Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gold Buying and Selling

Virtually everyone who's played a MMORPG has been confronted with gold sellers and some people have even bought gold from them. For World of Warcraft, gold buying and selling is much more prevalent than for other online games.

Some of you might ask themselves what my thoughts on this matter are, seeing that occasionally you will spot one or two gold ads on my blog.

Let me give it to you straight: I'm totally against gold buying and gold sellers to a lesser extent. Here's why.

I believe the main culprits and implicitly the ones encouraging this black market industry are the players who pay real money for virtual cash. These players will usually justify this by claiming that it saves them endless hours of mindless grinding and that the game should be more about enjoying yourself than wasting time trying to make gold. Though I agree that the game should be fun, that's where I draw the line.

Not only is gold buying against Blizzard's policies (fair enough) but for many people, making gold is actually part of the fun. If gold was too easy to generate, it would have no value and no one would bother to generate it. That would probably mean no dailies, no farming, no selling on the AH or otherwise. It would make for a very boring game.

Fortunately, gold has become easier to generate as time goes. Back in classic WoW, 1000 gold was a lot. I admit, at that time I was a big noob, in many regards. Today, I'm much better at all the aspects of the game that interest me but I'm still far from the elite players. Elite "goblins" have hundreds of thousands of gold and can make huge amounts every day through various legal methods.

Players who would rather spend real money for virtual gold are, to my mind, either very lazy or are the sort of person who likes instant gratification. Neither of these are admirable traits. I feel sorry for them in a way. On the other hand I try not to judge them too harshly because, well, I'm not particularly saintly either.

I still feel that buyers are the main cause of this entire underground industry. If there would be no demand for bought gold, this business would not be profitable and there wouldn't be any gold sellers.

Gold sellers generate gold through several means. Some of them are the farmers, botters or hackers.

Farmers usually go around collecting all sorts of trade mats such as ore, herbs, leather or cloth. They typically dump stacks upon stacks of these at a time on the Auction House at low prices. Many of them also have deals with legitimate players, supplying them with cheap mats. In this aspect, I can almost tolerate them. Usually the farmer is moderately beneficial to the server's economy by supplying lots of cheap mats. Although farmers might be a good thing for people who need mats, they are damaging to legit gatherers, i.e. players with gathering professions. It's very hard to compete with a "Chinese" farmer. A lot of times, gold farmers also use bots. This makes the problem a whole lot worse because if there are enough of them on a server, prices for certain mats will plummet and hard-working players who like to gather will suffer. Of course, they could always buy the cheap mats themselves and resell them at the "correct" price but that's a topic for another time.

Botters can also be farmers but very often they stick to a particular area (usually out of the way of most people) and keep killing and looting mobs all day long. Bots are, of course, automated characters that are controlled by a script rather than an actual player. Sometimes there might be an actual person behind the bot but that pw highly frowned upon by Blizzard. Very often, botters farm in areas where rare pets drop in the hope that they will loot a very valuable item. Some of them also like to kill mobs that give skins. The latter type are usually exploitable by players. I came across a few of these when I had skinning on one of my characters. As soon as I assessed that it was a bot, I started following it and skinned every single mob it would kill. I kept doing that until I got tired of it. What happened was that the guy's script would pause a couple of seconds between looting and skinning. That's when I went in and skinned it for him.

Lastly, hackers are the worst type of gold seller. These vicious, unscrupulous people (though I hesitate to call them "people") hack into people's accounts and steal all their gold and items, usually leaving their characters butt-naked.

As you can see, gold sellers obtain their gold at the expense of legit players. Don't think that if you can afford to buy gold, you're not affected by them. Everyone suffers. Gold is now being produced artificially, at a rate that wasn't intended by the developers. It's just like in real life when the government starts printing money, because they can. Everything goes to hell. In WoW, gold will lose its value the more of it is circulating through the economy. Yep folks, it's called inflation. If you think about it hard, you will remember that in Classic WoW 1000 gold would have bought you a lot more than today. Nowadays, 1000 gold is pretty much worthless. On the other hand, it's also true that one can make 300 gold an hour just by questing or farming.

Blizzard is constantly trying to ban gold farmers and for good reason. They are also banning people who've used these services. Although that may seem a bit harsh, there has to be a lesson learned. As I said, I tend to blame the players slightly more than the sellers. Now although I've heard many complain that Blizzard is ignoring the gold seller problem, the truth of the matter is that it is simply impossible to watch each individual gold seller and ban them on the go. What Blizzard does is that they "build a case" against a very large number of suspected accounts and then they ban them in one go. That's why every few months there will be an announcement on saying that another 30K accounts have been banned. Good riddance. Unfortunately it's easy enough for gold sellers to return.

