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Posts with tag rmt

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 Massively.com on gaming culture and his recent fiction.

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Filed under: Economy, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

[1.Local]: Celestial RMT and the Fresh Steed

Reader comments -- ahh, yes, the juicy goodness following a meaty post. [1.Local] ducks past the swinging doors to see what readers have been chatting about in the back room over the past week.

Would it be wrong of us to lead off this week's [1.Local] with a comment from someplace other than WoW.com? This comment on Blizzard's astounding sales of the Celestial Steed comes from our sister publication, Massively, where one would think readers would be a little more objective about MMOs and microtransactions as a whole.
Pingles: I play Allods, a free-to-play cash shop game and have purchased items to support the game. So at first I was a bit perturbed at how anyone can accept a subscription game charging for things in a cash shop but I think that Blizzard may very well get a pass on this one.

The reason: WoW is a behemoth. People don't mind throwing $25 at something that ALL of their friends are going to see and that they envision spending the next few years playing with. This isn't just a game to some folks. This is a social and long-term commitment.

I have to admit that when I purchased a bag in Allods I wondered whether I'd be playing the game a year from now. I don't think folks wonder the same thing with WoW.
Back here at home at WoW.com, opinion about the new ride seems fairly split. Pull up a seat and let's chew on it some more. Oh, and you'll want to be sure to check out a truly epic take on the situation from [1.Local] regular (cutaia), whose fiancée Autumn Kosik created the headline photo, above. (Thanks for sharing!) Most definitely worth a trip to the end of the post.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, [1.Local]

Breakfast Topic: What are you willing to buy?



The Celestial Steed and Lil' XT went live the other day to the delight of many, the disgust of a few, and one mother of a checkout line. Toward the end of the day as I write this, the line for purchasing the mount in the North American store clocks in at 148,108 and climbing. I think it's safe to say that the shiny horse, at least, has been a runaway success.

I haven't yet bought anything from the Blizzard store, but I come from a long line of suspicious New England cheapskates for whom saving 10¢ on bulk toilet paper was a day for the diary. Most people don't seem to have a problem with RMT (Real Money Transactions/Trading) as long as they're kept to things that don't exercise any real influence on the game. If they're just for fun and they don't give anyone an unfair advantage -- we ask reasonably -- what's the big deal? Then again, it makes me a bit sad to see brilliant new pets and mounts head straight to the store while things like the moonkin and Tree of Life models have languished for years without updates. Oh well. Everyone has mounts and pets, but not everyone plays a druid (more's the pity).

I have to admit that Blizzard selling formerly TCG-only rewards like the Path of Cenarius might make me reconsider, although I'm not sure it'd be great policy for them to undermine the card game's rewards. Have you bought anything from Blizzard's store, and do you think they should sell anything in addition to pets or mounts? Or, to put it another way, what would you love to buy?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Win a pony from WoW.com

Is $25 too steep a price for you to pay for a pony made of stars? $10 too much for a train-smashing vanity pet? No worries, because we're giving away two of each right here, right now on WoW.com.

To enter, leave a comment on this post between now and the same time tomorrow. To be specific, the contest ends on April 16th at 5:00 PM EDT. Winners must be legal residents of the United States or Canada (except Quebec). You may only enter once, and winners must be 18 years of age or older. Four winners will be chosen at random. The prizes up for grabs are:
  • Two Celestial Steeds worth $25 each
  • Two Lil' XTs worth $10 each
Click here for complete official rules.

Filed under: Contests

Blizzard's version of RMT


Real-money trading is one of the most debated aspects of MMO gaming at large -- some games don't actually charge a monthly fee, and instead what they do is sell ingame items for real world money. Want that hot sword for your character? Put in your credit card and pay up. Blizzard, obviously, has never really subscribed to the idea, since a lot of players think it's unfair to make how much money you have in the real world a part of the game you play. Nevertheless, there is a lot of money to be made in selling virtual items for real money, and Blizzard has come up with their own form of RMT in terms of server transfers, name changes, and now gender changes as well.

Blizzard has rules for their RMT, though, and Zarhym lays a few of them out: they won't charge for any item that means anything in game -- cosmetic items and looks are fair game, but actual gear or "integral services" (whatever that means exactly) is a no for them. They won't charge for anything that was free before, so creating up to 10 characters on a realm, for example, will always come with the subscription (though adding more may eventually be possible with an extra charge). And Blizzard's RMT comes as a game mechanic itself -- they choose to charge for things not just because there's a cost for them, but also to "curb their frequency," to keep all players from doing them all the time.

