I ran a player bank in a MUD. Here’s the way I set it up…
#1: Each loanee is analyzed for repayment odds. The worse the chance of repayment, the less likely any loan will be given, and the lower the limit of outstanding debt that is allowed.
#2: Every successful loan (one that is repaid per contract) gives that player the ability to receive a greater loan in the future, since they have reduced their perceived security risk.
There is a lot of “paperwork” in terms of tracking the loans and tracking the analysis of the players. I ran the bank not because it was particularly profitable, but for the fun and experience.
That MUD allowed for bounties to be put out on players and the PK system had substantial penalties for death (unlike WoW). Also, I ran a large guild and could call upon guildmates for help in collecting unpaid loans. All of this makes a bank much more practical in that game than in WoW, where even creative players have many less tools to enforce repayment. I had more problems collecting guild taxes.
In terms of practical analysis of whether a bank is important in WoW, you have to determine who needs money, for what reasons, etc. Here’s the way I see it…
Type A: The Newbie
Money is tough to come by for a newbie who is not guild-affiliated early on. One of the big issues is bags… newbies can barely afford 6 slot bags and if they do spend the cash on that they are really hurting for even enough money to pay for new skills. Yet newbies have almost as much need for bag slots as level 30s.
Low Limit Loans can be provided to newbies to pay for bags (enough 6 slot bags to fill their spots). Better yet, part of the loan can be in bags provided by the lender, who can get them at the AH at considerably cheaper prices, then forwarded to the newbies through the mail. Since this is a very helpful service, high interest rates can be charged. I know I would have benefitted from this service and been willing to pay high interest rates if such a service had been available to me.
Its a very high risk loan since the lower level the player, the less likely he will continue to play that character, thus making him less likely to be available to repay the loan. High interest rates are necessary to cover the many players who do not repay, as well as the high transaction cost to profit ratio (the amount of time and paperwork is comparable to a higher profit loan).
Type B: The Auction Broker
As an Auction Broker myself (I transfer goods between undersellers and fair buyers, acting as the corrective middleman) I know the need for working capital. Right now the Auction Broker has to build his capital through adventuring, and very limited Brokering (low price goods which he has the capital to afford). A loan allows him to expand his Brokering range far earlier than he otherwise would, increasing his profit and therefore the loan value, thus again allowing for fairly high interest rates and thus banker pleasure.
Oversight of the loan includes checking to make sure the Broker is really Brokering (he would have to include which items he is actively Brokering). Also, just as with the additional Newbie Service of the AH bought bags (to lower cost), the newbie Auction Broker can be given advice and guidance, thus raising his profit rate and the interest rate he can be charged.
Type C: The Level 40 man with no mount
A mountless Level 40 reality leads to embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy. Who wants that? In to save the day comes Banker, who provides a legitimate means of mounted happiness.
The good news is that since the player is already at a fairly high level, the odds of him staying in the game are much higher than for either of the other types. The bad news is that Level 40 is such a landmark point that many players don’t make it far over the hump.
More good news is that most of these players are members of guilds, and you can build into the contract that the guild is responsible for repayment of the loan if the player defaults. The larger and more respectable guilds are more likely to repay.
Type D: An Epic Desire
Some players want that Epic item they see at the AH, but just can’t afford it. Many of these players are high level, lowering their security risk. Loans should be made available to them, again with the Guild repay addendum. As a further service, use Brokering skill to determine whether the item in question is a good deal or not, and encourage proper action from the loanee.
The idea behind typecasting the loanees is that it creates a framework of legitimate loan reasons. Its important that a good reason exist for the loan, or it makes it much less likely that the loan will have a good outcome (repayment).
Furthermore, if a player fails to repay a loan its a black mark against his entire guild (with respect to obtaining loans and with respect to any injury you can inflict), unless that guild repays the loan. Through this you increase the world-logic and shared responsibility and your own integrity.
One of the keys in making banking a success is advertising. Word of mouth will help at some point, but getting the news out there about what your Bank is all about is huge. A good way to do that is to get a link to it off Blizzard’s WoW website or thottbot.com, which leads the curious to information and bank structure and how to contact the banker in-game. Also, advertise at Ironforge or Orgrimmar about your services.