So what about the gold ads on my blog? Well, unfortunately it's hard to control what Google throws in those ad spaces. I did ban a whole bunch of domains when I started this blog because Google gives you the option to do so but new ads keep popping up by the hundreds and I'm tired of banning them. If you don't like them, please don't click on them.

And that's my take on gold buying and selling. We'd all be better off without it. I just like to think that the majority of people who buy gold are misguided and they don't realize the harm they are causing. Eternal optimist that I am, I'm hoping that more of them will accept that what they are doing is wrong and that making gold can actually be a fun activity in World of Warcraft.


Celebrandil said...

Nice read, and directly below your article there's a gold ad. ^^ But it's OK and Firefox usually blocks them.

What's pretty annoying lately is

a) the female orc rogue corpses that litter the ground in Orgrimmar in front of the auction house. Gold sellers create characters, run into the city to a specific position, then use a teleport hack to jump high into the air and die from falling damage. If a game master does not stop them in the middle of the process, the corpses form letters and subsequently a web address. It was pretty unique when it started but now it's becoming a nuisance and boring.

b) the whispers that you now occasionally get, from characters like "blizzgame" or "wowgame", telling you you've won a unique pet or mount and give you a web address to claim it. Of course, neither the char nor the website are from Blizzard. Once you go there you catch a trojan that spies out your password. This has gone to a point where Blizzard even put a warning message into the game, when you log in.

Luckily, you can no longer shard your gear if your enchanting skill is not high enough. A few years ago you were able to shard everything with skill 1, so hackers just had to run to an enchanting trainer and were then able to disenchant your entire gear and stuff on the bank, which usually earned them more money than just selling the gear to a vendor. Additionally, more and more gear cannot be sold anymore (all gear you buy with emblems), so even if your account gets hacked, chances are high that you keep some or most of your gear. You just lose all your gold and materials, which is bad enough anyway.

Darth Solo said...

a) in Ironforge it's gnomes or dwarves from what I noticed. I don't get how they can still use that "hack". Truth be told, I haven't seen that in a while. Maybe Blizzard fixed it.

b) these phishers gotta be really smart to fool ME. I'm not being cocky but any marginally intelligent person can spot these scams from a mile away.

c) yeah, it's a good thing that they fixed disenchanting. Still, I guess they can still transfer your stuff (mats & shit) to another account.

Anonymous said...

I buy gold. I do not because I think it is fair - it's not fair. But neither is life...some rich people will always have a better life than you material wise (more cars, bigger house, better food, etc). I spend all my time with my job, I have a successful career, so I am simply transferring my success over to the game.

Is it fair to you? No, but that's capitalism for you, and I am not going to apologize for it. It's my game, I pay for it, I also pay for the gold I get. In the end, while you spend your time on the game to make gold, I spend my time in real life to make real money, which I then use to buy gold. So in terms of time, we spend the same's just that I spend it a little bit smarter than you because I get real money.:P

Darth Solo said...

@Anonymous like I said, it's hard for me to sit and judge people who buy gold. I'm not judging in fact. I'm simply stating my opinion on this and I keep standing by it: I'm against gold buying and I just wish people would understand that it has deeper implications than initially perceived. I respect the fact that you have a good job and a good life. So do I in fact. I guess it's different strokes for different strokes.

I found it hard to pay a monthly subscription for a game. WoW is the one and only game for which I relented, even though I afford it easily. It's simply a mental thing that I can't get past easily. However, that's where I draw the line. I won't use Blizzard's paid services and I sure as hell won't pay for virtual gold.

Making gold is one of the things I enjoy in WoW. It's a game within a game. But that's just me. I guess not everyone likes this aspect.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself pretty terrible at making gold because I don't devote any time or interest to it. But, at least on my main server, I am doing well enough.

Between mining, skinning, jewelcrafting, blacksmithing, tailoring, alchemy, herbalism, and leatherworking across my four main characters they generate enough income to do okay. Add in the random things they pick up, the dailies they run for reputation, and just plain old quest rewards, I don't see why anyone would ever want to buy gold.

It does get a little annoying on some of my alts on other serves, but that is where death knights come in. Give them a profession or two and they can make enough to keep themselves or any other characters comfortable.

Darth Solo said...

That's true. Some people simply do not enjoy the gold-making aspect of the game. But hey, that's why it's an RPG.

Steveo said...

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