Gold farming

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gold farming is one of the worst plagues of online games. Gold farming is the generic name for techniques used to generate real money from services or sales of virtual goods in metaverses and online games such as World Of Warcraft (WoW).

An example of services is eastern players who foster a player’s character in order to increase his/her experience. This allows the characters to grow even when his actual “owner” is not connected.

For most online games, the rules of conduct do ban these practices. Nevertheless, a very active ecosystem has grown around these games.

Why is gold farming forbidden? Several reasons:

  • Some people worry about the possibility to use it for money laundering.
  • Some countries are nervous about the importance of a unregulated virtual currency that would compete with real currency. This is the case for instance for China.
  • It is unfair for players. It is considered as a form of cheating. If you can purchase a valuable artifact for real money, you twist the game.
  • It consumes many resources. As an illustration, in June Eve online cut off 2% of the accounts that were participating to gold farming. It resulted in a drop of 30% of the server resources. The automatic tools behind the accounts were not anymore active.

Gold farming has a strong impact on the future of an online game. Too much gold farming may increase the feeling that the game was not anymore fair (thus making it less attractive), and clogging the servers (thus reducing the quality of user experience). This may drastically reduce the profitability of the game. Thus, the game providers will fight it by all means.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of money at stake. Thus gold farmers will be creative to “survive”. Money is a strong incentive for piracy. Furthermore, I’m not sure that it is illegal (excepted as a violation of rules of conduct).

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