How to Deal with the ZAX Backlog?

A key element to Neverwinter’s free-2-play model is the implemented ZEN/Astral Diamond exchange (ZAX). It allows players to trade ingame to premium currency and buy items from real-money stores without actually spending a dime. That doesn’t make the game truly free-2-play, because somebody still has to spend the ZEN, but it’s at least a major argument against the dreadful pay-2-win label.

The exchange has its limits though. It’s a user driven market that ranges between 100 and 500 ADs per ZEN based on the supply and demand of each currency. If people want ADs, maybe because of a sale on the Wondrous Bazaar, and trade in more ZEN, the ZAX usually goes down. It’s the opposite for ZEN sales, where the ZAX can rise substantially. In that case, users can even build up a sizable “backlog”. It simply means so many people want to trade in ADs that they have to wait for players to offer their ZEN. These backlog issues exist since a few years, but reached a new height recently.

17 Million Backlog

On the international dragon server the backlog this month reached a new record. 8,500,000,000 ADs are waiting to get converted to ZEN at the point of this write-up, which means 17,000,000 ZEN need to be offered to fill all offers. You can witness this by browsing to the “Sell ZEN” tab in the Astral Diamond Exchange. The backlog is the “Requested Quantity” at the top. This tops the former highest backlog of 2014, which was 13M ZEN and artificially inflated because of the Resonator Exploit. The situation is similar on the Russian server by the way.

So why is this happening now again? There are a couple reasons actually which lead to more ADs then ZEN going into the exchange. Some of them are temporary, but others more substantial:

  • PWE temporarily closed down their Arcgames reward system, which allowed players to generate some ZEN for free.
  • The 5-year anniversary in June is expected to bring major ZEN Market sales of up to 40%. Players anticipating that try to stockpile ZEN.
  • We’re relatively late into the progression, which means AD sinks diminish. The main examples are Marks of Potency or Companion upgrades, but there are certainly more minor ones.
  • The refining system’s main bottleneck are Wards, which are only available on the ZEN Market.

Waiting Times Are Increasing

Explaining what’s going on doesn’t make the situation less annoying though. As of right now, nobody can exchange ADs for ZEN right away. As rule of the thumb you should expect one day of waiting for every million backlog. So we’re approaching three weeks, and possibly more going forward. The Jubilee is still a solid month away, but unless you’re aware that you have to exchange your ADs right about now, you won’t have a shot getting ZEN in time.

The alternative to get ZEN is spending real money, which brings us to long-term implications. Whom is the backlog serving the most? Cryptic? High rollers? Can the game even be considered free-2-play at this point? And how should you deal with all of this?

Mainly an Issue for Casuals

First of all, I do believe three weeks of waiting until orders are served is an issue. You might say that the game is still free-2-play because you can technically exchange free for premium currency (it just takes time and gets more inconvenient), but unfortunately it’s not so easy. Hardcores can certainly adjust to a backlog, and even profit from it, but Neverwinter’s main population is casual. Players come and go, or only log in occasionally for a dungeon or an event. Those players do usually not even realize what’s going on with the ZAX, much less what it means to their gaming experience. You’ll probably have stumbled upon plenty threads of people asking why they can’t exchange ADs at the moment. There you go.

Casuals don’t plan ahead for weeks. If you’re logging in to have a good time on a particular day, having your ZEN available in 20 days or whatever won’t help. Also players that only come back because of an advertised sale are in for a major disappointment. They can’t exchange their ADs, and will probably just log off again. Don’t forget that folks are more likely to spend money if monetization is perceived as fair. And not being able to use the main free-2-play feature in the game certainly is not, even if Cryptic itself doesn’t entirely control it.

What About Cryptic?

Speaking about Cryptic, I’m not sure whether or not the good outweighs the bad for them. A ZAX at 500 (or 1,000 on .ru) is certainly great for them as spenders get the most possible AD for their ZEN. On the other hand, the free-2-play model takes a severe hit and the waiting time frustrates the players. Sure, so far this only has been that worse around major events, but our tracker shows that the dragon server is dealing with backlog issues for more than six months now. Im my opinion this can’t go on forever.

If Cryptic wishes to, they can basically do three things. Either take ADs out of the game, or inject ZEN, or both. Increasing the maximum ZEN exchange rate like the devs have done on the Russian server is certainly an option, but I’m not a huge fan of that. It’s not a solution to the issue, but just a workaround. Also a higher exchange rate would “nerf” the free-2-play viability, which you should obviously try to avoid. For the same reason I don’t expect them to lower the prices on ZEN. As great as that would be for spenders, it would probably lead to complaints about getting too much for your mom’s credit card.

Astral Diamond Sink

So it’s probably best to tweak the AD economy. It’s the path the devs have chosen in the past anyway. Module 12 and 13 didn’t introduce many AD sinks, if at all. Ultimate Mark of Potencys might be the only substantial one and for the upgrades the Mark is involved in you need plenty of Wards as well, which kinda counters the effect it has on the ZAX. I would definitely expect some sort of new progression element that requires AD in Mod 14 and beyond.

