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Posts with tag gold-farmers

Chinese prisoners forced to farm gold

The Guardian ran a heartrending story yesterday about prisoners in China forced to farm gold on behalf of their prison bosses. After spending their day doing backbreaking labor, they would spend the evenings farming gold in games like World of Warcraft.

According to the report, it's likely that the prison bosses made more money from the sales of these online currencies than they did even from prisoners' manual labor. If prisoners were unable to produce enough gold during their shift, they would be physically punished.

"They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things," said one prisoner in the report.

Blizzard's been fighting gold farming practices for a long time; we'll likely never see "legal" gold selling if Blizzard can doing anything about it. This story illustrates one more reason you should not support these services.

Note: Comments on this post will be closely monitored. Racial insults, personal attacks or any of that nonsense will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be banned.

Filed under: News items, Economy

Blizzard strikes gold sellers with Paypal notices

Last week, Blizzard sent out strongly worded complaints to Paypal, accusing many gold-selling companies and resellers of "intellectual properties violations" for selling World of Warcraft goods. After receiving these complaints, Paypal sent notices off to the gold sellers Blizzard had complaints against, stating that if these activities continued through their websites and the Paypal service, Paypal would revoke their ability to use the popular payment site as a payment option.

Here is Paypal's letter to the gold sellers:
You were reported to PayPal as an Intellectual Properties violation by Blizzard Entertainment Inc. for the sale of World of Warcraft Merchandise.

If you feel your sales do not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of the Reporting Party, please complette the attached Objection to Infringement Report by January 21, 2011.

The completed form should be faxed to the attention of the Acceptable Use Policy Department at [number removed] or emailed to [email removed].

Should you choose not to object to the report, you will be required to remove all World of Warcraft Merchandise from the website [url removed] in order to comply with the Acceptable Use Policy.
What's very interesting is that Blizzard is claiming intellectual property violations in the face of the most recent decision in the Glider case. Where Blizzard lost on intellectual property concerns under the EULA, they could have a better shot over their game assets being sold, if somehow it ever went to court. Still, Paypal is the easiest route to go for Blizzard's plan of attack against gold sellers, since most of them are run outside of the country. Suffice to say, it's nice to see some action being taken against gold selling.

Filed under: Blizzard

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

15 Minutes of Fame: Cory Doctorow on gold farming

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

A conversation with Cory Doctorow plunges into the matter at hand so quickly that it's almost impossible not to imagine yourself falling through an internet-era rabbit hole of pop culture and technology. Doctorow is all about synthesizing ideas and spitting them out in as accessible a fashion as possible, and the ground he manages to cover in a single stride can be mind-boggling; he's a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger, father, gamer ... A former WoW player and husband of gaming standout Alice Taylor (also previously profiled here in 15 Minutes of Fame), he's widely known as the co-editor of Boing Boing and author of the bestselling young adult novel Little Brother.

Doctorow's latest young adult novel, For the Win, pries open the seams of the shady scene behind MMO gold farming. Its young protagonists are gold farmers and gamers themselves. Doctorow has woven his own experience and sensibilities with focused research to outline a world of gold farming that sprawls far beyond the lines of cartoon-image gold farmers that most of us have painted in our heads. We chatted by phone with Doctorow for this lengthy conversation on gold farming and game economies, plus a companion piece at our sister publication on gaming culture and his recent fiction.

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Filed under: Economy, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

The Lawbringer: Why you'll never buy gold from Blizzard

Welcome to The Lawbringer,'s weekly examination of the intersection of law and the World of Warcraft. Amy is being attacked by the Bar Monster, so there's a new, temporary sheriff in town.

Greetings, Lawbringer readers! As you'll soon notice, I am not Amy. Amy is currently studying for the bar and I've been asked to fill in for a bit while she studies for that hellish exam. I've been there -- it's a rough road. Her readers, however, are in good hands. So, please excuse me while I do my best to fill in. After I wrote my feelings about the Celestial Steed and heard many awesome responses, I wanted to talk a little bit more about buying and selling merchandise parallel to the World of Warcraft.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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

Welcome to The Lawbringer,'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?

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

The Queue: Earthquake bonanza

Welcome back to The Queue,'s daily Q&A column where the team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Today we're going to skip the wacky shenanigans that usually plague the intros to the Queue. Instead, I'm going to blow your minds with the news that Chile's recent earthquake was large enough that it has potentially moved the Earth's axis and an Earth day is now shorter because of it.

dav103id asked...

