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Posts with tag GoldFarming

The Lawbringer: The lessons of globalization and gold farming

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Back in 2008, I wrote an article for The Escapist titled Crossing Boundaries, a piece all about globalization as the greatest issue facing video game developers and producers at the time. Guess what, ladies and gentlemen? It's 2011, and globalization still takes the top spot as the prime issue challenging video game development and production.

Rather than rewrite an article on the effects of globalization and the problems the phenomenon causes for the video game industry at large, I thought it might be fun to use globalization as a rubric for discussing the very global industry of gold farming, especially when it comes to the legal nature of things, whatever things may be. We will talk about the lack of predictability in the global market, gold farming as globalization, and the problems with fighting the good fight against the grey market. Won't you join me?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

China's gold farming ban not really a ban

The other day, we reported on China's recent ban on trading real currency for virtual goods, and it was hailed as the end of gold selling in the MMO world. Unfortunately, it may not actually play out that way. While this would put a stop to some gold selling, it won't stop all of it thanks to a convenient little loophole.

That loophole is the fact that their law has no jurisdiction over foreign transactions. While it absolutely can put a stop to these transactions on Chinese soil using Chinese servers and Chinese currency, Chinese goldfarmers can still happily (well, probably not happily) scrounge up gold on American realms and sell it to American players. Most likely, this new law won't have an impact on the gold selling industry whatsoever. The people being impacted are those crafting their games on a model of microtransactions rather than a subscription model. Developers, not gold farmers, will be harmed by this. A game like Free Realms is no longer a feasible option in China.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Economy

Breakfast topic: How can you tell a gold farmer?

A couple of days ago, I did something that I never, ever do in WoW. I ran past someone fighting a mob and took a ore deposit. Why did I commit this evil deed? Because the other player was a female troll hunter with a letter-salad name and a pet named "Cat" -- in other words, someone I strongly suspected of being a gold farmer.

After she said "lol" and ran away, I got to thinking about gold farmers. (Edited to add: After the lol, I asked if she was going for the ore and she said no. Armory also provided that her only prof was skinning. I'm not quite as evil as you may believe.) This led to today's two-part breakfast topic: How do you tell a gold farmer, and what do you do about them when you find them?

I have a sort of mental checklist for suspected gold farmers:

  • Hunter
  • Female
  • Blood elf/night elf/troll
  • Cat named "Cat"/Boar named "Boar"
  • Beast Mastery in the Armory
  • Only profession is skinning
  • Inappropriate gear/Appropriate gear that is all BOEs
  • Random name
  • Will never go away when you attack and will never beat you in a fight

I usually don't do anything about them unless they're farming the stuff I need, in which case I'll report them. I'll also grab mines and other nodes from beneath their feet. How do you tell a gold farmer apart, and what do you do when you find one?

Filed under: Economy, Breakfast Topics

Life of a gold farmer gallery


You may recall Julian Dibbell's recent piece in the New York Times where he traveled to China and visited some World of Warcraft gold farming operations -- giving us a good look at life on the other side. However, just as interesting as his words is his recent publication of pictures from the trip on Flickr. If you take the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, then this gallery has quite a bit more to say than the original article.

[via Game Girl Advance]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Galleries

What are the gold farmers up to now?


I'm sure you've heard that Blizzard's anti-spam additions to the game have caused gold selling spammers to change their tactics. However, it certainly hasn't stopped their activity -- they're still out there, spamming us with raid invites, says, and messages over general chat channels since they can no longer do so in whispers. Lately I've been joining their raid groups to see what they've got to say, and, of course, report them. However, earlier today in one goldseller raid, I noticed that instead of listing their full site name, they're telling you to visit, for example http://www.i*****.com/. i*****.com? What? Is that even a valid domain name?

My questions are soon answered, as later in the message, the spammer explains that the ***** stands for something else, which does turn it into a valid domain name. But I have to ask -- why are they doing this? It just makes it more difficult for their potential customers to figure out where to go, so I presume there must be a reason they'd do this. So, even though there's nothing official from Blizzard, I have to think that they're doing something that causes trouble for the spammers if they use their full domain name. Are they flagging people using known gold-selling domains in chat for further investigation? Since we haven't heard anything from Blizzard, we can't say for certain. But until we hear something, there's room for speculation.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Economy

World Wide WoW: The New York Times, gold farming, and righteous anger

The New York Times has an interesting article about gold farming, which does a lot to help us understand what gold farming is really like. The author is very insightful, both in his grasp of how WoW works (though he seems confused on details, like "night-elf wizards"), and he is able to communicate well with the Chinese who work as gold farmers. The article goes into greater depth than I've seen so far in any report on the issue, and even includes a video, apparently part of the gold-farming documentary we reported on a while back, to give you a first hand look at what the farmers' lives are like.

