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China Bans Gold Farming 293

InformationWeek is reporting that the Chinese government has declared a ban on the sale of virtual goods for real currency. This move is poised to shut down a several billion yuan a year business that has been growing by leaps and bounds every year. "The trading of virtual currency for real cash employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates between $200 million and $1 billion annually, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester. He estimates that between 80% and 85% of gold farmers are based in China. [...] Game companies typically forbid gold farming but committed virtual currency traders find ways around such rules. Some game companies have recognized the futility of trying to ban the practice and have built virtual commerce into their game infrastructure."
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China Bans Gold Farming

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  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:14PM (#28517969)
    So let me get this right, China bans a highly profitable industry from operating in China that no doubt brings in lots of revenue in the Chinese government or at the very least prevents people from having to work directly for the Chinese government. Sound really smart. While your at it why not ban the production of shoes, hard drives and cheap kids toys, it would have about the same effect.
  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:20PM (#28518061) Homepage Journal
    It would not be a pleasant job, even if you got the same wage you do now. Your bosses will constantly be pushing you to maximize your per hourly gold yield. And most likely you would be running several computers at once and using various hacks, working like a dog. Any semblance of it being a fun game would be completely gone, replaced by simple drudgery.

    I'd rather do straight data entry typing than be a gold farmer...
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:23PM (#28518113)
    If this is just another instance where the farmers just have to bribe the cops to look the other way, this "ban" will amount to nothing more than a PR stunt.
  • Re:"Virtual goods" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CorporateSuit ( 1319461 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:23PM (#28518119)

    Would that include things like an online book or some online services?

    I was thinking of software licenses... since it's like having bought something, but not really -- so it's virtual property.

  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:25PM (#28518133) Journal

    And suddenly thousands of Indian techies have opened Warcraft accounts.

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:29PM (#28518197)
    I would guess this is the case. China probably needed to make a public announcement like this to get something they wanted in a negotiation. I bet they do nothing to enforce this.
  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:32PM (#28518231) Journal

    It's not illegal to make Gold.
    It's not illegal to Give Gold.
    It's not illegal to Give real Money to someone else.

    But somewhere along the way, selling Gold online becomes illegal. Wheras stating the transaction as a two-way donation easily bypasses the law.

    Also - the big question - why would this become illegal? People do what they want with their money. If Blizzard was smart - they'd offer Gold at a price matching the market and get a cut on this. They've already ruined WoW four times over. Anyone who's played since the beginning can tell you how much more enjoyable it used to be.

    Gold farmers also increase the amount of subscriptions that the game has, more money going into the developers... I don't get why they fight it so much.

    To me - its the worst business logic I've ever come across, and games that have these microtransactions already involved will be the ones who come out on top.

  • Personally, I'm quite happy when oppressive people with power tighten their grip. It follows the law of tension: the harder it's wound, the more likely it is to snap.

    Normally I would agree with you. But as a kid I watched tanks clear a square [] in China. As a result of this, the Red Cross would later report twenty five hundred people dead with seven to ten thousand wounded. The same government that dealt with those protests in that way is still in power today, twenty years later.

    If that didn't do it, I don't see banning gold farming and regulating the internet doing it. The Chinese government is a new kind of oppression that has survived many attempts to move in the opposite direction. It must be a decision made simultaneously by billions of people to change this. If you're sitting their waiting for that tension to snap, you may be waiting a lot longer than you think.

  • by dintlu ( 1171159 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:38PM (#28518319)

    China may enjoy the tax generated from gold farming, but virtual commerce cannot be regulated and controlled like real commerce. Ignoring the interaction between Real and Virtual economies is headstrong and foolish, so from my vantage point it appears that China is letting some other country pave the way for virtual regulation rather than saddle itself with unique problems caused by this novel form of earning money.

    Think of it this way, if gold farming really is worth $1b USD per year, this is equivalent to the annual income of 400,000 Chinese citizens. If, for whatever reason, the purchase of virtual goods is "outlawed" in a country, or the virtual world in which gold farming is performed bans the practice, or the virtual world's maintaining corporation goes out of business, that's 400,000 people without a livelihood anymore, people who are now a burden on the state.

    These are pretty basic scenarios and that's just off the cuff. I'm sure more consideration from brighter minds could produce even more coherent objections to allowing gold farming to grow as a legitimate industry.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:40PM (#28518351) Journal
    On the plus side, aside from RSI risk and lack of exercise during working hours, it is a largely harmless and physically undemanding job. No heavy machinery macerating your digits, no toxic exposures, no baking in the fields for 10 hours, no swabbing out other people's toilets.