The only other parameter the devs can tweak is the Rough AD refining limit. Nearly all ADs are generated through the daily conversion and lowering the limit would certainly do the trick. Not too sure the devs really want to deal with the inevitable shitstorm though. Anyway, if you can live with the current situation for a while, this should ideally resolve itself in the future. But like I said, this definitely shouldn’t go on forever. It simply messes too much with the free-2-play element of the game and makes it too hard for the vast majority of the playerbase to profit from events and sales.

What’s your opinion on the rising backlog? Are you fed up? Or maybe profiting from it? Share your thoughts on our social channels, in the comments below, or the corresponding thread on our message board!

Neverwinter UN:Blogged is always looking for writers to contribute to the blog. If you are an active player and search for a way to spread your opinions, analysis, diaries or reviews to more than 40,000 regular visitors, then don’t hesitate and get in touch with us on our contact page or message board! We are currently especially looking for console and PVP content, but that’s not exclusive. There is no frequency requirement, you post how often you want.


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 Deal with the ZAX Backlog?

  • May 10, 2018 at 8:03 am

    A sale on companion upgrades would likely help increase AD’s worth.

  • May 10, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Moving wards/vip/possibly something else to wonderers bazar could help a bit, ppl will still donate and then exchange zen for ad.

    • May 10, 2018 at 9:22 am

      But then, what would most people want zen for? (There will always be some people buying tons of keys to open lockboxes, but they need to make money off of more than just that handful.) They need to add something to the game, for ad, that people will always want more of. Problem is, power creep is already high enough that just selling power won’t work, and I don’t think cosmetics would be enough.

      • May 10, 2018 at 9:35 am

        Companios, compaigne completion tokens, packs, mounts etc. There is a lot to buy this days.

  • May 10, 2018 at 9:43 am

    How about adding more dyes, mount skins, fashion and transmute items to the Wondeous Bazaar? Now that is a real AD sink: items that remove currency from circulation and become immediately worthless to the market upon pickup. I think there’s a real demand for esthetic items. It may not be huge, but it’s consistent and doesn’t add to the power creep.

  • May 10, 2018 at 11:42 am

    AD Sinks? Really? The problem is not too much AD in the system. The problem is not enough spare Zen. I have thousands, but I won’t be trading it.

    The game is totally free to play, as long as you never want to become Uber-BIS. And casuals just want to play for Achievements and fun. In order to rank up gear etc by F2P, you have to play for hours every day and also have many, many Alts Invoking for the BtA Coal Wards etc, as well as running Leadership and Wanderer’s Fortune for RP. Plus Dragonhorde, Quartermaster’s etc. High level enchants they can buy from AH.

    You won’t be seeing many casuals in FBI, ToNG or CotDG. So who wants to trade their AD for Zen? Not casuals.

    The Astral Resonator backlog was 14 million, actually. This backlog is because of the upcoming Jubilee and Summer Festival. There were two 50% Off Zen Sales last year and a 25% Charge Promo in between, so there no need to fear monger.

    But I do not participate in those “Buy 20,000 Zen, get a FREE, BoE Mount” Scams as they are likely to make them BtC when they are still in my bank. Feck you, Craptrick.

    More than 90% of my AD go on AD Sinks like GMoPs, SMoPs etc, at 40% off with VIP and a 15% WB sale.

    I buy Zen a few times a year if there’s a 25% charge promo, but I only spend it on Wards and VIP during a decent Sale. I never trade it for AD.

    I was hoping the Summer Sale would be 50% this year, not 40%.

    If I could get Pres Wards from the WB, I think I’d only need Zen for bank slots. I got about 200 BtA Pres Wards from last Winter Festival, but it’s not enough to last a year.

    But adding Ultimate Enchanting Stones etc to the WB would be good. Then we won’t have to run those stupid dungeons until our eyes bleed.


  • May 10, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    at the moment zen is worth more than AD, its that simple. Setting a price ceiling on anything only leads to increased demand. That’s basic economics:

    Ultimately the cap on ZAX should be removed. However, that will only reduce the inflated demand for ZEN.

    Someone as cryptic should be monitoring the economy and implementing changes/strategies to increase AD demand. Simple things could actually add up. BIS gear only available via AD is one way that can help. By making everything BOP people are limited in what they can invest their AD on. The ZAX has steadily climbed ever since they moved to the BOP model.

    Obviously the other challenge that they have tried several times to attack and failed is that the game requires no regular investment to play. Little things like armor requiring empowerment, using kits to repair injuries, dungeon keys, no need to use potions, and overload enchants were all an attempt to introduces systems that cost AD to play and all have broken down and are not really abided by. These systems broke down over time because now your playing time comes does not require an investment. You don’t need to spend 2K AD to earn 6K RAD. This means AD keeps coming in but isn’t going out. I’m not sure what system they can implement that will correct this.

    Now that we have a fashion bag, one idea would be to create a fashion vendor that is AD based in the game. Could create some additional AD demand, but that is only a temporary help.

  • May 11, 2018 at 3:16 am

    Well, they’ve come up with a Game Killer here. I save all my AD until a WB Sale and buy GMoPs and SMoPs. Now I need to buy UMoPs. But I won’t be able to get enough AD to upgrade things for my Alts, all of which I play from time to time. I wanted all my Alts to have Legendary for Influence farming, only a few “Mains” are at Mythic. At the moment, I am playing 4 new characters, and the 4 weeklies that give AD give me 108k in a day.

    NO ONE that has half a brain spends cash on Zen unless it’s a 25% Charge Promo. End Of. That’s why the backlog gets so high, because there’s not enough spare Zen. It’s not because AD has no value, because it does. It’s Zen that lacks value because:

    1) NO ONE that has half a brain spends cash on Zen unless it’s a 25% Charge Promo.

    2) There’s very little in the Zen Market worth buying in the first place, and those who have all the mounts and have played a few years have only VIP and Pres Wards to buy, maybe Bank Slots. The Companions are mostly garbage. You cannot buy Marks and Enchanting Stones.

    3) Zen Market prices are way too high. How many Blood Rubies does it take to get two weapons to Legendary?

    4) Marks come from the Wondrous Bazaar AD Sink, Enchanting Stones from in-game sources, but the drop rates are far to low.

    Kretyntwatyve clearly does NOT understand the reason for this proposed change, anymore than she understands basic arithmetic and economics.


    • May 11, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      You don’t need legendary to farm influence. I have 6 influence farmers who get nothing but BOC RP, event companions/mounts, and hand me down armor from my main. All are in the 12K range. At 12K some classes can even solo the easier BHEs in the stronghold. At 12K a GF and GWF can even solo No Sympathy… although it takes forever with GF. And admittdly my 12K GWF can’t solo No Sympathy but I’ve seen 12K GWFs do it (with better companions and mounts).

      If AD has higher value than ZEN, then people would buy zen with it. The reality is why exchange Zen for AD, when you can buy coalwards with ZEN and sell them for more than 550K AD. Therefore ZEN has much more value than AD and that’s why everyone wants it. You want to balance AD and ZEN prices, remove the price ceiling.

      • May 11, 2018 at 9:36 pm

        nah all that would do is raise the price.. to near infinite.

        • May 12, 2018 at 4:02 am

          Yes, if they removed the price ceiling then the ZAX would rise to 1000, like on the Russian server. Uber-BIS ToNG and CotDG farmers would still get a huge ton of salvage and trade it, hoping (I suppose) for new players to buy cash Zen.

          As I say, I buy cash Zen, but I do not exploit by buying things with 15% Off coupons and then selling on the AH for more than 500:1 AD to Zen. I think that’s shabby. I mean, buying a 500k Coal Ward for 425k AD and selling for 550k? So you get 495k AD after AH tax, so make 70k profit? Maybe an upper price limit on the AH would help to stop such exploiters? No Coal Ward can be posted for more than 500k Buy Out?

          I know I do not NEED Legendary to farm Influence, but my Alts are about 10.4 to 10.6k (a few nearer 11k) with Legendary Twisted Weapons, Ostorian armour, Underdark Rings and Bold +4 Companion gear, which are all BtA and so I do not have to unslot enchants etc. My “Mains” are about 13k. That’s with no SH Boons at all.

          I decided that I will stop at Rank 100 Legendary on their Artifacts. The latest ones have dirt cheap Belts of STR, CON, DEX etc, depending on class and I was going to get the Company Cloaks for them later on. Some of the old Alts I stopped playing in Mod 6 have a Legendary artifact set already. So far, I stopped at Epic with all the belts on my newest characters.

          All my characters can solo the little things like Beasts, Spider, Devils etc, and some can do the harder, 5-Man heroics for Influence. The OPs are almost immortal, but not such high dps, while the GFs do serious damage but more easily killed. The OPs seem more susceptible to CC, though. But maybe that’s an illusion, because I can see their Sanctuary aura fall more easily than the GF Shield drop. And I do tend to play GF more like a dps Striker than a Tank.

          My GWFs get badly hurt, then miraculously get full hp from Lifesteal, and everything falls down dead from Bleed damage. My Trapper HRs have almost infinite Encounter use, high deflection and Life Steal, but get in trouble if they run out of dodge Stamina. But everything suddenly falls down dead for them as well. The Archer build is a bust. My Renegade/Thaum CW seems a little better since I read Sharp’s new guide while my TRs were perma-Stealth back in the day, and they don’t get attacked much, but take longer to kill things than the OPs! LOL! The SWs and DCs are fine.

          Anyway, it’s been fun leveling and booning unnecessary Alts with experimental builds and unusual races just for the hell of it, but I may have to change my play style soon. But that will not include trading cash Zen for AD.


  • May 12, 2018 at 12:11 am

    Modify the ZAX range to 100 -1000 ADs per ZEN , and problem solved.

  • May 15, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Hmmmm. I guess cryptic Read your post about dealing with backlogs. 😉
    With the accountbound 100k refinecap

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