"When running Shadowfang Keep during Love is in the Air, did anyone else notice Arugal on the other side of the courthouse gate when you first enter the instance? Has he always been there at that location or was he added for the Love is in the Air boss event?"

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue, Cataclysm

China bans gold farming

Gold farmers! They're everywhere, right? We get spammed by them, we run into them farming Dire Maul, we put them on ignore. Lazy people with too much disposable income buy gold from them in a show of crass consumerism. Blizzard has done their best to stamp out gold-farming services, but litigation is difficult due to the fact that most of the major gold-farming companies are based in China or other parts of Asia. They've instead opted to try to control and stop gold farmers from being able to complete transactions via other methods.

This time, though, it looks like Blizzard may have an unlikely ally in, of all things, the Chinese government. They announced today that the trading of virtual goods for real money is now illegal in China. This ruling reaches farther than just gold farming, though. It also bans the sale of prepaid time cards for MMOs or other online games, as well as numerous technicalities we're sure to hear about in the weeks to come.

To give you an idea of how much an economic impact this will have on China, gold farming alone generates nearly one billion dollars a year worldwide, with China's specific numbers growing at a reported rate of 20% per year. It's estimated that 80 to 85 percent of gold farmers reside in China, so this ruling is massive and, to be frank, pretty troubling.

From a gamer's perspective, yes, it'll be nice to worry about this kind of service a little less, but from a human perspective this places hundreds of thousands of Chinese people in one of two kinds of serious trouble: the first is financial hardship from the "honest" gold-farming companies that will close down after this ban, and the second is legal issues from the companies who don't close down because they can't afford not to do what they've been doing.

It's not my intention to defend gold farming as an industry, because I used to have to deal with its more nefarious effects every day -- compromised accounts stripped of gold and gear, keyloggers, disruptive spam, all of that. But life isn't easy for many Chinese people working jobs like this. Many gold farming centers are much cleaner and safer, in relative terms, than other places in China where one on the bottom rung of the financial ladder might seek work, so while I appreciate the change as only a white first-world male can, I worry about what will happen to the underprivileged working-class Chinese people behind the spam ads and dead gnomes when this law starts getting enforced.

NOTE: Comments are now disabled for this post.

Filed under: News items

Account security mythbusting

So, you might have noticed the increased number of warnings and advice from Blizzard regarding account security lately. They've even popped up in the game itself, as a server message when you first log in. Needless to say, this has caused no dearth of consternation in the WoW community (read: people be trippin').

So, why the sudden notices? Has something changed? Has Blizzard lost their footing in the war against hackers and gold farmers? Is Blizzard in cahoots with them? What's this itchy pentagram-shaped rash I've developed?

Now, there's a lot I can't talk about regarding this stuff, and certainly not for any sinister reason. It's a selfish reason, though, that being that I really like not getting sued. I can, however, use my experience and knowledge to bust or confirm some common account security myths. Ready?

I'm a trained professional. Don't try this at home!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Account Security

Gold farmers arrested in China

Here in the US, you can't really arrest someone for selling gold in-game -- it's against Blizzard's Terms of Service, so they can ban you from the game or even file suit against you, but it's not actually illegal. But in China, under communism, things are apparently a little different. Two gold farmers have actually been arrested by the government for "unfair revenue distribution" -- apparently the two had a disagreement about how to distribute the over $200,000 they had made from selling gold in World of Warcraft.

Word is going around that "unfair revenue distribution" is the actual charge in the arrest, but it sounds like they just had a financial disagreement, so we really have no idea what they'd be charged with. Unfortunately, China isn't exactly forthcoming with how its legal system actually works, so who knows what's really happening here.

Their operation also sounds interesting as well -- they had been going for about seven months, and had a crew of 20 PCs and 20 employees. There's little chance that an arrest like this will make much of an actual difference in the game (and there's no way an arrest in China will set a precedent in the US), but it is an interesting case that we'll follow if we can.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Economy

Gold farmers try to take their game onto guild web sites

Last week I wrote about my harrowing experience of finding a gold farmer in one of my instant messaging windows. Apparently somebody "in one of those countries" (I'm slapped on the wrist every time I single-out China) must have swallowed a creativity pill. Just when I thought there was nothing new on the horizon, Aleeyah from Livejournal posted an article -- complete with screenshot -- of an odd in-game e-mail that was received from someone we can fairly safely assume is in the professional gold farming business.

The written English in the in-game message is nearly bad enough to send one of my editors into a seizure. It's almost bad enough you can't understand it at all. The bare essentials that I can (barely) glean from the message is that the farmers are now offering gold to guilds in exchange for advertising.

Why would they do this? As I said in my last article on this subject, I think they're losing on the home front. I think their current marketing techniques are not bringing the level of revenue that they want. I think more and more people are discovering just how easy it is to right-click a spammer when they're checking their mail, silence the spam, and have the feel-good feeling of knowing they've done something right for their community. I know I do it all the time. I won't go as far as to call Blizzard's anti-spam tactics a flourishing success, but as the old saying goes "If you can't beat 'em, wear 'em down," and I think that's exactly what is starting to happen.

So if real-money transactions are frowned upon by Blizzard and prosecuted by Blizzard, why wouldn't they just try and move their advertising medium to neutral ground? Sure, there are lots of guilds that will have nothing to do with selling their corporate souls to the devil in this manner. You can rest assured however that there are also lots that would jump at an opportunity like this that could pay for all their bank tabs for nothing more than a measly advertisement on their guild web site. It does bring up the interesting question however, of whether a guild that supported a gold farming business financially could potentially face retribution from Blizzard. While I can't see a guild getting banned en masse for this, it would sure be a wakeup call if such a guild logged in to find their tag gone along with all their guild bank slots and contents.

Does this mean that the spamming around the Ironforge and Orgrimmar mailboxes is going to let up? Not likely, or at least not very much. It just means "these people" have found yet another way to devastate our server economies for their own profit.

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

The evolution of the gold farming industry

It's a rare event when I wake up, walk to the computer, yawn, and think to myself what I could possibly write about only to have an article walk up to me, sit in my lap, and cuddle. Today it happened.

We've all seen what I call the evolution of spam in-game. First it was just straight tell spam. Blizzard fixed that. Then it was group spam. Now it seems gold farmers have taken to just sitting in the capital cities and screaming their lungs off until they get reported and/or zapped by a GM.

I think the reporting mechanism is starting to get to them though. Every time they lose an account (when it's reported) they have to make a new one. In the scope of the money they're making it's really not a big deal, but it's tedious repetition and I saw the first signs this morning that they've shifted their focus and are moving to more aggressive tactics.

I fired up Adium (my Mac instant messenger) and was immediately greeted by a request for contact authorization. I'll stop here for a moment so you can gasp, because what happened after this is exactly what you think. I looked at the address that was requesting authentication and it didn't really ring a bell. I looked at the display picture and saw a cropped screenshot of two blood elves staring back at me. I reasoned that it had to be someone from my guild, even though I wasn't sure who. I accepted the request and the contact appeared on my contact list. As it turns out, they were online.

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

If you can't beat the gold farmer, make everyone's life miserable

I'm able to roll with the changes. I can accept I can't bring more than 3oz. of water through a security checkpoint because an over-eager Homeland exec thought 24 was a documentary. We live in Changed Times. At least that's what the TSA guy said as he instructed me to bend over and I heard the snap of a latex glove. But this delay on receiving gold from auctions may have pushed me to take action. I'd write my Senator, but since his claim to fame is driving a good-looking woman off a bridge in Chappaquiddick (a family record his nephew beat when he flew two good looking women into the ocean off Martha's Vineyard), I don't see where he's going to help.

We all know why this was added. Those wily gold resellers came up with a fun way to get around the delay-in-mailing-gold problem by having you sell spare ribs for 5k gold. I don't know about you, but when I heard that I laughed my arse off. Talk about a way to game the system.

Changes like this make me think Blizzard hired that guy that forced NyQuil to now have the potency of children's aspirin. Really, whom do they think they are kidding here? If someone is going buy the gold to get their epic flyer it's unlikely they are going to hover their mouse over the checkout button and go: Ya know, I'd really like to just buy the 5k gold and not have to farm motes for the next five days, but, now that I think about it with the hour delay in the AH, I'll just go farm it.

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Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy, Making money

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