It's an interesting idea, and it's definitely a lot more player-friendly than charging for things like, say, horse armor. You could also argue, of course, that something like the WoW TCG is also a kind of RMT scheme, since you have to pay real money for real cards to get in-game items (even though Blizzard has made sure those items are cosmetic as well). But paying for transfers and changes is a little sneakier -- Blizzard is slowly wading into RMT, so far successfully dodging all the sharks in the water.

Filed under: Patches, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW TCG

Anti-gold-seller FAQ page goes up at the official EU site

Why do Shattrath City banks have no guards? Do they just assume the Naaru will smite anyone with sticky fingers?World of Warcraft's European site has posted a new page of their FAQ aiming to describe the effects and consequences of third party gold selling, also known as RMT (Real Money Trade or Real Money Transactions). There doesn't seem to be a similar page added to the American site yet, but we've seen enough to know very well that they disapprove as well.

The page mostly focuses on the more underhanded tactics the companies use to get money, such as keyloggers and trojans, or simply stealing the accounts of people who paid for powerleveling, and using them as farming bots, or spamming in high traffic areas on level 1 characters with hard to spell names. It's a good start, and certainly reminds people of the harm that these gold farmers do, and how it can hit close to home.

As a veteran MMORPGer who's watched Johnathan Yantis and Brock Pierce practically invent the industry and most of the dirty tricks it pulls, I'm glad to see Blizzard continue to make a stand against these types of leeches and hope they continue to do so. I'd love to see them explain more fully how the constant amount of kill stealing and spawn and AH camping they do hurts the game. A campaign of information might be just what we need to stop the gold farmers once and for all. Legal measures and community shame (and thus shrinking of their customer base) for a one-two punch? Here's hoping!

Thanks for the heads up, Richard!

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

What is the definition of cheating in WoW?

Michael Zenke, the blogger behind MMOG Nation and regular contributor to our sister site Massively, has posted an article covering the latest dust up over gold selling.

The interesting part about this latest debate is that it has become a larger discussion about what is considered cheating. Most people would probably say that cheating is breaking the rules. Paying someone else to level your character or to give you gold for RL money is currently viewed as "unfair."

But if receiving money you didn't earn is in-game is cheating, does that extend to farming for gold with your main to give to your alt? What about having your higher level friends run you through a loweer level dungeon quicker? Isn't that powerleveling? What about twinking? Did your alt "earn" those items?

For many, I think the distinction is whether RL money is involved. It's acceptable to send gold to your alt because you main earned it, but it's not fair to buy gold because you are using your RL cash to get ahead in a game.

So if using RL resources to get ahead is cheating, what about people who are rich with time? After all, the principal mechanic for MMO progression is time spent playing the game. Aren't people with enormous amounts of free time using their RL resources to gain an unfair advantage of those who have limited play time?

Where is the line between cheating and working within the game rules to get the most out of your game time? And how much RL can developers expect to keep out of their games in the interest of "fairness"?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Leveling, Alts

Legal files reveal IGE and Affinity connection once and for all

You may remember that earlier this summer, when Affinity Media purchased Wowhead (to add to their acquisitions of Thottbot and Allakhazam), we were able to interview Affinity Media CEO John Maffei, and he told us, in a very roundabout way, that Affinity and IGE had supposedly parted ways-- Affinity and its content sites were, he said, no longer associated with the company that sold gold in World of Warcraft. However, if you read the comments on that interview, you may have doubted what Maffei told us, and now, thanks to legal documents surfacing because of a legal action against IGE, it appears you were exactly right: Affinity and IGE are (or were, according to Affinity Media) still two peas in the same pod (see Update).

I know for certain right now that some of you commenters are preparing the "aww geez, not this again" (NSFW) macro to post, and I don't blame you. You're exactly right; this is boring business stuff, not new news about the Sunwell, and anyone paying attention back during the Wowhead acquisition knew that the two companies were still connected anyway. If this isn't news you to, fine-- I don't mean to reopen Pandora's Box, we just want to make sure we do due diligence in covering this issue.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items, Making money

Blizzard on Live Gamer: No way, no how

I've been reporting on our sister site Massively (just like WoW Insider, but for all MMOs) about Live Gamer, a startup that claims to be legitimizing RMT (real-money trading, which is spending real money on virtual items) in MMOs. But while there are a few big names supporting them already (Funcom, which is making Age of Conan, and Sony, which makes lots of different MMOs, including all the Everquests), there is one name that's missing from their supporters: Blizzard.

And now we've heard that that's not going to change anytime soon. A "Blizzard rep" says in no uncertain terms that they're not interesting in RMT at all, in a sanctioned form or otherwise. "Not only do we believe that doing so would be illegal," they say, "but it also has the potential to damage the game economy and overall experience for the many thousands of others who play World of Warcraft for fun." Wow. Tell us how you really feel.

