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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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  • "Virtual goods" (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:12PM (#28517927)

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

  • by Hojima ( 1228978 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:22PM (#28518107)

    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. Organizations such as companies that bully, to massive governments, make stupid decisions to maintain and ascertain their power, when all they do is jeopardize it more. I can't wait till they make a huge mistake on civil liberties and practically give their citizens no choice but to revolt.

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:35PM (#28518261) Journal

    Your bosses will constantly be pushing you to maximize your per hourly gold yield.

    My understanding is that most of the gold farmer "workers" work on a quota system. Of course the quota will get moved up depending on possible performance. It's not about maximizing yields, it's about hitting the quota dependably.

    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.

    Anecdotally, back when I played MMOs, I was once asked to hold onto some surplus in-game cash for a farmer. He wanted to set it aside so if he had a bad day, he could use it to get over quota and avoid punishment.

    I recall reading an article about this somewhere (Gamasutra?)... the gold farmers didn't want to make too much gold for their bosses, or their coworkers would get mad. Excess earnings in a session were hidden to (1) save for a bad day (2) sell independently for income or (3) play the game themselves. It was a really interesting look inside gold farming at the basest level.

  • by GreatAntibob ( 1549139 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:38PM (#28518321)

    Why would the people revolt? I'd be willing to bet most Chinese citizens think these restrictions are reasonable.

    It's one of those "common sense" type ideas in Western nations that everybody wants a democracy and that everybody wants nearly unlimited personal freedom. It's simply not true. Many (maybe most) Chinese people not only approve of some limits on speech and civil liberties but think the government may not be going far enough. Many of my co-workers are Chinese citizens, and they are just as happy to have the government set ridiculous (by Western standards) limits on civil liberties, tell people what an ideal society looks like, and go along happily, as long as there's food on the table, taxes are low (or non-existent), and the occasional corrupt official is put in prison/sentenced to death. So what if the government owns most major businesses and that the low taxes are a result of not giving the people a chance to share in the wealth? The biggest complaints I've heard from them over the last year have been that the US needs to butt out and that food prices have been too high (mainly because the standard of living is going up).

    High minded ideals are great for students, but the people living over there (and here, for that matter) are more concerned with being fed, with educating/raising their children, and with getting on without too much trouble.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:58PM (#28518591)

    It's sad that you work in financial sectory and don't realize this is a poor way to launder cash. The mafia would never be so dumb. In fact a regular software company is a much better way to do it. The only hard part of laundering money is doing it without paying lots of taxes. Otherwise I could just sale you custom state-management software for 1m/pop.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pollardito ( 781263 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:59PM (#28518613)
    It might be related to their attempts to limit the time that people spend playing games online []. After all it would seem strange to limit people from playing more than 3 hours in their private life, while still allowing people to play 4 times that long at work.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:01PM (#28518647)

    It just seems this isn't the real or whole story, though.

    Encrypting the client-server protocols, makes it harder to hack the "game". Sort of.

    That also makes it a great tool for secret communication about counter-revolutionary activities ranging from simple gossip about Tienanmen square, to money laundering.

    Its an interesting public admission that a video game company can make a government-proof encryption/authentication/communication system.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:22PM (#28519029) Journal

    I've done buisness with gold farmers in the past, and they were quick to contact me directly to solicity my next sale - to them, not to their employers. I think this is all a bit less Charles Dickens than people are making it out to be. Certainly it's better than typical jobs for kids in the West's industrial revolution.

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:24PM (#28519053) Homepage

    It's a pretty safe bet that the figure is in the millions USD, but beyond that it's hard to say.

    While my sample size is very small, 3 out of the 4 people I know IRL who play WoW have each dropped $200 on such services. If we assume that 1% of the WoW population [] spends half that, and that each 8 characters represent 1 account, that gives us $772k by itself. And that's just a very conservative estimate for one game, since some self-reported figures are much higher []. If we expand our assumptions to say that each 4 characters represents 1 account, and that 15% of those accounts have purchased $100 worth of gold or other services, we end up around $23M -- a number which I still suspect is conservative.

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:27PM (#28519113) Homepage Journal

    I like WOW and I have liked many other games before that.

    The problem WOW faces is that gold has to be used to buy one particular feature from a NPC no player can substitute for, epic flying. While "normal" flying and such gets you there, epic flying is so many times as fast that it not only becomes a status symbol it has become a requirement for many people. If they had put the effort into making it obtainable by quests that people could do during the course of their play or even a few group quests they could eliminate much of the gold need.

    I know of nothing that causes more "gold strife" than mount costs. Blizzard likes to state that epic flight skill isn't needed, but it is required to fly special mounts that attract a lot of interest from players, specifically dragons. Sorry, they can claim not needed all the want, if that were so they can't justify the price. After all if its just fluff then why is is so expensive compared to other forms of movement.

    Throw in rare drops that can be sold and therein comes another source of outside gold. People play these games to have, some play to prove competitiveness, but I don't know of people paying to work again. Consider the time it takes to accrue the required gold just for in game NPC purchases and it makes sense that a market formed to sell it. I cannot make the money at a rate competitive in time to what I could buy it for. Even at $20 per 1000 gold (it spams much lower than that in game - seen 7 to 8 dollars per 1000 gold) it is dirt cheap compared to the time I would have to take away from game play : read enjoyment.

    Make gold trivial or strive to eliminate penalties, and the cost is just that. Recently blizzard introduced the ability for players to have two complete talent specifications per character. Cost 1000g! Hence something which has no lore backing, is nothing more than a convenience, yet considered "required" by any serious players again asserts the need to have lots of gold.

    Not smart.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:03PM (#28519765) Homepage

    Indeed practically nothing short of another tank can stop a tank. A perfectly positioned and deployed shape charge can, but I doubt many civilians in any country have the training necessary to use such a thing even if they were legal. I don't disagree with the second amendment per se, but implying that it holds the government in check has always seemed silly to me. What holds the government in check is a combination of the rule of law and a culture in the military that makes them nearly unusable in domestic situations. You'd never see a Tienanmen Square in this country because the military would simply refuse the order.

    If politicians and (more importantly) the military ever totally abandon the Constitution and impose some sort of martial law, no amount of small arms is going to stop them. As it stands right now, small arms can only kill dismounted infantry if it is extremely well aimed, let alone anyone in any sort of vehicle. Modern body armor doesn't make soldiers invulnerable robo-cops, but it protects most of their vitals from even assault weapons. Put the armored soldiers in an even a lightly armored vehicle and nothing short of high explosives can do much damage to them.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:31PM (#28520247) Homepage

    Srsly? You think that would work? First of all you'd have to get the people skilled enough to build a proper explosive charge. Then you gotta find the people to set it, and detonate it (pretty much a suicide mission, especially if they're expected to part of the ambush too). Then there's the fact that the tank would be shooting back with explosive rounds that are like the size of your head and can take out BUILDINGS. You didn't think taking out the treads would actually stop the turret working did you? So it will still be shooting the a fore mentioned rounds at you while you try to "pick off" the soldier trying to repair the treads. Then the soldiers themselves are ALSO armed with small arms (Oh, and the tank has a .50 cal machine gun also mounted on it's turret with minimum exposure to enemy fire for the gunner, in case you happen to be too close for the big gun), and have body armor on that will allow them to take a direct hit to either head or body with 7.62 long rifle ammunition without being killed (It'll hurt like a bastard though, but it really can stop AK-47 rounds, I've seen it happen. Dude's whole body was a bruise afterward, but he walked away from being shot in the chest with an assault rife). They're pretty well trained, they don't keep trying to change the tire when people shoot at them. Assuming you can deal with ALL of that, you can also deal with the three OTHER tanks in the platoon and THEIR crews at the same time. You didn't think they traveled by themselves did you?

    Wanna know how many tank crews we lost during the year I was in Iraq? One. They drove over an explosive device that was literally constructed of three 500 pound AIRCRAFT bombs wired together. Short of that, there's about three ways to stop a tank:

    1) Another tank.
    2) A wire guided missile with a shape charge attached that no civilian would have, and even if they did, takes a few months of training to learn to use.
    3) Assault aircraft.

    Otherwise the tank pretty much wins.

  • by Chriscim ( 830119 ) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:00PM (#28521321)
    Last year, I went through a marital separation, moved into a new place with roommates, and was laid off from my job within the same week. It took me a month, but I eventually found a full-time job, and a weekend job. The damage had been done though, I was behind on bills and struggling to keep up. I had a WoW subscription going and was considering cancelling it, but the through of selling gold occurred to me as a way to help make ends meet while I wasn't work at either job. So, in order to help get out of debt and pay the bills, I started selling gold to individuals just through word of mouth, and to gold farmers when there wasn't a demand from the people I knew. Let me tell you, it was not very fun at all and really killed the game for me. For those not familiar with the game, you can do up to a certain number of "daily quests" (quests that are repeatable every 24 hours). I would do the maximum allowed and use my tradeskills (both gathering skills) and sell the goods for in-game gold, then turn around and sell the gold to whoever would buy it. I was playing probably 5 hours a day, just farming. I could make around 5-7k gold per week (Before the Lich King) and sell the gold for $10-20 per 1K. Typically I made between $3-500 per month from playing a video game. I bought the Lich King (expansion), leveled my character to level 80 and started gearing him up to farm efficiently at that level, but I was so burned out from playing every day (and finally out of debt). that I no longer saw a reason to play and cancelled my subscription. It sure as hell helped pay the bills, but the constant headaches from farming for hours at a time, killing my social life, and sucking up all my free time to do meaningful things, killed the drive to play the game. I can't imagine gold farmers (who play far more hours than I did) enjoy this at all. It's not as bad as working in a sweat shop and/or doing real labor, but it's kind of rough and really wears on you after awhile. Even so, I don't see why their government would outright ban the buying and selling of game currency. A lot of these people are really depending on that income. :(

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.