How to Fix the ZEN Store

The Neverwinter ingame economy suffers from a fairly obvious imbalance for a while now. There are simply too many Astral Diamonds coming in that players don’t know what to spend on. One effect can be witnessed on the ZAX exchange. The blacklogs are rising, especially before anticipated major sales, and players need to wait weeks if not months to get their ADs exchanged. It’s a problem since being able to get ZEN with currency you earn ingame in a reasonable time is a major part of the game’s free-2-play argument.

So the devs have tried to go against the current development and will introduce further adjustments with the Module 15 changes to Salvage. Many players however rightfully lament that the devs try to fight the inflation of Astral Diamonds by nerfing player income. That’s certainly true because another option would be to strengthen the ZEN store. And that’s something I’d like to look into in this article.

Why Is Spending ZEN Important?

Now you might ask how that is supposed to help when already everyone and their mother is trying to exchange ADs for ZEN? If the ZEN store features great items, the run could get even bigger. That’s true, but you have to look at the issue from different angles. Players are not exchanging ADs to buy stuff from the ZEN store. They do so in order to profit from sales and re-sell goods for even more AD. So if the ZEN Market would actually feature items of appeal, players would spend the currency and not just try to flip it. Stronger ZEN products should also make it more attractive to charge currency with real money. So let’s talk about some ideas that could help!

Tweaking the ZAX Cap

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The most obvious tweak that should have an immediate impact would be to simply raise the ZAX cap or completely remove it. Currently it can’t go higher than 500:1 AD:ZEN, which is the cause for backlogs. A higher cap is not ideal though as it would directly nerf the value of Astral Diamonds. That’s why the devs have ruled out a higher cap on the international server in the past. It’s still an easy way to add value to ZEN and belongs on this list. The Russian Drider server by the way operates with a cap of 1000:1 AD:ZEN. So it’s not like the devs can’t raise it, they just don’t like it for the international server.

Strong Sales and Time-Limited Promotions

More obvious bullets are strong sales and time-limited promotions. Neverwinter runs ZEN charge bonuses frequently, but has the tendency to stick to promotions for too long. If you run the Paranoid Delusion for the 10th time in four modules, chances are that the players that want it already grabbed it. Same goes for the key bundles and other stuff. There should be much more variety. I also wondered whether flash sales would be something the game should do more often. It doesn’t even have to be the full store, just a category or maybe a single item. Let’s say 50% off Storm King’s Thunder Campaign Completion? Who says no? It would definitely up the incentive to quickly charge ZEN or at least would make it necessary to always have some of the premium currency in your wallet.

You could probably also do something similar with the vouchers that drop from the Celestial Bag of Refining. Introducing very rare 50% ones there would however be a little too predictable and lead to players waiting for the vouchers to eventually show up. Flash sales are much more random and shouldn’t cover all categories or items each year.

Unbind Token

Honestly, why hasn’t this been done yet? It seems too obvious and easy. I think players would pay an actual fortune to unbind stuff and either sell it or move it to another character. I get there might be technical limitations, but if it’s somehow possible, do it! As game, you basically profit twice. First let players go through a cruel grind for a highly valuable item and then letting them buy the unbind token from the ZEN market to freely move it around.

Properly Maintain Current Items

Maintaining the ZEN Market is a must! How long did the completely overpriced and outdated Profession Packs stay in the store? Adventurer Packs, Blood Rubys? There’s probably more! It doesn’t help to have tons of items that are not worth their price tag. People are either not buying them or angry at the game for ripping them off. The store ideally not only gets scheduled updates and additions, but should be evaluated each and every module to make (pricing) changes where necessary. A good current example is the Strongbox Key.

Move Fashion and Dyes to the Zen Store Again, and Make Lots and Lots of More

I personally think fashion is still under-utilized in Neverwinter, and that it was a mistake to move it to the Trade Bar Merchant. People are willing to spend money for looks, and they can’t in Neverwinter. Either stuff is bundled (like the new hair styles from the Consult Expedition Pack) or you have to take the long way through lockboxes and trade bars. Why you have to open lockboxes to get the premium fashion is beyond me. I mean, you can of course also always grab them from the Auction House, but it would be a much better system to bind dyes and fashion sets to account and move them back into the ZEN Market.

And then also update looks constantly. And by constantly I mean every module. If you’re able to do a series of colored community mounts every few months, give us some fashion too. And it doesn’t even have to be fancy crap, just very basic customization options that players can work with. I would argue that transparent underwear might have been one of the better additions for example. Most of the new stuff is too eccentric and can’t be combined with other pieces too well.

