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Posts with tag gold selling

Hacked and robbed blind, one guild's cautionary tale

Our Guild had been going downhill for a while now. At the beginning of the year, key officers and members, cornerstones of our raiding team, quit the game for one reason or another. Some of our members got hacked, just like WoW Insider's Amanda Dean. This took the wind out from under our sails, despite great success in Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep. As 2007 closed, I envisioned us taking down Vashj and Kael within the first quarter of 2008. I was stoked. There were good times when we'd take down two new bosses a week. Of course, Murphy's Law happens. While key team members quit the game, others took extended (sometimes unannounced) leaves of absence, and with diminishing raid attendance and obviously performance, other members looked elsewhere for better raiding opportunities. And when it rains, it pours.

A little over a week ago our Guild bank was robbed. It was cleaned out -- so empty I could almost imagine the sound of flies buzzing about -- well, okay, it wasn't that empty. On the third tab, the robber was kind enough to leave us ten stacks of Roasted Clefthooves. At first it struck me as odd because we had fixed our Guild permissions somewhat after our GM left the game to take a shot at a relationship and play with his Nintendo Wii. In what order exactly, I can't be sure. He passed the mantle off to one officer who passed it to another officer who later passed it on to me. So for a while, I was GM of a Guild that wasn't quite doing anything but waiting on people to come back to the game. So imagine my shock (more like anesthetized indifference, to be honest) when I was going to deposit items into the Guild bank only to find that it had nothing. Well, nothing but those clefthooves.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guilds, Blizzard

Why would you want someone else to play a game for you?

It can be a touch daunting to level a character in WoW, especially if you have a lot of real life commitments. The designers are aware of this, and changes are on the way. But what amazes me is that there are players out there who pay other people to level their characters for them. It's usually offered as an adjunct to real money transfer services, and it always boggles my mind.

I can understand that after you've leveled a few 70's up, you might get bored with the old world content to some degree. After my fourth 70 I was bound and determined that none of my under 60 prospects were going to set foot in Stranglethorn Vale again because I'm sick of the place (they all did, because while I'm sick of the place, I also know where all the quests are - I can go through STV like a steam powered quest thresher now, be it Horde or Alliance quests - expediency trumps all, I guess) but I still have a hard time imagining actually giving someone else access to my account, especially someone who is in all likelihood working for a gold seller.

I suppose it's only different from playing your wife's toon while she's at work by degree, but it seems different to me. (Hey, she really wants that Firefly, it would be a great anniversary present.) I play WoW because, well, I like the game. If I disliked playing the game so much that I felt like I needed to hire someone to play it for me, I don't think I'd play it at all. Is it that important to get to 70 super-fast? Is the game so much more fun at max level that you'd actually pay someone to get you there?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Leveling, Alts

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

Mail system changes (ftw?)

In a change that didn't quite make the 2.1.3 patch notes, the behavior of in-game mail has been tweaked in order to help ensure that monetary transactions made via mail are legitimate. To give Blizzard more time to check mail-based money transfers, mail sent with coins attached will now take an hour to arrive (yep, just like all other mail). Now, before you get upset about this, let me add that transfers of both money and items between characters on the same account will remain/become instant. So you can shuffle things around between alts and bank characters faster than ever -- this change only applies if you're sending coin through the mail to other players.

Though I doubt this change will stop in-game gold-selling completely, it's good to see Blizzard continuing to be proactive about the issue.

Filed under: Patches, Blizzard

New gold seller tactic: Trying way too hard

This picture, available in greater detail here, comes to us from Sid on Proudmoore.

Apparently, a certain gold seller got creative when trying to figure out ways to advertise past Blizzard's spam filter. The gold farmers created hundreds of identical level 1 gnomes, postion-hacked them into mid-air, and let them fall to certain doom in a way that spelled out the web address of their gold-selling site, which I'm not going to name here because I don't want anyone to get keylogged or anything. Looks like they've lost part of their "W", though. Players on Arthas, Frostmane and Eitrigg have reported the same tactic by different companies.

This makes me kind of glad I'm Horde, because I can't see anyone finding enough flat ground in Orgrimmar to do this successfully. I also have to give credit to the gold sellers for trying way, way too hard on this one. Taking the time to make all the level 1 gnomes, hack them into midair, and then arrange your company's name for ... what? Is there anyone out there who actually sees gold selling advertisements and goes, "Gee, buying gold. I never thought of that before, but now I will visit your lovely web site. Thanks, Jmhmltcawf/random dead gnomes!"

What's next? Raids made of gnomes whose names, read in conjunction, make up an advertisement, kind of like those old Burma Shave signs?

Thanks for the tip, Sid!

Filed under: Economy, Humor

Wowhead on the acquisition

This is what I like to see. Wowhead, as promised, posted a much more detailed page on their acquisition by (as they put it) the ZAM network. According to Tim "Evilseed" Sullivan, Wowhead's CEO, "[ZAM] have no relation with IGE. They are all about content and building communities and tools to help gamers, just like what we've done with Wowhead." A very interesting Q&A follows; here are the bits that answer the questions that I've been most concerned about:

Q: Didn't you sell to a bunch of gold sellers?
Tim: Nope, and that would have been a deal killer. The ZAM guys are an independent content business, and they don't promote RMT (Real Money Trade). Period. You will never see gold ads on Wowhead or their other ZAM sites. We made sure that was true before proceeding.

Q: What is the deal with Affinity Media? Why all the secrecy?
John [Maffei, president of ZAM]:
Affinity Media is a privately held company with gaming assets that operate independently. This includes the ZAM Network. The reason we are not more forthcoming in what the company owns and does it there are a lot of moving pieces. At one point, the company owned IGE but it was sold this spring. It was a private transaction so we can't reveal details. As head of the content network, I was thrilled we sold.

Read more →

Filed under: News items

Wowhead sold for $1M? Update: Confirmed.

We're still waiting for official confirmation on this, but word is that Wowhead, my favorite WoW database, was just sold to Affinity Media for around $1 million. The source claims to have worked at IGE back in the day, so he seems somewhat credible. The rub here is that Affinity Media used to own IGE, the notorious gold dealing empire, but according to this Gamasutra interview from a few weeks ago, they sold IGE, and "If you go to any of our sites, you'll never see a gold-selling ad."

Affinity Media also owns Thottbot and Allakhazam, so if this rumor of Wowhead acquisition is correct, they will now own all three of the major databases. So far we have no official confirmation of this story; WoW Insider is trying to reach both Wowhead and Affinity Media for comment. But if the rumors are true, our supposed last refuge against gold sellers may have just been sold.

[ Thanks, Ahmed! ]

Update: Wowhead has posted a confirmation on their front page and says that since IGE is "out of the picture," they decided to join Affinity Media's ZAM content network. They also promise more information later today.

Filed under: News items

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

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

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

Breakfast Topic: Favorite 2.1 change

We've all had at least a day (our European friends are a bit behind us, but I have no doubt they have also managed to form their opinions) to play with patch 2.1.0 and digest the many changes contained therein. While the Children's Week quests (and the non-combat pets you get from them) are super fun, but what I'm enjoying most is the lack of gold selling spam. At least for me, this near-constant nuisance has completely vanished since the patch came out -- though perhaps I'll have a different opinion tomorrow. So, I ask, what's your favorite aspect of patch 2.1.0?

Filed under: Patches, Breakfast Topics

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