    It would certainly be a job, not a game; but not a substantially grimmer one than a nontrivial number of first world service jobs, much less third world peasant/sweatshop stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:41PM (#28518385)

    This is still a hundred times better than working on a farm for a living. Life is hard in rural areas, and making any kind of living outside of farming is a huge step up from what your parents likely did. Even if the work is hard and demanding by our standards, people in the 'first world' live decadent soft lives that don't know what a real lifetime of work would look like if it slapped us in the face.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:42PM (#28518391)

    One reason might be that building an industry that is entirely reliant on the whims of a foreign company could leave them holding the bag for thousands of idiots who thought they had a job.

  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:50PM (#28518485) Homepage

    Get with the time. Now there is a massive Chinese middle class that have more than enough food, and are trying to figure out what to spend their money on. []

  • by slyn ( 1111419 ) <> on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:57PM (#28518575)

    Farming gold isn't what most players find fun about MMO's, hence peoples willingness to pay for it.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:01PM (#28518657) Journal

    Your average MMO player has a choice of activities. To use WoW as an example, you can do quests, you can run instances, you can do battle grounds, do some world PVP, level an alt, do silly seasonal quests, etc. As a gold farmer, you do one and only one thing... farm the most valuable items out there. You don't have the opportunity to do anything else, because doing anything else is a waste of time and isn't what you are getting paid for.

  • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:05PM (#28518771)

    George Carlin had a lot of insight into bogosity, and phrased it in memorable ways.

    While I'm not particularly in favor of prostitution, the court long ago ruled that sex acts between consenting adults are legal.

    That being the case, it seems - at least to this layman - that the law is on shaky ground in dictating how said consent may be achieved. Whether it's by flowers, dinner, and clever small talk, or whatever the going rate in cash is, consent is consent.

    To make matters even cloudier, the court has also ruled that porn is protected under the first amendment. No matter how much sophistry they want to wrap around it, at the core of porn is the fact that people are being paid to have sex with someone that (in many cases) they just met for the first time a few minutes before the scene. Not that elapsed time between meeting and the act matters to prostitution laws. If it's legal for a third party to pay two (or more) people to engage in sex and film it, then it seems contradictory to say that it's illegal for one party to pay the other to engage in sex.

    That discrepancy may also provide a way for people to beat the rap on prostitution charges: don't solicit someone for sex, tell them you're making a porno flick and you want them to be in it.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:18PM (#28518959) Journal

    So, wait, are you seriously arguing that the Chinese government was smart to destroy the livelihood of 400K people to prevent the possible future destruction of the livelihood of 400K people? I take it you also support the death penalty for failure to wear a seatbelt?

    BTW, the sale of virtual goods is "outlawed" in most of the games in which it occurs (without much effect) and gold farmers often move from game to game as popularity shifts, so thee are non-issues. "Gold Farming" is a legitimate industry - it's perhaps the first large-scale remote service industry, and it's no sillier than hiring someone to mow your yard for you.

    I guess Communists are still just struggling with this whole "free market" concept - outlawing somehting just moves the market underground. Something America is trying equally hard not to learn about the War on Drugs(TM).

  • by Apache ( 14188 ) <> on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:20PM (#28518993)

    I suspect that the article is actually blowing out of proportion the MMO currency trading side of things. A quick googling shows that evidently gambling is illegal in china and the government has gone to lengths to crack down on it: []

    If :
      A) MMO currency trading is not a notable contributor to China's GDP
      B) Virtual currency makes bypassing gambling restrictions easier
      C) China is genuinely interested in curbing gambling
    It sounds to me like banning on-line currency trading is a no-brainer as it will criminalize the entry point people would use to get around local gambling restrictions. Any problem with MMO currency trading is purely incidental.

    And I doubt China cares about the cost the rest of the world pays for [Titansteel Bar]s on the auction house..

  • by fizzup ( 788545 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:21PM (#28519011)

    I was having breakfast in Idaho City, Idaho around the time the Chinese government put down the Tianenmen Square protests. I overheard a guy at a nearby table say, "This wouldn't have happened if the Chinese were armed, I tell ya." I nearly laughed out loud, but I took a moment to really think about what he said. For the first time in my life, I understood the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

    The First Amendment is the first line of defense; the Second Amendment is the last.

  • Seeing as that was a move that the government regretted so much that it's practically purged from their history ...