There are many interesting things in the article, but I'd like to highlight one particular insight here, regarding our relationship to these seemingly strange people in a far away country. "On the surface," the Times reporter observes, "there is little to distinguish gold farming from toy production or textile manufacture or any of the other industries that have mushroomed across China to feed the desires of the Western consumer. The wages, the margins, the worker housing, the long shifts and endless workweeks - all of these are standard practice." Many of the Chinese who moved to the cities from the poor villages scattered all about are facing the same problem. The system provides little to no opportunity to arise out of poverty fueling the demand for cheap products to be sold in the West. Understood in this context, gold farming looks just one of many industries arising out of the relationship China has with the US, providing everything they can as cheaply as possible -- a relationship neither country is quick to change. (Some of my own friends from the countryside work under similarly grueling conditions running their own small restaurant near where I live in China. They seem happy enough but it may be that they just put a good face on things for me every time I see them. Their lives are not easy.)

This is different from the usual textile sweatshop job, however: these people work in the same virtual space that we play in, and we the players are not happy about it: "In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam - a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player's Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly." So true.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, World Wide WoW

Why the botters do it

Frybread over at Notaddicted yesterday posted about a chat that he had with the owner of an American gold botting company. Evidently the massive gold farming bans that went through on Monday hit his company especially hard. First of all it's interesting to note that there are such companies in the US as well, so China doesn't have complete monopoly on the illegal gold selling market. So what is it like inside a botting business?

Well, the anonymous business owner runs an office with about 150 computers. It sounds like a lot for a guy who runs his business using bots, but he explains that all tells need to be made by actual people since they are monitored constantly. When asked how many accounts he lost in the ban sweep on Monday, he says 100. All of his characters were between levels 40 and 70, which answers a lot of questions I've been having about all those people I have been competing with over primals.

The question came up, why do it if you risk losing your business? The reply was clear and without hesitation: I'd rather deal with the risks then [sic] work a normal office job. This is now the third time I have read an interview enlightening the reader to the plight of the poor goldfarmer just trying to make a living at the game he loves. But if you love the game that much, why do you abuse its rules and harm the player base to make a profit? Sure he lost 100 accounts, but he'll have those back in a month, and will be out skewing economies once again.

[via Notaddicted]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

Who's buying all that gold, anyway?

Really, I'm curious. Who's buying this stuff? I've seen goldsellers advertising gold in amounts of up to 11,000 -- for over $1600. Perhaps you're doing a double-take at that number, but it's not a typo -- I do mean sixteen hundred dollars. Now, I paid $50 for the game itself, another $50 for the expansion, $15 a month to play, and the occasional $25 to move characters around, which means I've spent over $500 on this game in the two years I've played it. That already seems like a huge amount of money to me -- but if gold sellers are out advertising $1600 worth of gold, that must mean that at least a few people are interested in spending that much.

All I can think of are the cries of agony that surely follow when the buyer is inevitably banned from the game. Blizzard does keep track of gold transfers, and I imagine that transfers in such high amounts set off red flags in their system. So what happens when you've just spent $1600 on virtual property that Blizzard has politely reminded you belongs to them? (Yes, Blizzard does hold on to the idea that all in game items are their property, and thus cannot be bought or traded for real money.) I can think of less risky ways to invest!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

Is real money for game items in our future?


No, this isn't something Blizzard is telling us -- they're still out there fighting with the issue of people buying and selling gold. However, Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer of Lord of the Rings Online, who seems to think that in the future, how MMO's handle the secondary market of gold, item, and character sales is going to have to change. In an interview with Eurogamer, he says:

But, we all know that something will happen in the next two to five years to business models in general, so we're paying attention to what's going on [with the secondary market]; watching what's going on with Sony Station whose servers support and manage this.

Does Steefel have a point? In the long run, is the only way to fight the secondary market to legalize it and integrate it with our games? But even if you look at Everquest II, where Sony provides an official method for selling gold, items, and characters for real cash, there's still a secondary market. And I've got to say, if Sony's method doesn't stop secondary market gold sales, I've got to wonder if any method of legitimizing the trade will. And while we wait to see what Steefel decides to do with Lord of the Rings Online, we can watch Blizzard approach the problem in their own way -- in the courts.

[Via Joystiq]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

Class-action lawsuit filed against IGE

Speaking of lawsuits, Terra Nova is reporting that there's been class-action lawsuit filed in Florida against IGE for... well, I'll let you read for yourself:

The case involves IGE's calculated decision to reap substantial profits by knowingly interfering with and substantially impairing the intended use and enjoyment associated with consumer agreements between Blizzard Entertainment and subscribers to its virtual world called World of Warcraft.

The lawsuit seeks both monetary damages and a stop IGE's gold farming activities. (If you just can't get enough legalspeak, you can take a look at the entire text of the lawsuit here, via Terra Nova.) Now, I have to admit that I am not a lawyer and cannot tell you whether this lawsuit has any substance to it. However, I can assure you that over here at WoW Insider we'll be looking for any updates on this -- so we can pass them right on to you.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Economy

Interview with a farmer


No, not a farmer in World of Warcraft gold farmer, but an Everquest 2 plat farmer. When EQ2 player Ogrebear received a tell from someone trying to sell him plat, he responded how he usually did -- with a threat. However, this particular plat seller actually responded to Ogrebear's tell, resulting in an interesting conversation that gives us a bit of insight into the industry.

So what does this farmer make? About $100 a month for seven hours work a day. (Ogrebear notes that that's 71 cents an hour if he only works five days a week.)

How many characters does this farmer go through in a week? Seven. But apparently it's profitable enough to keep at it.

What's this mean to those of us playing World of Warcraft? It means that Blizzard has an uphill battle ahead of them -- the farmers are making enough money to keep at this, despite bannings. And I've got to wonder if they can ever ban enough of them. Perhaps this explains Blizzard's recent push to resolve this issue via legal methods.

[Via PlayNoEvil]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

NPR sympathetic to goldfarmers

When Friiv tipped us to the recent NPR interview dealing with goldfarming, I was eager to take a listen. Finally, a non-gamer media outlet will hear our frustration. How wrong I was. The interview, which ran on May 14th takes a completely different view of the goldfarming phenomenon.

A lot about what bothers me about goldfarming is imagining the conditions in which the farmers must be working, and indeed the interview did liken the goldfarming companies to Nike sweatshops. Tens of thousands of Chinese workers sit for 12 hours shifts hunched over computer screens, standing in the same spot in game and killing the same monster over and over. The gold they make in a day's work goes for around $13.00 in the , but would only sell for $4.00 in .

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

April Fools Alert #3: Blizzard gets rid of gold farmers

Gold barsTobold reports that in patch 2.1.0 Blizzard is planning on getting rid of gold farmers in just three simple steps. So in patch 2.1.0, you should expect the following:
  • The ability to send items, gold, or CoD packages via mail will be removed. You will only be able to send letters via the in-game mail system.
  • The ability to freely set prices in the auction house will be removed. Since players could transfer gold by putting up a worthless item for a high-price buyout, the minimum bid and buyout amounts will now be set automatically.
  • The ability to transfer gold via the trade window will be removed. However, to allow people to market tradeskills, the trade window will be transformed into a tradeskill window -- allowing the crafter to select a recipe and the buyer to insert materials, for a pre-set fee. When the buyer provides materials and the money, the crafted item winds up directly in the buyer's pack after crafting.
With no ways to transfer gold to potential buyers, the gold farming industry will quickly go out of business. Huzzah to Blizzard for finally solving this problem!

Filed under: Fan stuff, Humor

WoW Moviewatch: Chronicles of a Goldfarmer


This video is hardly new -- its time stamp places it squarely in the middle of summer 2006 -- but it remains entertaining nevertheless. Just what the World of Warcraft needed: real investigative journalism on Azeroth's true scourge, the goldfarmer!

Previously, on Moviewatch...

Filed under: Machinima, WoW Moviewatch

Breakfast Club: Gold buying is naughty

We have had a lot of Breakfast Topics over the course of the past year. Some subjects are more popular than others. Some topics only appeal to certain classes. Some only to PVP junkies or the Naxx raiding crew. And then some topics completely explode and become the most commented on Breakfast Topic thread of the year.

Gold buying and you is the topic that inspired more comments, and more arguments, than any post this year. It started innocently enough. One of my guildies mentioned he had bought gold, was promptly tossed from my guild, and I wrote a post about it. You guys took it from there. There seemed to be three camps of folks in the comment thread...
  • People who don't condone gold buying under any circumstance. Shadowbrand hopes that those that buy gold get "ganked until the end of time." Pretty harsh! They blame the overpriced economy on gold farmers, and ultimately on the gold buyers. Gold buying is bad!
  • Another, more neutral group, that while they don't buy gold, can see why someone might. Lykaon makes the point that gold farming equals time and time equals money. He thinks gold is easy to get, so he doesn't buy any, but he could see the rationale behind those that do. If you don't have the time to farm it, why not buy it?
  • A rather vocal minority who believe that buying gold is just fine, and that everyone else is on the wrong page on this issue. Forsaken points out that he has bought plenty of gold, and having a wife and kids makes it too time consuming to spend hours and hours mindlessly farming.
So there you have it. If you haven't read the comments in the gold buying Breakfast Topic, you really should. A lot of our readers went out of their way with some really excellent comments. Of course, some of the conversations get a little heated, but hey, it's still fun to read! And if you have any new opinions on gold buying, by all means, leave your comments right here!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Features

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