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Are gold sellers the key to WoW's continued success?

On Monday, Blizzard banned several thousand accounts found using third party programs to fully automate killing and looting, aka botting. These programs are largely used by gold selling companies employing farmers to speed up the rate at which they can supply gold to the many buyers out there. But a columnist at the Lightspeed Ventures site has a different take: he proposes that gold sellers are actually the independent application developers that are integral to the success of any online venture.

No matter where you fall on the gold farmer debate ("they ruin the game" vs "they fill a need the developers refuse to acknowledge"), you have to stop and think about this particular premise. Lightspeed, a venture capital company that funds technology companies, asserts that any platform needs three critical elements to succeed.
  • wide distribution
  • application developers making money
  • good tools.
WoW has two out of three. But WoW is not, and was never intended to be, an "open" platform that Lightspeed is comparing it to. Having outside companies tinker with the carefully controlled game mechanisms of WoW could be a nightmare. Fine tuning any "balance" issue within the game is hard enough without free agents getting involved.

Also, Blizzard already allows a certain amount of "external functionality" with allowing AddOns to function within the game, but even those had to be curtailed to prevent automation of activities intended for direct player involvement.

How do you see it? By shutting out gold farmers, who are making money by developing applications, is Blizzard setting themselves up for failure? Or is Blizzard protecting their wildly profitable venture from unscrupulous businessmen that want to profit from WoW's success regardless of how it harms gameplay?

Filed under: Blizzard, Economy

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