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Posts with tag GoldSellers

The Lawbringer: Legal gold sales? Not a Blizzard's chance in Hell

Welcome to The Lawbringer, wow.com's weekly feature on the intersection between World of Warcraft and the Law. I am a third year law student acting as your crossing guard and trying not to get run over myself.

As an introduction to our promised discussion on gold farming, I wanted to address an idea that's been circulating in the WoW blogosphere. There has been some talk that Blizzard could solve the problem of gold farming and hacked accounts in one fell swoop by simply selling the gold themselves. It's an attractive idea on its face, as some feel as though Blizzard's current ban on Real Money Transaction for gold ("RMT") is nothing but an ill advised Prohibition. Permit people to buy gold through Blizzard, the argument goes, and the keyloggers, site spoofers, hackers, and spammers will go back to the rock from under which they came, just like the Mafia disappeared after alcohol sales were permitted in 1933. Oh wait...

The obvious problems have been pointed out before, including: rich brats will have more advantages over folks with jobs and bills; inflation will cause Azeroth to resemble Zimbabwe, the Weimar Republic, or -- God forbid -- Norrath; players will be forced to pay up to stay competitive; WoW-clone MMOs will follow Blizzard's lead, leaving players with few refuges from RMT markets; Blizzard devs will be "encouraged" to design the game around acquiring and spending more gold; players who can't remember website names will still think "www.l3g!t-w0rlduvw0wcr@ft-g0ld.c0m" is Blizzard's website and download keyloggers, etc. Some don't believe this parade of horribles is enough to discourage Blizzard from creating this quixotic market. To the doubters, let me add some legal issues that would affect Blizzard and players, namely: property rights, taxation, and investment advice.

Any of that sound like improvements to you?

Read more →

Filed under: The Lawbringer

How to tell if a GM is whispering you

A guildie got the above whisper Tuesday night. (I have blocked out the website so as not to promote this phishing attempt.) We have reports of this happening to a lot of people in-game right now as yet another attempt to get you to go to a site, so they can steal your login info and defile your characters.

Let's dissect the above whisper:
  • It's one whisper made to look like two. This will work if your chat settings match the scammer's chat settings, but if you've fiddled with your font or chat window, then the formatting will be off and the scam will be more obvious.
  • The whisper is from a garbage name. All "players" I've seen with random characters have been scammers or gold selling barkers. So anything after such a name should be considered highly suspect.
  • It says [Game Master]GM. The scammers aren't even trying here. Blizzard GMs have names and have <GM> before their names.
  • It sends you to a non-Blizzard site. Don't go to any website you get in tells or in-game mail as a general rule. If you have received a ban of any kind, you will receive an email to the account you have on file with your subscription info.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Account Security

Beware of Blood Elves selling mounts


A friend of mine recently got hit by a pretty devious phishing scam targeting wealthy (in-game) players looking to make legitimate purchases. My friend, we'll call him Cobra, was in a major city when an offer in the Trade Channel caught his eye. A player, we'll call him Bubbles, was offering a Spectral Tiger Mount for 5000 gold. Since this mount is only available as a code on a rare loot card, Cobra contacted Bubbles to inquire. Purchasing codes for in-game items with in-game cash is perfectly legitimate, according to Blizzard, so Cobra did not worry about going against the TOS with this transaction.

Bubbles, a level 78 Blood Elf Mage, seemed legitimate. For one thing, he was not a throwaway low level character. Also, he didn't want to take the cash then, but just see it in a trade window to make sure Cobra was in possession of it. So Cobra gave Bubbles his email address only and waited for the email that included the code and a link to where to input the information.

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Filed under: Mounts, Account Security

Guardian talks to Chinese goldsellers and UK buyers

UK paper The Guardian has a look at what life is like at a Chinese goldselling company. It's interesting, but we've basically seen it before -- the small room of young people working almost 24/7 to make and deliver gold in-game, the concerns about worker livelihood and the supposedly large amounts of money going through these businesses (there's one figure quoted of £700m, which is about $980 million, but that's an estimate -- no one really knows how much these companies are making).