Extend VIP System

The VIP system has to be one of the top sellers in the store, right? So why not extend the system? Adding more VIP ranks on top of it won’t likely do it though as players will still only need to spend 1,000 per month. So what I would do is a VIP+ (or whatever) that’s 2,000 and comes with its own rank-based benefits. People have been making good suggestions for new VIP perks in the past and it seems easy to build on top of what you already have. Just some random examples:

  • One Unbind Token per month
  • Raise daily RAD limit to 100,000 + X
  • +X% chance of getting a better Artisan application in the Workshop
  • +X% more campaign currency
  • X free deaths in “hardcore” mode

That’s my ideas for the ZEN store, what are yours? Share your thoughts on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!

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j0Shi

j0Shi

j0Shi plays the Neverwinter MMORPG since the open BETA in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the blog and the whole UN:Project. Originally a Guardian Fighter, he has built up ALTs of all classes and plays on BIS/near-BIS level.

13 thoughts on “How to Fix the ZEN Store

  • October 24, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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    I like the ideas presented except the ideas in extending the vip program. Doing it with those specific items turns the game so far into p2w it might not escape it ever, even now it’s close enough that it bothers me on some level. I’m not a fan of vip getting permanent bonus’s to their chars stats/damage over non-vip players. This damages the integrity of the game similar to what ea did with sw bf2 and those loot boxes. Ideally, I like the unbind token, but a temporary or even permanent fashion (btc) item once a month would be a better addition or something similar. I believe items that don’t affect gameplay should come in vip. Even the bonus to ad and wb discount currently in vip is a bit meh, because of their importance to acquiring refining resources, companions and mounts, it puts non-paying players way behind. The only good thing is that you can find some of the stuff on the ah that’s in wb a bit cheaper, so I ignore it, but I still don’t like it on some levels.

    Parity between non-paying and paying players should actually be the goal with these things IMO.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2018 at 1:26 pm
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    They claimed to have been testing a zen item to unbind stuff was talked about in a stream on March 7/2017 time stamp 37:11

    Reply
  • October 24, 2018 at 2:45 pm
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    “So if the ZEN Market would actually feature items of appeal, players would spend the currency and not just try to flip it.”
    I’ve heard this assumption a few times before, and I have to say that I think it’s incorrect. — As long as there are appealing items on the zen store, people will continue to buy them for the soul purpose of flipping them.
    Taking advantage of sales and discounts definitely helps when it comes to making a profit, but I would argue that the more appealing an item is, the greater the potential for reselling it on the AH. … There are a good number of players that either can’t convert their AD for zen or don’t realize they can convert their AD for zen, and end up paying more for items on the AH.

    What they need to do is offer more account-wide items on the zen store like the mounts. I buy a mount from the zen store and I can claim it on all my toons. … Why is it that I can’t but an account-wide bag? I would buy a couple of those in a heartbeat. … We need good stuff, but if Cryptic really wants more money, it has to be things that give more value than regular items.

    I would also like to see more fashion stuff in the store. To my mind, that’s another area where they could make money with unique-look items and have them Zen-only. Free players could complain, but as long as it’s not stuff that effects gameplay, I see nothing wrong with that.

    Overall if you look at Neverwinter, it’s like they have no marketing department. There’s a lot of room for improvement and the answers seem pretty obvious.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2018 at 7:45 pm
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    removal of the zax cap is the proper response, just raising it won’t fix anything because caps increase demand.

    The other challenge is just how much currency is already in the game. You can raise caps, etc but the neverwinter millionaires will only benefit.

    Also the fix to improve the offerings on the zen market isn’t really the problem. There is plenty of demand for zen market items. You have to balance the AD market to the zen market. Removng the ZAX cap helps fix that because you won’t get inflated AD prices on items like wards because the AD value could never exceed the ZEN value. Then to further that you have to balance the AD item demand (items like UES, marks, and AD only items) with ZEN demand (keys, vip, and wards). This encourages people who purchase ZEN with RL$ to transfer zen for AD (pushes exchange rate down) instead of buying ZEN items to resell on AH. That resolves your “flip” issue.

    Unbind tokens while a QoL improvement wouldn’t fix the ZEN store. It would actually devalue AD (high AD value items like mounts and companions would see their value decline) to ZEN and increase ZEN value. So I see one problem with the article being that it addresses two subjects 1) resolving ZAX 2) improving ZEN store. These subjects should probably be discussed desperately since increasing the popularity of the ZEN store #2 can directly conflict with resolving the ZAX #1.

    Items available in both markets like blood rubys can be used to manage the market. In theory it creates a price ceiling on RP but can be adjusted through sells to modify behavior. This is a market tool that has been largely ignored.

