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Role Playing (Games) The Almighty Buck

World of Warcraft Gold Market Soaring 78

Gamespot has an article discussing the realities of Virtual World economics as they pertain to the real world. World of Warcraft is used as an example throughout, and they quote some staggering statistics that remove any last shred of hope that Blizzard's bluster may be having an effect on the gold market. From the article: "Sukow discovered that the top seller of WOW gold made more than $23,000 in April, just on WOW gold. And that wasn't even a good month--in January and February the number-one seller took home more than $44,000 each month."
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World of Warcraft Gold Market Soaring

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  • by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) <fidelcatsro @ g m a i l . c om> on Saturday May 07, 2005 @04:26AM (#12460911) Journal
    Same thing as the stock market , Making a fortune off of money that does not really exist .
    If i were a more supicious man ,I would think that blizzard are probably the top seller .Well they print(as in printf) the money, they would be crazy not to do it.
  • Side effects (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MMaestro ( 585010 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @06:23AM (#12461233)
    While most people would probably focus on the issue of gold/gil/plat selling here, I think the more important issue here is the failure to curb these types of transactions. Blizzard had been saying that money would not be as important since the best items would be obtain from monsters, yet this happens. Simply put, either money still remains to be a major factor in the game or Blizzard totally messed up their monetary design and made it too difficult for casual players to get money.
  • Scary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @09:03AM (#12461621)
    The really scary part is that people buy virtual gold.
  • Re:Scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris_Jefferson ( 581445 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @09:12AM (#12461656) Homepage
    When you think about it, is buying virtual gold that much different to buying real gold for the purposes of money transfer? While gold does have uses in the real world, it's value is far inflated by it's use as a form of currency transfer.. and if you have a pile of gold bricks, what use actually are they to you, except for the fact you can sell them on to other people who want gold bricks?
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @09:50AM (#12461795) Journal
    Well, just like real money, money has no value by itself. The only value is what you can buy with those money. In this case: an undeserved advantage in a multiplayer game. That's what that RL money buys them.

    Personally I have no respect for that kind of people. Cheating in a single player game is one thing, and I have nothing against that. But cheating in MP? That's the kind of thing that's already the mark of the low-life lamer.

    Doubly so for those who actually _pay_ for that. I mean, FFS, at least the lamers with wall-hacks and aim-bots in CS have just downloaded those. But actually paying good money to cheat in MP? How desperate _can_ one get?

    Methinks that that's well past the point where one should take a break and just think it all over. I'm a game addict myself, and all, and normally won't go "it's just a game", but... when one gets _that_ caught up with keeping up with the virtual joneses, when those virtual achievements become a _must_ at all cost, it's time to worry. Really worry.
  • Wha-huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by faloi ( 738831 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @10:22AM (#12461945)
    "It's a validation of your game when people are willing to spend upwards of $2,000 on a character,"

    What's it validate? That your game is so boring that people don't want to spend the time playing to earn their gold/levels?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 07, 2005 @11:33AM (#12462274)
    I don't think it's in Blizzard's best interests to sell gold. It causes inflation. Inflation makes people lose interest in the game and increases the probability that they will quit subscribing.

    In March, Blizzard had 1.5 Million subscribers. That's 1,500,000 * $15/M = $22,500,000 / Month. $200K per month would be nothing compared to that revenue stream. If they sold so much gold that they cause significant inflation and lost even 1% of their user base as a result, they would lose $225,000/M. If word got out that blizzard was selling gold themselves, they could easily lose 5 times that.

  • Re:Scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @01:42PM (#12462919)
    > The really scary part is that people buy virtual gold.

    And you have real gold in your wallet? Or do you have a little card that is money only because a computer file somewhere says you have that money? Even real folding money is virtual; what can you use a dollar bill for, other than give it to somebody who'll give you stuff for it?

    Chris Mattern
  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @03:54PM (#12463571) Journal
    In order to solve it, there has to be a problem and this really isn't a problem.
  • Re:Easy fix (Score:4, Insightful)

    by theMightyE ( 579317 ) on Saturday May 07, 2005 @05:04PM (#12463983)
    Instead of removing the ability of players to trade cash I wonder if they could set up a tracking system that monitors how much money each character gives to other characters per unit time.

    Passing a few gold here and there to guildmates or newbie players is normal, but some guy who hands out hundreds or thousands of gold per week would stand out from the crowd. Have a GM monitor him for an hour to establish that they are really meeting up with and giving cash to nearly random folks, then kill the account along with all the farmbots that are colleting the gold. Maybe nuke the accounts of people who were buyers just to attack the market from the demand side too.
  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Sunday May 08, 2005 @01:25AM (#12466203) Journal
    "While the player may not have a legal leg to stand on, they can make problems for Blizzard both legally and in terms of public relations."

    You have to agree not to hold Blizzard liable for this every other day if you play WoW. So your right, they wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on. If someone wanted to create a PR nightmare but have no legal leg to stand on they can do that now without virtual gold. In fact, I would argue that someone who spent 50 hours earning an item and then losing it to a time warp is more likely to raise a stink than someone who spent $50 on one.