But what's really interesting about this piece is that it seems to treat goldselling as more of an "opportunity" than anything else. The people running the companies are making money, the employees are getting a roof over their head and a steady paycheck, and even the guy making the film talks about how governments should start taking a cut of this industry. Nowhere is it actually mentioned that Blizzard considers these companies to be against the terms of service, or that many times the gold obtained by these companies isn't earned through simple grinding, but by hacking, keylogging, and exploiting. Even if (emphasis on the if) these companies are making millions of dollars a year, they're stealing accounts and cheating in-game to do it.

Rowenna Davis also did interviews with both the gold farmer and a player in the UK buying money from him (bannz0red?), but again, there's no insight at all from the player whose account was hacked and bank was looted, or the player who is able to earn as much gold as they need and have a life outside the game (there are plenty of those to go around). Would have been nice to see the issue from players who aren't actually breaking the game's terms of service.

Thanks, Bryn!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Leveling, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King

Avoiding gold-selling scams


Tobold has an interesting post up on getting scammed by businesses claiming to sell in-game gold or items. While, yes, it's easy enough for them to take your money and hand you some in-game cash, it's easier still for them to take your money and then not bother doing anything else. (And try to explain that to your credit card company when you dispute the charges...) And once you've lost real money to such a scammer, what's your next recourse? Well, a lot of people will call customer service and complain -- Sony cited frequent customer service calls as one of the reasons they legitimized the trading business with their Station Exchange. But Blizzard's not going to be able to do anything but snicker when you call and complain that a gold-seller took your money and ran, so, really, buying gold could just leave you with a hole in your real and virtual pocket. The only way to be 100% sure you get what you pay for is obvious: don't buy gold in the first place.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Economy

A look back at the sale of Wowhead.com

Now that we've had a few days to think about it, I think it's worth taking a bigger look at the Wowhead acqusition news that broke over the weekend. On Friday evening, a blogger named Ahmed Farooq posted that as a person who'd previously worked to acquire websites for goldseller IGE, he'd heard from "three different sources," all unnamed, that Wowhead had sold to Affinity Media for $1 million. That's when we reported on it, and more than a few other sites also picked up the story. We also were one of the first sites to report in conjunction that Affinity Media had supposedly sold IGE, and claimed they were no longer in the business of goldselling.

On Saturday, Wowhead posted a confirmation on their site, and then this Q&A with their CEO and the head of Affinity Media, John Maffei. They claim to be "100% sure" that since Affinity reportedly sold IGE, Wowhead will never carry gold ads. Farooq, the original tipster, posted an update on his site that says Affinity was "still very much involved with IGE," but Wowhead's Q&A says "the individual who leaked the story about the Wowhead sale" (apparently Farooq) also "owns competitive content properties," including a real-money trading (goldselling) site, and calls the act of that person spreading rumors about Wowhead "the height of hypocrisy." By all appearances, Affinity Media is no longer associated with IGE at all, and at the moment, the proof is in the pudding: there are currently no gold ads on Wowhead or Thottbot.

As for IGE, this report about the CEO at the Virtual Goods Summit makes it seem as though there are stormy waters ahead for their company and the entire gold selling market.

Read more →

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, News items, Economy, Guides

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

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

The spammers new (old) methods


While poking around the World of Warcraft LJ, I couldn't help but notice that the spammers are back at it again, and apparently using some of the old tactics that they used to use. Well, tactics that they used to use before they figured out how to script spamming hundreds of people in a split second from a level one character. For those of you who either don't remember them, or who aren't familiar, I thought it might be best to relay the information.

There are a couple of main tactics that they seem to have started employing since the new patch is squelching their ability to get to us. The first one involves random group or raid invites where the spammers invite a massive amount of people and just repeat the same text over and over in party or raid chat. While many people will not fall for this, these blind invites may prove problematic for those people who are using the LFG tool. The best suggestion I saw was to /who anyone who sends you an invitation to make sure that you aren't getting invites from level one characters.

