call you out on your B.S. My alt spamming the Fortune Card is not unlike a paid spokesperson IRL. Ever see those commericials with people proclaiming thousands of dollars a month from some Internet business? Yeah, right. Blizz games have always been about doing your own research, so if someone is ignorant of the odds then that's caveat emptor.

      I do my own research on everything I see in WoW - even when I read it here and even if it came from Sterling or a Wind Trader or even Markco. It takes me 20 seconds to hit up Wowhead and check a statistic or look up something. Get the whole story. Determine for yourself if the story is correct. It's why I don't play the lottery, go to casinos (even for entertainment, there's nothing entertaining about losing money), or buy into get-rich-quick schemes - I happen to be extremely good at math. But for everyone else in this game, I look at them like the people that buy Ice-Cold Milk off the AH at 5g per... a mark.
    1. Undine's Avatar
      Undine -
      I don't really see a need in being unethical when selling the cards to prospects. Just tell people the prizes that could be won and let their imagination carry them and their gold away. You don't have to tell them the odds, after all, we don't even know them yet anyway. I'd just make sure to include at least the top 3 prizes you could win and the cards will sell themselves.

      Trying to be shady or appearing shady will just lose you customers in the long run and let's face it, this market is something that can be milked for a while. You might even drum yourself up some regulars that come to you. Or hey, why not setup a COD chain? Have lottery days, and add people to your list. They don't need to be bothered to ask you all the time, just set out a lottery date and then you can COD the cards to people for predetermined prices and quantities. Kinda like how people play the lottery weekly. This could be a very lucrative venture, if you play your cards right.
    1. Gnomeozurich's Avatar
      Gnomeozurich -
      Sterling -- I believe your result depends on the amount of the top prize being relatively low compared to what a typical customer is willing to spend on cards.

      I would have guessed that few people would spend 2000 on these cards, but perhaps I am wrong. The behavior I have observed is with scratch tickets. Typically a similar payout structure, but a normal customer comes with $5-40 to spend. They generally will buy cards until they either bust or hit a big number ($500+, maybe $100+ for the lower spenders).

      If the big jackpot isn't big enough, then they may do as you suggest, and only leave with money if they hit many big jackpots in one string of cards before repurchasing, making it extraordinarily unlikely that they ever leave with money. I would have thought it more likely that they wouldn't play at all if the highest jackpot wasn't large enough to be exciting and worth walking away with, although it's possible they will blow the "walk away" winnings on roulette or blackjack or whatever.

      The big thing I noticed about people who play these games over and over again, is that they are generally convinced that they win more than they lose, even though it's nearly impossible for that to happen over a long time on these scratch ticket games with relatively small jackpots and huge -EV.

      The way they convince themselves is by counting all their wins, including those they spend on more tickets, but only counting their initial investment as a loss. But of course it doesn't work that way.

      I remember one guy saying to me something like, "I spend $5 a day, and I win a $20 at least once a week, and a $50 every couple -- plus some $5s and $10s and $1s. I win *way* more than I spend." But of course, he didn't walk away unless he won $100+, so all those smaller winnings, were all spent on cards, right along with the initial $5. I failed to convince him that this was a focacta way of looking at it.
    1. Stede's Avatar
      Stede -
      Quote Originally Posted by calianna View Post
      Stede, I don't think that's really possible. At some point, we will have enough information about these cards to know the expected value per card (over long periods of time). At that point, you can easily backtrack and figure out the herb price required to make the shuffle profitable (again over long periods of time). For the sake of argument, let's suppose that price ends up being 10g per stack of herbs. There will never be an infinite supply of herbs less than 10g per stack. Demand would cause supply to fall and cost to rise.
      Although I'd call 10g / stack herbs a fantasy, I see your point. Inevitably the market would seek equilibrium, and the added demand would increase the price of Blackfallow Herbs, effectively prohibiting this from being a large-scale cash cow.

      In the end, the real winners would probably be the Blackfallow Herb farmers, who could benefit from seeing the floor on their prices go up, depending on what that back-calculated value is.

      Which would be interesting. If the Blackfallow Herb floor is set high enough, then trading Blackfallow Inks for Lower Level Inks may work out to a loss, which could lengthen the segmentation of the Glyphs market indefinitely.

      Of course... there's always the chance that this magic number is so low (maybe even negative) that we'll never see any of that happen.

      EDIT: When I was talking about 'real winners', I was neglecting entirely those that make a nice profit re-selling crafted cards.
    1. Dizzysmooshr's Avatar
      Dizzysmooshr -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sterling View Post
      Agreed. I would say that straight-up lying is where the line is crossed. If a player asks you "did that other buyer just win 5k?" you should tell the truth.

      The way I look at it, the player will be spending his/her gold on something stupid and I might as well be the one receiving it.
      This is exactly my thoughts on this. You don't need to actively deceive people to get them to play. Sure deceiving may bring in more customers but by doing this you go from salesman to scammer and in the end you may get bit in the butt. This post and series of comments prompted me to share my beliefs on Scamming in wow. I originally had it all typed out here but realized it was too drawn out and instead turned it into a post on my blog. (Which is in my sig for those interested.)

      Another example that these can be associated with is scratch offs. I used to work the Liquor and Lottery counter at a grocery store and I can tell you exactly how people will react to these. Most will occasionally spend a little on them an no matter if they win or lose they will walk away after their first purchase. Others will make up the bulk of your sales and they fall into two categories. 1 being those who win in the first batch and expecting their luck to continue will buy more with their winnings expecting even more if they purchase more cards the second time around. They will continue this until they have lost all all their winnings back to you or they will continue on into the next group. Group number 2 are the people who are truly addicted they will continue to buy even if they are losing and this can go on for a long time. Usually if the losing streak lasts long enough they will stop when they find a successful winner, although a small number of these people will instantly move back into group 1.

      long story short the potential in this is huge but you have to tread the line and not become the scammer. Also if you choose to do this you may want to keep an eye on the official forums for potential markers that blizzard starts to consider the active sale of these in Trade chat a violation of their blanket economy rules.