If I can be biased for a moment, that's great to hear. Blizzard has definitely been taking steps to make RMT obsolete rather than legit (by doing things like adding in daily quests and requiring things other than gold-- reputation, turn-ins-- to buy virtual items). There's no question that there's a lot of money to be made in RMT-- every day, virtual items seems to gain more and more real world value. But it's good to hear that Blizzard is invested in making their game fun, not selling the virtual items they create.

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

Is gold buying being used to launder money?

Law of the Game postulated that gold sellers would make an effective way to launder money for criminal organizations. Now, I can't say that I find his idea to actually have to pay real tax in-game money (which, at least in WoW's case, isn't even really yours, as Blizzard has repeatedly stated that all in game items and assets belong to them) but I can understand that, if Symantec is right and real life criminals are using our MMO hobby as a means to not only make money but to clean up money made from other, illicit activities, then eventually something will have to be done to make it less attractive to them. At present, gold selling or RMT (real money trading) is a incredibly safe business for people to commit crimes with (as, for an example, stealing your password in order to convert all of your character's gear to gold that can be sold to others) because it's new territory.

The new danger would be that not only is there money to be made in the trading of on-line gold and items, but there's even more money to be made in using that trade to conceal yet more money made through already established vices and crimes. Which, to be honest, kind of messes with my head: the idea that someone pretending to be a stealthy rogue or bloodthirsty brute of a warrior could in fact be helping honest to murgatroyd killers, thieves and pushers to conceal how they made their money by buying pretend gold with real money.

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

A one-hour delay on AH winnings in 2.2

Alright, so maybe this morning's "final 2.2 patch notes" weren't so final. They were based on the files distributed with the patch, and there are a couple things that got changed after those files were put together. One is the Daze mechanic not having been retuned as the patch notes claimed (that change in fact got repealed last time on a very special episode of Daze of Our Lives). There is also a change that isn't in the (shipped) patch notes: when someone wins an auction that you're selling, it takes an hour for the gold to get to you.

Apparently you get an in-game mail as soon as the item sells saying the sale is "pending," and then an hour later, you get your cash. Nethaera simply says "By adding in the delay we can better track transactions to assure the legitimacy of them;" I'm betting it has something to do with the gold sellers' new tactics. When will you learn, Blizzard, that the gold sellers are like the borg? You can stop one of their channels, but they will simply adapt and find another. Resistance is futile.

Nah, I'm just kidding. One more inconvenience in the way of the RMTers is one more step in the right direction. In this case, it may be a little inconvenient, and it certainly makes playing the AH somewhat harder, as reader Vynn points out (thanks for the screenshot, by the way), but maybe that's not such a bad thing either. How do you guys feel about this change?

And as Blizzard loves to claim, the latest patch notes can always be found at http://worldofwarcraft.com/patchnotes/. Those notes do contain the AH change and don't erroneously list the daze change. The reason I don't always use that source is because it usually takes a few hours after patches for the notes to show up there.

Filed under: Patches, Economy, Making money

How gold sellers are transacting business these days



I was reading the Se7en Samurai blog today and found an interesting post about gold sellers. Stormgaard went to a site advertised by one of those delightful spammers in Ironforge and discovered an open letter to their customers describing how they were currently conducting business and why they changed their methods.

It seems that the changes that Blizzard has made to the mail system has forced the gold sellers to change their tactics. They can no longer simply send gold through the in-game mail system because of the hour delay and the new "anti-transaction system". Face to face trades are out of the question for this particular company due to the time difference between their customers and their country.

Everybody now: awwwwwww!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

Exclusive Interview: Wowhead and Affinity Media

I was actually running Wailing Caverns with a few guildies from IctfB on last Friday night around midnight when I heard the news: Wowhead had sold for $1 million to Affinity Media, the company that supposedly ran IGE, the notorious goldsellers. We'd received a tip from someone who claimed he used to work for IGE, and we rushed to get the story up and also make sure it was right-- word was that Affinity didn't own IGE any more, and that Wowhead had maybe sold because of that.

Still, in the week or so since, players have had plenty of questions. Did Wowhead sell out to goldsellers? Did Affinity really sell IGE and are they really out of the goldselling business? And why did Affinity want to buy yet another database when they already owned both Allakazham and Thottbot? And perhaps most importantly, what kind of changes would come for Wowhead?

WoW Insider got a chance to sit down for an exclusive chat with both John Maffei, president of the ZAM content network at Affinity Media, and Tim Sullivan, CEO of Wowhead, to talk about Affinity's past, the sale of Wowhead, and what's coming next. They wanted to clear up questions, and we wanted to get answers. To read the full, exclusive interview, click the link below.

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Filed under: News items, Economy, Features, Interviews

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.

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Filed under: News items

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