Read more →

Filed under: Tips, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, News items

Where's all the spam gone?


In today's breakfast topic, I noted that I haven't gotten any gold spam in the time I've played since patch 2.1.0 came along. And oh, what a change it is! I was always a good little player, taking the time to report any gold selling spam to a GM, but usually by the time a GM got around to looking at my ticket, I'd have gotten at least five more piece of spam -- and that was if I opened my ticket during off-hours.

So what's the magical change that's stopped spam in its tracks this patch? Obviously, there's the new spam reporting system, which makes reporting anyone an easy task: just right-click on their name and select the "report spam" option. You'll no longer get whispers, see text, or receive mails from that player for the duration of your game session and the incident is automatically forwarded on to a GM. But even if every player were duitifully reporting every spammer, I wouldn't expect such a dramatic change in the level of spam. CM Drysc notes that as of the patch, trial accounts can no longer whisper other players -- at least not without players whispering them first. I don't know about you, but I think this simple step may have been the magic bullet.

Filed under: Patches

WoW Moviewatch: The BBC on WoW


Proving that World of Warcraft is a big enough phenomenon for even the most mainstream media to notice, this three-minute clip features BBC reporters attempting to explain gold farming and buying to a non-gamer audience. While the information may not be terribly informative to those of us who already play and understand the game, it's usually interesting to see how exactly the media attempts to portray gamers to the larger public.

Previously on Moviewatch...

Filed under: News items, WoW Moviewatch

Missing in Action: Bot Farmers

Complaints on the forums suggest that they aren't really gone, but I've noticed an astonishing lack of them on my own server in recent weeks.  All of the obvious bots - the ones who followed a specific pattern through the same area day after day - seem to be missing lately, making farming Timbermaw reputation a nearly pleasant affair, having only to compete with the human reflexes of other players.

While I'm thrilled to see this lack of farmers on my own server, I have to wonder if any of it will last. At the end of last week, I pointed my web browser in the direction of a major gold-selling site to see to see what I could find out.  I checked the stock on gold for US servers, and for nearly all servers saw the text "NOT IN STOCK! PRE-ORDER THIS ITEM NOW AND RECEIVE CURRENCY AS SOON AS WE RESTOCK."  Another check today yielded much the same results. The servers that do have gold available for order only had it in smaller quantities (if you can consider 200 gold a small quantity).  Does this imply that Blizzard's continued efforts to weed out gold-sellers starting to have a notable impact, or is this just a temporary setback on the part of the gold-farming professionals?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Economy

In-Depth Article on Gold Farming

One of my favorite new WoW sites, Metroblogging Azeroth, has a great article today that goes deep into the controversial world of gold-farming. Author Jonas Luster details the many ways that buying gold outside of the game impacts players, developers, and the gameworld itself, with a knowledge of the game that makes his observations all the more relevant.

There are plenty of things that the average gold buyer (who is almost certainly not some intrinsically evil person) probably never takes into account when they purchase gold from a farmer, aside from what shiny new armor it will buy them; they could care less what it does to the economy of the game. Then, there are those who actually believe the practice of gold farming is healthy for a virtual economy, and for people coming from that school of thought, Luster makes a convincing case why, in the end, everyone suffers from the actions of those few. Not to mention the connection he makes between the largest network of online gold-selling sites, and a trio of convicted child molesters.

It's good readin'. Check it out here. Thanks to Sean for the link.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Odds and ends, News items

Paying Real Taxes for Virtual Items?

All you have to do is visit eBay to see that your virtual acquisitions in Azeroth have real money value.  But if my epic-geared character has a real value (a priest in my guild was recently offered $1000 for his character), does that make it a taxable asset?  The IRS has no definitive answer for this, though as the market for buying and selling virtual goods becomes larger, there's the chance that this could change.  While such real life consequences for a game might seem far-fetched, they're already starting to occur - players in South Korea have been prosecuted for stealing virtual property and Chinese courts have ordered game companies to restore stolen (virtual) goods.  Can the IRS be far behind?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Economy

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