    "On top of all that, since the system is being used to generate the gold that people are selling, would blizzard be required to file any REAL financial documents? This is different from eBay where people list items bought or created somewhere else, these sold items are created in game."

    I am not sure I really follow your logic here. The gold can be likened to say magic the gathering trading cards (or pokemon or whatever). The value of the cards is only as a collectable. Wizards of the coast (the makers of magic) are only responsible for their profits on producing and selling the cards, not for the collectable value of the cards among traders.

    There could be a good argument that those who are profiting on selling/exchanging the gold should be paying taxes on those gains, but I imagine how the collectables are valued for inventory is already covered under tax law.
  • Re:Easy fix (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08, 2005 @09:14AM (#12467388)
    Yes, it's an easy fix. Too easy.

    Here's your rule: It's violation of the TOS to give away large amounts of gold, and it's a violation of the TOS to accept large amounts of gold. Your account will be killed and your CC# banned.

    Here's the first effect of your rule: There are no more "charitable" donations. No snappy replies that there is no such thing. If this point became visible enough I guarantee that we could document such occurances.

    Here's the second effect of your rule: If I want to get rid of you, I offer you one or more large gifts. Unless you've read about gold farming and/or the TOS, you'd accept the gift and get punished, because as we all know, human beings can't resist free stuff. Again, no snappy replies that everyone would know. Billy can run out to the big box store and buy the game, but there's no guarantee that Billy reads Slashdot games or subscribes to computer-magagazine-du-jour (frankly, I'd rather hope not). If you want to catch the demand side, then that means your rule must scale with wealth and level, so that the little donatee gets squished and the big donator argues, if necessary at all, that it's a charitable donation of, say, 10% of their wealth. Bring out the inevitable but near meaningless threats of "I'll sue."

    The GMs have a hard job because they have to amass some sort of evidence of selling of items and/or gold farming. Your metric is useful, but I'd rather see the GM investigate and discover the farm rather than nuke people based on the fact of the "gift". Under your rules, if I were a farmer, I'd consider it a cost of business to make a large number of moderate donations to innocent buyers so that the rule inflicted the maximum damage and controversy possible in Wow in an effort to make enforcement back off. After all, $10K/mo is less than $20K/mo but better than $0K/mo.
  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @03:55AM (#12474608) Homepage Journal

    Jesus, I am absolutely stupefied that people do this.

    I've already written one comment [] about this in a different article and mentioned it in a blog post [] at my blog, so I'll try not to repeat that stuff here.

    But for real, I'm truly saddened that the "RP" in MMORPG means so little these days. Everyone keeps taking about how much they hate grinding levels. Funny, when I used to play Dungeons and Dragons with my buddies, I never seemed to mind that my wizard was only level (whatever). Why? Because the point of the game wasn't to win, it was to have fun and (gasp!) socialize. Those of you who remember the old pencil-and-paper games, can you imagine a player offering a game master five bucks for 1,000 freebie gold pieces? If I were the game master, I would immediately figure out some heinous irrevocable death for that character.

    What some people see as mindless grinding through levels, I see as an opportunity to meet other players, some of whom are rather interesting. What some people see as farming for game currency, I see as an opportunity to roleplay and boost my reputation. Not this silly reputation by ownership of a cool gametoy, but the reputation as someone who is fun and interesting to run missions with.

    My MMORPG of choice is City of Heroes []. One of my favorite characters is a Taxibot []. We hardly ever level. We can't kill crap by ourselves. We have a lot of fun. The fun of the game isn't mindlessly killing mobs of enemies, although I do get fleeting enjoyment from figuring out strategies to defeat particularly tough enemies. The fun isn't even getting that new high-level power, although I do get fleeting enjoyment from seeing the cool effect of it. These things are supposed to add to the enjoyment of the game, not to be the enjoyment. My advice for MMORPG players (most MUD players figured this out a long time ago): If you really want to get long-term enjoyment from the game, get over that stuff quickly.

    I get frustrated because I often wonder how many people even bother to read the mission descriptions they're given before they go to empty a warehouse full of villains. Sometimes I'll be in a group of people and I'll say something game-related ("We can't let Ubelmann succeed!"), and I often get responses that indicate that the people in my group have no clue ("Who's Ubelmann?"). Needless to say, those people don't get invited to run in a group with me again, and the people who do run with me regularly have lots of fun "grinding" levels, even if it is the 100th time we have been to disable the Rikti portal devices.

    If level grinding has got you down and you've having so little fun that you feel the need to buy stuff on eBay or Sony's Station Exchange to use in the game, I'm begging you to play Progress Quest [] instead. We'll all have more fun, and you don't even have to spend a dime!

    I know what the first replies to this post will be: Wah, people play games for different reasons. Yeah, well, if your reason is so that you can brag about your über-whatever with a gazillion gold to the lower levels, you're not playing at all; you're being a pompous ass that the game would be better off without. Do you go around in real life bragging about how much more money you've got than people on welfare? We're not impressed.

    Damn, so much for keeping this post short. Oops, maybe I'll do better next time we have an "Buying virtual goods is a good thing" type of story.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.