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MMOG Currency Seller Owns Media Network ? 268

Posted by Zonk
from the this-is-not-a-reality-I-am-comfortable-with dept.
The interview on Okratas we mentioned yesterday was mostly funny. Game currency seller IGE responded to the honest (if ham fisted) questions of a reporter with harsh marketroid speak. A reporter at Warcry responded with his own reactions, expressing publicly some of the distaste the average MMOG player has for IGE. Since then threads started last week in various online communities have started to appear on online news sites, shedding some more light on uncomfortable realities about IGE. Namely, that the currency seller apparently owns gaming media outlet OGaming. Read on for more.

Ogaming is a hub site much like Warcry, with a sub-site about most of the major Massively Multiplayer Games out there. Some enterprising /whois work by the original author of the WowCensus thread led him to realize that OGaming was registered with the same street address used for IGE's New York Office. OGaming's registration information was updated on the 10th, and now displays the name and address of a proxy registration service. Further damning is the thought that at one point a page on the Ogaming site claimed to own Thottbot.com, a universally respected and utilized tool for World of Warcraft in-game information.

The page that once claimed this (an advertising page) is now blank, with the words "under construction" displayed there. The Internet Archive's last update for ogaming.com is this time last year, so there is no way to check on the authenticity of that claim. If it is true it's disquieting to say the least. Thottbot is a massive database of in-game quest, item, character, and drop frequency information. Thottbot's information was gained through the goodwill and work of World of Warcraft players. The popular UI enhancement, Cosmos, included a plugin that sent information from the user's playing experience back to Thottbot. This included locations of enemies, the types of loot dropped, items the character had, and other specific details. While Thottbot claims to only keep information that is pertinent to other players, with the revelation that they may be owned by the disreputable IGE their trustworthiness is out the window.

This revelation didn't stay quiet for long, with MMOG sites CorpNews, Grimwell.com, and Allakhazam all creating discussions of their own about this weighty topic.

The authenticity of this story is hard to prove or disprove at this point, with the OGaming.com and Thottbot.com domains having a proxy listed under their contact information. But if it's hard to believe that IGE would go to the trouble of owning a media outlet and a popular plugin, think again. Garthilk writes "Cindy Bowens, community manager for Sigil Games online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, outlines their stance on secondary market items, and how they deal with IGE. Most interesting is the fact that IGE approached Sigil, and had offered to cut Sigil in on the revenue that IGE might make in the future."

Update: 02/15 20:07 GMT by Z : Drey pointed out in the comments that, at least for the time being, Google still has a cache of the page listing Thottbot as an Ogaming site.
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MMOG Currency Seller Owns Media Network ?

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  • Re:interesting (Score:3, Informative)

    by BitwiseX (300405) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:55PM (#11679842)
    IGE owns it not IGN.
  • by Drey (1420) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#11679912) Homepage
    Google's cache still has the page which is now mysteriously blank.

    http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:s7q2fzgQjeM J: www.ogaming.com/data/2115~VIPClub.php+thottbot+oga ming&hl=en
  • Re:Non-player (Score:2, Informative)

    by YomikoReadman (678084) <jasonathelen&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:02PM (#11679921) Journal
    IGE hasn't specifically done anything in violation of the TOS. However, they provide a sell point for people within the game to sell items and ingame currency for real world currency.

    As you profess to play MMOs, I'll assume you've read through the Terms of Service(ToS). Unlike a shrink wrap EULA, this is a perfectly binding, legal contract which you are required to follow in order to use the service. One of the common, yet usually unenforced clauses is that you will not resell ingame content as it is property of $MMO_Company, and doing so infringes on their rights.

    Now, as for how IGE gets around that is this: They don't actually own any accounts, nor directly employ anyone who sells currency. As I mentioned, they are simply a sell point; a place for people who do farm items/currency to advertise their wares and sell them to turn a buck. The best way to think of them is as a really really big eBay store.

  • by yotto (590067) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:08PM (#11679982) Homepage
    Ooops, there's a bit of egg on my face. Let me try that again.

    This keeps slashdot from putting spaces in the url, messing them up [64.233.167.104].
  • Re:Non-player (Score:5, Informative)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:09PM (#11679991) Journal
    Well, lets show a hypothetical situation that will cover who they are what they do and why they're bad.

    Let's say that to earn a certain rank in Game X, you have to get a special item Blizzrt's Tail in order to prove your strength and valor, yadda yadda. Obviously, you get this by killing Blizzrt and taking its tail. The problem is that there is only one Blizzrt in the game world at any one time, so it becomes more a test of "waiting your turn" than of strength or valor.

    Now, what IGN does is called "farming". They get 30 or 40 players to all stand around in the cave that Blizzrt lives in (where it appears every time its killed, this is its spawn point). Every time Blizzrt appears, they immediately start to kill it, and take the tail for themselves. Over and over, without respect for the other people who need to kill it in order to advance.

    But thats ok, if you can't get a sword in edgewise to score a tail for yourself, the IGN crew will be more than happy to sell it to you on ebay for real money, since they seem to have just "stumbled across" a few hundred extra. Now getting that tail isn't about patience or valor, just about shelling out enough dough on an auction site somewhere.

    Now whether this is bad or not depends on how much you care. If you say "its just a game" then consider it as frustrating as waiting in line at say... McDonalds. You have 11 kids in front of you, and they think its real cool to keep you from getting your food by ordering a glass of water, getting it, then getting their buddy in 11th place to let them cut in front for another glass. Unless of course you slip them a buck to get to the front of the line.
  • Re:Non-player (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Creep (855754) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:16PM (#11680066)

    Thottbot [thottbot.com] is a very useful web site containing data about in-game items, quests, monsters, classes, player profiles, skills, etc. in World of Warcraft.

    How did they get this data? One of the more popular add-ons for World of Warcraft is called Cosmos [cosmosui.org]. One of the many features of Cosmos is a plugin to Thottbot so that information that your player sees gets uploaded to Thottbot to improve Thottbot's data - if you see monster X at coordinates Y,Z and no one else has, Thottbot now knows that monster X can potentially be there, and what items you can get from killing it.

    IGE is a well known online currency and item broker, and many people within the World of Warcraft community are concerned that once IGE and the so-called "Asian Farmers" get a large presence that the in-game economy will be permanently ruined - better equipment for your character will be out of your price range unless you go to an in-game gold broker, paying real money for game money. World of Warcraft is the only MMORPG I've had experience with, but I've heard that activities like this have made some MMORPGs unplayable.

    Most people assume that the Thottbot service was benign, but with the news that IGE owns it is somewhat alarming to people. This means that IGE now has information on what a large portion of the characters in game have and get their items and money, which could be used to more effectively farm high-demand items, collect in-game money at a higher rate, etc.

    I don't neccessarily see this as the end of the world, but it is a bit of a concern. I'll probably stop using the Cosmos UI enhancements, or at the very least disable the Thottbot data aggregation.

  • Re:So....do you? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:22PM (#11680136)
    Fun. That's what we get from it. Most MMORPG's are nothing more than a "hot-topic" game. In which it's a race to have the cooler looking armor/weapon/character.

    If a game isn't fun, then you either have to make it fun for you or stop playing the game. I'm sure you get what I mean. If a game isn't fun, it isn't a game after all.

    So, puchasing some new armor and weaponry to catch up to the people who have 20 hours a day to play, ends up being fun for me. Why? Because now I can still go to work, and still think my character is cool. I can now get past the boring level-grinds and enjoy just playing for fun.

    Somoe people find the level-grind fun, some don't. But in the end, it still needs to be about fun, whatever way you take it.
  • by Xzzy (111297) <sether AT tru7h DOT org> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:28PM (#11680187) Homepage
    > There's no advertising on the site, so they aren't directly making money from it.

    They are ironing out an advertising system. I caught a banner ad a week or so ago, and whatever poor server was serving them up quickly choked because the whole site was grinding to a halt.

    30 minutes later the ads were gone and thottbot was responsive again.

    Do a dns query on 'ads.thottbot.com'. ;)
  • Re:Non-player (Score:3, Informative)

    by Surlyboi (96917) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:35PM (#11680256) Homepage Journal
    Totally flawed analogy. What IGE does is akin to paying off teachers so they give you good grades, not having the money to go university. Having the money to pay for university is like having the money to pay your subscription fee, you expect a level playing field from that point on.

    Sadly, there's no such thing as a level playing field in Universities either. If you're rich and stupid, you can get by in any University. I've seen in in the Ivy League, I've seen it in the Pac10. Does is suck? Of course it does, but the parent poster is right on in his assessment.
  • Re:Non-player (Score:3, Informative)

    by flibuste (523578) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:38PM (#11680300)

    Totally flawed analogy. What IGE does is akin to paying off teachers so they give you good grades, not having the money to go university. Having the money to pay for university is like having the money to pay your subscription fee, you expect a level playing field from that point on

    Obviously you never had to work full time to pay your studies. That is where the analogy is. Some are rich enough to provide few efforts to get the same thing that poorer people cannot afford without huge efforts.

    It's also a fact that students who do not have to work while studying are much more successful than the others

    I hope you get the picture,

  • by kaosrider (80341) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:53PM (#11680509)
    as someone already pointed out, it's a lot like real life. if someone can buy the gold and not have to work for it in game like you (whoever) do then you better get ready to deal with that in reality. i work only 40 hours a week...so if i can buy some gold here and there instead of spending the time i DO have to play farming for gold, i think i will buy instead.

    you can give all the excuses you want about why it's bad, but it ends up sounding like you (whoever again) are bitter that some people are able to chose the buy way instead of the grind way. if you want to talk about why it's so "unfair" that some people can buy some gold and you can't, maybe you should take a look at why you can't buy the gold yourself...

    this isn't meant as a troll or a flame. no comments about basements and parents.i am just really tired of hearing about this. if you can't afford it don't hate on the people that can, because that's how life works. if you know a way around things being unfair, let me know kk? so again...why is this an issue?

    oh that's right! it's because the MMOG companies don't sell the gold or credits or whatever themselves.i know one game does it now (i don't remember which one sorry) but that's it. IGE just seems to be stepping in where most of these companies failed to themselves.

    My sister picked up wow 2 weeks ago. When she was told by a friend that you could buy gold for it, her reaction was "well that makes sense to me."

    me too!
  • Cosmos UI... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:49PM (#11681223)
    Good thing cosmos is more bloated than a turkey before thanksgiving. CTMod is infinitely cleaner and easier to use.

    I mean seriously, who needs minigames in a UI mod? Just another reason not to use cosmos for me. That is all.

    Just a question, does thottbot get it's information from anything else other than cosmos?
  • Re:Non-player (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:58PM (#11682419)
    On some World of Warcraft servers the in-game economy is already shafted...for high-quality rare items, anyway.

    It's simple. The first person who powergamed all the way to the top on that server wound up controlling the market for these items. He just decides what the (very inflated, of course) price will be. If he sees anyone selling it for less than him, he just buys it and resells it at his own price. He gets a nice profit doing this.

    Apparently, the people who do this like to aggressively market their items outside of the auction house by using low-level mules to do the selling. Therefore, they don't care if 100 people put the mule on ignore before it makes the sale.

    Blizzard needs to implement a "bind on trade" restriction as well as "bind on equip."

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