    You live in a pretty fucked up world where sweeping a mistake under the rug is a sign of regret. I don't know about you but I was raised that if you fuck up, you admit it and then you apologize for it. If that's me asserting my Occidental values on the Orient, I'm sorry. That's just how things should be. The survivors of those killed deserve it and the dead should be honored and memorialized. They died for reform and they should not be forgotten. I think that is a fundamental respect that underlies all cultural boundaries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:33PM (#28519225)

    You do realized that the Chinese government used tanks right? Small arms (the kind of guns allowed in the US) cannot stop a tank.

  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:39PM (#28519317) Homepage

    It's not illegal to report truthfully about embarassing facts.
    It's not illegal to give someone money.
    It's illegal to blackmail people.

    It's not illegal to get drunk.
    It's not illegal to drive.
    It's illegal to drive drunk.

    Some combinations of legal things are illegal.

    I really don't object to them banning this -- I think the harm done to the rest of the community is significant, and would not miss these people at all.

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:51PM (#28519555)

    Guns didnt help Jews, Poles, Gypsies, in WWII. An AK in every home didnt stop Sadaam from oppressing his own people. Its funny how people think a handgun or rifle works against a mechanized division.

  • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:55PM (#28519611)

    When labor is that cheap, it's probably more effective to hire additional workers than it is to squeeze every last drop out of the ones you have.

    Spoken like a man who's never had a truly crappy job. Squeezing every last drop out of your workers is its own reward. I knew a restaurant manager once who stole tips off the servers' tables "just to remind everyone who the big dog is." I knew a lawyer who refused to pay his staff a living wage or work them less than 60 hours a week "so they won't have time to go find another job." Hell, even John McCain refused to honor our commitment to pay for our soldier's college expenses because, and I'm paraphrasing correctly, if our soldiers knew they could come home and go to college, no one would want to stay in Iraq.

    Sometimes treating your employees like crap is more about shoring up your own inferiority complex than it is smart business decision. If you haven't experienced it directly, go reread Thomas More and George Orwell to get the gist of it.

  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:08PM (#28519863)

    Also - the big question - why would this become illegal? People do what they want with their money. If Blizzard was smart - they'd offer Gold at a price matching the market and get a cut on this. They've already ruined WoW four times over. Anyone who's played since the beginning can tell you how much more enjoyable it used to be.

    I've played the game from the beginning. And the only reason I'd even consider calling WoW more enjoyable back then is because it was new. It's still fun today. I don't buy in on the idea that they've ruined the game four times over.

    However, I do believe they'd gut the game following your advice. Who wants to play a game where you just buy a win? You do, apparently.

    Granted - Activision / Blizzard seems to be toying with the idea. The collectible game loot cards, website advertisements, and Pepsi advertising campaign shows where they really want to go. Microtransactions are likely just a matter of time. And then you'll have your wish - WoW ruined.

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:14PM (#28519961) Homepage

    We pay the Chinese to do the grunt work so that we can focus on having fun.

    Which just illustrates why these games are b0rked. If people are willing to pay to avoid an integral part of the game, maybe you've done something wrong.

  • by dan_sdot ( 721837 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:21PM (#28520077)
    Hitler's first move was to confiscate firearms from the Jews. Here is something I just googled up on the subject: []

    The first step of every modern tyrant is to confiscate firearms. (Note, this is not to say that everyone who wants to confiscate weapons is a tyrant). Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, etc.

    The point is not that a guy with a handgun is going to stop a tank. There are 2 points to make:

    1) A crowd the size of the protests currently happening in Iran actually is something to be feared if they are armed.

    2) A complete reliance on the state for one's protection creates a complacency and an orwellian love for "big brother". This point is more subtle than the first, but the more I study the issue, the more I realize how important it is. If a person is forced to rely entirely on the state (usually a police force) for his/her protection, this is not a good thing. Responsible gun ownership reminds one that even though good police protection is a wonderful thing, if there were no police, one would still be able to get along with one's life. This autonomy from the state is a good thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:24PM (#28520135)

    Guns were taken away from the Jews, Poles and Gypsies.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:51PM (#28520537) Homepage

    I already mention the reluctance of the soldiers as one of the main factors keeping us safe. We're assuming that went away somehow in the "military kills protesters" scenario.

    You're going to get all those 200+ million armed civilians in one place supporting the protest? How are they all armed?