    VIP system needs to first give an option to skip cutscenes. I’m tired of the aborted fetus cutscene wasting 2 minutes of my time.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2018 at 10:55 pm
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    The in-game economy is the same as the real world economy, I dont understand why Cryptic cant grasp this.

    98% of the market and wealth is controlled by 1% of the population/player base. There are several guilds who do nothing but predict or force trends buying out all of an item and selling it drastically higher, they have more ad and rad stockpiled from the last 6 years then they could spend in a lifetime.

    These retarded moves only further increase the gap between the rich and the poor, the rich remain 100% unaffected and new players are just further crippled.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 2:44 am
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    I think that one of the big problems here is that one could sell items from Zen store on AH. This creates artificial lack of zen. Some people just run cycle:

    1. Start buying zen for AD
    2. Wait until zen arrives
    3. Wait until refining or universal discount
    4. Buy wards for Zen
    5. Start selling wards on AH for AD
    6. Wait for AD to arrive
    7. Go to step 1

    This schema is cheap, predictable, and it requires Zen exchange backlog to operate, and it creates more Zen backlog. The wards could be easily transferred to other account to start cycle there. Bots would be happy to do thing, as it is simple to program.

    If cap is risen, the people will raise exchange rate to the new cap, because they need backlog to profit. The 1000 AD/Zen cap on Russian server is a proof. The cycle is used for wards, some SKT tokens and some other things.

    Note, these people do disservice to community as they create backlog, and cause people to that buy from them to spend more AD than they would if they exchanged for Zen directly.

    To break the cycle, Zen store items should be either non-sellable on AH or the exchange cap should be completely removed so schema will not be predictable anymore.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 7:09 am
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    removal of the zax cap is the proper response, just raising it won’t fix anything because caps increase demand.

    That’s not going to work, because the coupons and the zen store sales create an infinite feedback loop in Neverwinter’s economy. As long as people want to buy Zen store items like Coal Wards *now*, you will always be able to make a profit buying them on sale, holding them until the sale is over, then selling them for more AD than the Zen cost you. Then you stick your AD back onto the ZAX and turn it to Zen again. You never, ever trade Zen for AD – that’s a mug’s game, either a costly mistake or a decision to lose money in order to get AD *right now*.

    Because this loop exists, the ZAX will always increase, forever, until it hits a cap. If there’s no cap, it will keep increasing, again, forever – because even at 10,000 AD to 1 Zen, it’s still more profitable for me to spend 500-800 Zen on a Coal Ward and sell it on the AH for 9 million than it is to trade the Zen for 5-8 million. And people will pay the 9 million instead of trading AD for Zen and buying it at full price because it would cost them 10 million to do that, and they want a Coal Ward *now* not in 6 months during the Jubilee.

    This is why the ZAX is always capped, and why the ZAX over on the Russian server is always capped at 1000 with a backlog, too. The system has a feedback loop and the value of zen will always rise versus AD because you can always turn Zen -> Item -> AD -> Zen and wind up with more Zen than you started with.

    I think the real change needs to be to make the AH more like STO’s. In STO, even if you spend Zen on stuff to sell, you’re NOT getting a currency you can turn back into Zen. The STO auction house works on “Gold”, not “AD”. So you can’t have this kind of Zen -> Item -> AD -> More Zen feedback loop.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 8:29 am
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    We don’t need the Zen store items to be more wanted as we currently have more people wanting to exchange AD to Zen. The issue right now is that people that want AD and have Zen have 2 options to get AD. This is by either using the exchange which is a flat rate right now that is capped at 500 to 1. This means you will get 500 to 1 ratios by using the exchange. The other way they get AD is by buying those wanted wards or other Zen items and selling them for more than the 500 to 1 ratio. This second option of being able to sell items for more than what you can get by using the exchange is why we have less people using the exchange. When someone can buy preservation wards and sell on the auction house for 600k or 700k AD on PC they aren’t using the exchange. This means that the monies are there with the exchange to make the conversions but people won’t use it since it is the lesser option to make AD in the game. Only individuals who won’t wait to make a profit off of the Zen market items to sell inside of the game are the ones using the exchange. To solve the issue we need to either stop the sales of items such as the events so people don’t take advantage of buying cheap items and selling for high amounts or on the auction house or cap the amount you can sell your preservation wards/coal wards/Zen shop items at a lower rate of 500 to 1 so that the exchange gets used for what it was setup to do. The idea being that you buy items in the Zen shop if you need items. You use the exchange to get AD when you need AD. If you bought more than what you needed in items you can still sell them but you would get less than a 500 to 1 ratio for those items.

    EXAMPLE of what is happening:

    We have two businesses in two states that are right next to each other on a state line. Business A is in State A and has a sales tax of 0%. Business B is in state B and has a sales tax of 50%. They both sell the same items in their store. What is happening is everyone who is aware of the sales tax is going to the store in State A because it is 0% and don’t mind the wait on service. Everyone who is not aware of what is happening is going to Store B and paying the 50% sales tax and getting immediate service. Since the exchange is not the best way to get AD in game it is only being used by those who don’t know it is option B in the scenario above or want immediate gratification and can’t wait. This means you have to make people who want AD and have spent money to use the Exchange if they want AD and not buy items to sell for AD on the auction house.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 6:35 pm
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    so then your proposal is for more enforcement on duplicate accounts? because the only way one guild could significantly impact the ZAX is to have enough accounts (i.e. far more than 150) to order with.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 9:39 pm
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    Yall are on the wrong tack with the idea of unlimiting the ADX rate etc. Over on Xbox, even now a month before the black Friday sale, we’re still trading at 410:1. Why? More people are willing to spend money there (us console plebes are pretty used to shelling out 20 bucks every other month or so for extra maps, etc).

    If they really want to fix the ADX backlog, and make a hell of a lot more money, they need to do one of a few things:

    1. Lower Zen price point. $10 for 1000 Zen, which doesn’t really get you far in the store, is a ridiculous rate, putting a mount at $35 is honestly the stupidest thing I think I’ve seen. This isn’t an Asian MMO market, we don’t have the tendency to spend absurd amounts of money for in game items. $5 for 1000 Zen is much more reasonable, and I’d gladly spend $20 on 4k Zen every other month if it felt like I was actually able to afford something decent at that price range.

    2. Keep the Zen price point where it is, but lower the costs of items in the Zen Market – Would achieve the same effect as before, but would balloon the profits of the already well off – not recommended, but would work. Would seriously distort the market in unpredictable ways.

    3. Volume purchase bonus increases – I think these exist on PC, but they do not on console. Every other game has them, why are you being cheap?

    4. Put fashion back in Zen market. Stupid move putting it in the TB store, fashion should be being exploited a lot more for this game since it’s the perfect answer to PTW.

    5. Put out enough content so that players have a reason to play longer than 1 month after module release before putting the account into event/maintenance mode until the next release – Why would anyone spend dough on something they barely use?

    As is, why would I spend 20 bucks on Neverwinter to maybe be able to buy one thing that I can “farm” for 2 hours and exchange the AD instead 8 days later after refining all of it? Especially since there isn’t anything I can buy for 2k zen that is really interesting. Don’t need bags, not much point in upgrading inventory space without salvage and refinement bag hoarding. Don’t need VIP, got years of it. Don’t need more bank space, same reason. Already bought every single pack. Can’t buy the resources I need to upgrade my guild, stuck on campaign currencies I don’t have time to farm (HINT HINT). Keys can be fun, but no need to purchase with cash. Have 14 BTA coalwards that I’ve just been piling up for years, like 4 stacks of BTA pres wards, nothing worth upgrading since I can’t get an invite to endgame with a 15k CW or a tank spec’d 15k GF(don’t really want to be a sword and board DPS buffbot, not very interesting gameplay) and I already roflstomp the content I do run. Literally the only enjoyable thing is taking groups of subgeared newbies through epic dungeons, and thats like 2x a week max. Capped out on RAD for like 3 months, no need to farm.

    Reply
  • October 28, 2018 at 6:02 am
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    Infinite feedback look is just because Zen Store items could be directly sold on AH. I think that this should be forbidden and such items should always be account-bound. So people will only buy items only for personal usage rather than for speculation.

    There will be possible more complex interactions like buying wards and enchants, and upgrading enchants then selling them, but at least it will be some form of enchant crafting rather than blatant speculation.

    Currently simple bots could do this cycle, as this thing is extremely easily bottable.

    Reply
  • October 28, 2018 at 7:16 pm
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    improving the zen store won’t do anything about ZAX

    uncapping the ZAX will resolve the feedback loop because you’d find that ZAX would raise about 40% at sales times which would offset any benefit from the feedback loop.

    the trick is having AD items valuable enough to offset zen item values. Basically the demand for UES (the only real reason to move zen to AD) is not greater than the demand for wards. That will only get worse next mod when UES drop rates improve/prices drop on UES but ward prices remain relatively stagnant.

    With a backlog on PC approaching 31M. That means there are at least 1229 accounts out there with zen orders (with expendable AD of at least 12.5M). That’s a lot of AD in game (15 billion). Are there really that many end game active accounts in game with that much expendable AD? I think there are a lot of people with multiple accounts.

    Reply

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