Opportunity Cost… a.k.a. Fallacies of Farming

The concept of opportunity cost is very prevalent in most economic theories, but seems to be very poorly understood in reality. In essence, opportunity cost refers to what a person “could have done” with the time spent performing an action, or what he “gave up” in order to obtain something.

“Time is money, friend!”

Despite being a concept that the friendly goblins of WoW try to drum into our brains every time we click on them, this still hasn’t taken root among the dessicated soil in the heads of the average WoW player. Time and time again, otherwise perfectly rational people seem to express the idea that “if I farmed it, I got it for free”.

Think again… just because you spent 2 weeks flying around farming ore nodes and primals for some epic craftable item, doesn’t mean you saved yourself a bunch of gold. You could easily have spent the same amount of time doing daily quests, and using the resulting funds to purchase all your mats off the auction house with a fair amount to spare. The same applies to farming for herbs to make potions and flasks before a raid, another favourite complaint. Due to the fact that alchemy specialisations allow procs for potions and flasks, the cost of potions and flasks will always be lower than those of the materials. Rather than farming the mats to make the stuff yourself, you’d be better off just buying the flasks and potions.

In a similar vein, be wary of guides which say that its a real money maker to do stuff such as farm primals and heroics for primal nethers, and then craft Epic Item X to sell on the AH for 2,000 gold. “BUT 2k GOLD!!!!!” you might say. The kicker is that doing so doesn’t earn 2k gold, it earns whatever the difference is between the cost of the mats and the time taken to gather a group to do heroics and win the roll on the nether. Which is probably considerably less, especially when you could probably sell the mats for a large proportion of the total sum and get more cash via other means than the cost of the nether. Sure, it’s still profitable, but it’s not as lucrative as it may appear at first glance.

“Bakers don’t grow their own wheat”

Another consequence about opportunity cost is that some people are better at doing things than others. In effect, some people have lower opportunity costs for obtaining particular items. This is how the economy works in real life. The farmer is good at growing vegetables, but he’s crap at making bread. So he sells vegetables, and buys bread from the baker.

So how does this relate in-game? Time and time again I’ve seen people ask “I’m a fire mage, I need someone to help me kill these fire elementals so I can make my Spellfire set”. Well no shit sherlock, that’s going to be tough on you considering they’re immune to 90% of your spells. Of course the geniuses in /1 will then tell him “You still have frostbolt lolz”. The point is, why does he have to farm fire elementals? He could simply go farm water elementals, blow them apart in 2 secs each, and sell the primal waters and buy primal fires. If you have to farm something that’s not BoP, do whatever gives you the most gold for your time and use the gold to buy whatever you were after in the first place.

This also applies to stuff like Aldor and Scryer rep tokens. If your character isn’t great at killing the ranged Sunfury mobs, then go kill the melee demons that drop Aldor tokens and exchange them for Scryer tokens with some other guy who’s got tons of them.

So in closing, just remember that Farming isn’t Free, even though they begin with F. Unless you just like farming… in which case knock yourself out, I’ll happily buy your stuff for cheap on the AH.

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