    Yes, if the military turned against us and EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN who is not otherwise a soldier took up arms in the defense of liberty and ALL of them could competently use their weapons (which you're assuming all of them have, in fact most people I know don't own a gun) they could certainly have a good chance against even our military. You'd have the support of at best a small percentage of the population (many would support the government even in the face of Draconian policies, hoping to be in the elite; more would be too scared; more still would be apathetic as long as American Idol continued to play; etc). Of those a fraction (maybe a large fraction, given the type of people you're talking about, but still a fraction) would actually HAVE guns, and a much smaller fraction would have any training in using them. Of the guns available to you most would be hand guns or hunting rifles, the first are all but useless against even body armor, let alone vehicles, the second only useful in the hands of real marksmen.

    Then there's the lack of training and fire discipline. Unless your 'troops' are former police or military themselves, they've never fired guns as part of a formation. This means that they are quite as likely to shoot each other as they are to shoot the soldiers that they are supposed to be aiming at. Cops and soldiers spend all that time training for a reason. It's because it is really hard to shoot, move and communicate in a group without lots and lots of practice.

    I said it above and I'll say it again, what keeps us safe is the rule of law and respect the military has for the rule of law; not the second amendment. That, at best, keeps you safe from muggers and home invaders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @06:25PM (#28520915)

    There certainly are low-tech methods of rendering a tank useless. After all, there is a limit to its mobility, and it's really only a hunk of metal.

    If Vietnam and now Iraq have offered any lessons, it is that flashy tech does not win a war. If tanks started rolling into cities, people will flee to the woods. And that's when your second amendment rights come into play.

  • by scot4875 ( 542869 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @06:29PM (#28520969) Homepage

    but the more the middle class gets bolstered, the more filled bellies with higher ambitions will appear

    Yes, because well-fed people in a decent financial situation are, historically, the most likely to revolt.


  • by corellen ( 535840 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @06:40PM (#28521089)
    It's depressing to me to see how many people have so little faith in our Armed Forces. Most don't seem to realized our oaths of service have us swear to the Constitution first and foremost. If some how some units of the military did carry out unlawful orders to suppress civilian unrest, they will face resistance from other parts of the military, probably resulting in civil war but it is my firm belief that any military vs civilian will very rapidly become a military vs military & civilian conflict.
    Officers: I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
    Enlisted: I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:34PM (#28522403)

    "Guns didnt help Jews, Poles, Gypsies, in WWII. Its funny how people think a handgun or rifle works against a mechanized division."

    You, sir, fail at either being familiarized with, or understanding, history.

    Just two samples of counterarguments to your claim.

  • by cskrat ( 921721 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:44PM (#28522527)
    I'm sorry but all your talk of military formations and heavy weaponry suggest a level of open war that does not sit well with your talk of civilian apathy.

    As for the distribution of civilian weaponry. The fact that not everyone is armed is made irrelevant by the fact that anyone could be. Hunting riffles are, with the right ammunition, capable of piercing body armor. Further, hunting riffles are often owned by people that hunt and can hit a moving target from a respectable distance. The civilian snipers will be defending and therefore have the terrain advantage. Given the wide variety of terrain types in this country, (compare Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Florida, Virginia) local terrain knowledge will be enough of an advantage to nearly offset the disadvantage in training and equipment.

    I have no doubt that civilian casualties will be higher than military casualties. But if the US military ever turned on the general population, the result would make the Vietnam War seem like a grade school shouting match.
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:48PM (#28522573)

    "You do realized that the Chinese government used tanks right? Small arms (the kind of guns allowed in the US) cannot stop a tank."

    They can force it to button up so it can be killed with incendiaries, have a track disabled by inserted objects for a mobility kill etc.

    Small arms dispersed among the people facilitate revolutionary capability, and NO country has enough tanks for them to be everywhere at once. No country, possibly excepting North Korea,has enough domestic military power to destroy widespread armed revolt, though it may contain outbreaks. Tanks can't be everywhere, and can be killed by infantry with expedient weapons. Widespread ownership of weapons means that if enough people choose to unite,they will outnumber any force their government can field. Partisan warfare with a determined base can be very hard to put down,and can turn into civil war where the government forces are divided.

    The amount of asspain a few thousand lightly armed Iraqis and Afghans have been inflicting on Coalition forces is an example of what can happen with small arms as basic weapons.

  • I really hate it when idiots like you spout off this nonsense, as guns most certainly DID help in WW2.

    The Bielski Partisans [], which the movie Defiance is based on, were real and they started with a SINGLE PISTOL.

    The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising [] was able to hold the Wehrmacht (the german army seeing as you obviously know nothing about WW2 or combat in general) off for nearly 3 months using only pistols.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein