WoW and gold farmers

As it happens we were discussing gold farming on the guild forum after one member posted a link to an article on gold farming. Some people were quite surprised that gold farming (the wikipedia article cites most of the same sources I do actually *g*) was so common and such a big issue in our lovely innocent game world. For me this came not as a surprise as a long time reader (since their creation actually) of terranova (read it …. there are so many good articles on all kinds of virtual worlds there it’s just good!) and other similar blogs and a lot of wow related news sources. I have read quite a bit about the topic at hand and collected a few relevant links which I want to repost here.

Most of these articles talk about the practices of gold-farming, who does it (poor people), who’s behind it (pretty big companies) and who is harmed by it (players). At least in Germany MMORPGs are still a niche hobby (despite the huge numbers of WoW subscribers) and it is hard to understand for many people how such a huge market can have formed around the hobby already. But as with most hobbies there’s a lot of money to be made because people will invest money in their hobbies and if it’s as easy as some clicks and a couple bucks (12€ for 250G in-game) I guess many people will think: “Hmm either I farm another month or I get my epic mount NOW!” and some will pay the price. I guess there are some people who pay for Gold on every server and those few people just add up.

I’ve done it and bought items for my Diablo II sorceress on ebay a couple years ago. I just wanted a few specific items and when all my farming didn’t yield those items I bought some of them. I didn’t spend a lot of money and I did not think to hard about it …. I would not repeat that today.

Of course those who will not spend additional money beyond the monthly fee are quite enraged by all the stories around gold farmers especially since gold farmers are pretty often using cheats, hacks, tools and other mostly illegal ways to obtain the gold they later sell for “real money”. Farmers are known to try to force players out of their farm area and legit players are cheated out of their items that they would like to take by farmers using teleport hacks etc.. But the worst thing is that the gold farmers are destroying the in-game value of items and the in-game market for all kinds of commodities. Or are they really? Here’s a quote from a post over on Joi Ito’s blog:
Joi Ito’s Web: The Wisdom of Rob Pardo

For instance, WoW does not allow buying and selling game gold. However, according to Rob, it doesn’t break the economy as some people think. The game is designed to minimize the negative impact of “farmers”. The quests and and equipment are designed so that there are many key things that you can’t buy with game gold. The issue of gold buying is primarily a matter of players feeling that it is unfair – the great thing about WoW and similar MMOs is that everyone starts equally regardless of what they do in real life.

When you think about it and compare the WoW economy to other game economies you have experienced or known (even if it was only Diablo II with ebay and dupe hack users), I think that this may be correct. The market prices depend so much on who is playing on a given server, who is playing the market (many players do as well!) and how many people there are on a server. Of course the farmers play into this a bit. But many things cannnot simply be sold or you must obtain the pieces and my experience in gaming the in-game auction houses tells that it’s still a viable part of the game despite gold farmers.

Other games try to get around the gold-farming industry in their own way like Linden Labs with their own exchange for Second Life. They have their own issues around “real money” and some people have made quite a lot of money with SL.

Another problem with gold farmers and companies like IGE is, that in order to be more successfull in the web they buy up high profile fansites by the dozen and then try to use these sites to direct traffic to their own sites. Once these sites are owned by a company like IGE how can you trust the site and their news? Worse even the bigger the gold farmers get the more probable it becomes that they gain a handle on the developers of the game you play and so they may have free reign. But the SEO game is as important as the gold farming itself and so the troubles extend from in-game to out-of-game.

So while the topic of gold farmers is quite relevant and should not be ignored by either players or developers of online games, it may not always be relevant in all the areas one might think it is as some games may already have taken a few precautions toward the goal of reducing the impact gold farmers have on the game economy.

I hope these measures will continue to improve because when dupe hacks became common in Diablo II I quit the game because the fun was just out of it! And I do not want something similar to happen again to any game I play. When I quit I want it because I am bored of the game not because someone else took the fun out of it.

By Yashima

Writer of code and stories