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Reader Comments (33)

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:06AM Seffrid said

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I've always said that the only way to stop this kind of thing is to perma-ban the buyers, and publish their character/guild names on a Public Board of Shame in the game's cities (to which all players would consent as part of the EULA).

As long as people want to buy gold etc and don't get substantially punished for doing so there will be sellers finding ways to meet the demand.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 1:43PM J Brad Hicks said

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I've been saying for years that the MMO industry has reinvented the central flaw in America's anti-alcohol Prohibition laws, the flaw that turned the whole country over to mafia rule for decades, and that's making laws against selling something popular while leaving it effectively legal to buy it. As long as buyers have no fear of getting caught and no fear of the consequences of getting caught, this form of cheating will always be with us.

A couple of months ago, I tried a free trial of EVE Online. One player showed up in the new-users chat channel with a tale of woe: he said he was a new MMO player, hadn't read the TOS in detail, and didn't know it was against the rules when some ISK seller offered to sell him some ISK, so he bought some. That's not the interesting part, not the tale of woe part. The interesting part, the thing that sucked for him, was that *within 40 minutes* all of the ISK he'd bought had disappeared from his account, leaving him with a negative balance.

If CCP can keep that up, they'll solve the problem, at least in their game. If word gets around that the odds of buying ISK and getting to keep it are nearly zero, if word gets around that spending money on an ISK site just gives away your credit card data and debits your card without benefiting you in any way, if people become afraid to buy ISK in EVE, then EVE's gold sellers will disappear for good without any other action on CCP's part. I can't stand their game, I find it dull as heck, but I'm cheering for them on this subject, and wish that the rest of the industry would (as they sang recently) Harden The F-word Up.
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:22AM (Unverified) said

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The idea that farmers somehow pay the companies money is silly. When a subscription costs $10 to $15, the other options are much more preferable. Take stolen credit cards - stolen Visa cards could be as low as $6 or $7 per number, including the personal info attached to the card. Abusing referral or free trial programs are even cheaper, since they cost nothing except time. It's like any other business, where you try to minimize costs to raise the return on your investment. Defrauding the MMO company is much cheaper than creating real, paid accounts.

Also, many buyers probably don't realize that this is wrong. Especially if you're new to the game and just want to have fun, you could easily be taken in by the slick webpages that assure you that "we have never heard of anyone being banned for buying gold." Why would these webpages be up when it's not allowed? Most likely because the parent company is in another country, which makes enforcing your copyrights extremely difficult and costly.

I've got to commend Scott for bringing this to light. He makes excellent points about fraud and the costs to MMO companies. I hope other players of MMOs realize this is a complex problem and the best way to stop it is to not support them in the first place.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:23AM RogueJedi86 said

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Why don't the companies just shown down the gold sites? I've been wondering for a long while now about why Blizzard shut down one gold(Peons4Hire), but hasn't shut down any others since. What was so special about Peons that made them killable but not the other gold sites that sprouted up in its wake? A company like Blizzard can sure afford it, since they also shut down MMOGlider.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:32AM Nadril said

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It's too difficult and time consuming. Peons, if I remember, was a pretty big legal battle. There are so many gold farming websites out there (and more coming every day) that it would be impossible to stop all of them.

A big issue as well is that most of them have their domain located somewhere where Blizzard may not have any chance of even getting it shut down, like somewhere in China.

Stopping RMT is one of those near impossible things to do. The problem is that the only real good way to stop it is to make it so that no one WANTS to buy gold, but then that would mean that gold would be near worthless to have. It's sadly not a matter of making a game more fun, although that would help (to make farming more enjoyable), because there are always people who will want to take the easy way out.
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 11:22AM RogueJedi86 said

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But Peons was also a Chinese gold site right? And I don't mean to shut down all gold sites, just the big ones. I really hate to drop a name here, but Susan Express has taken over the wow gold market since Peons shut down. Their spam is hated on all the WoW servers. If you just take down the big ones, then the others will stay tiny and obscure, which hopefully works as damage control.
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:29AM (Unverified) said

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Gold buying, it's kind of like speeding isn't it really. Despite it being wrong, bad for everyone as a whole, people do it and the world doesn't end. Now and again the odd person is caught and a penalty is handed out by the government via the courts, depending on how bad it was the worse the fine. As long as it's kept under control civilization, or at least the free ways, won't collapse.

Putting RMT in these games though 'as law' is pretty much the same as your local government saying 'SPEED ALL YOU WANT, JUST PAY EXTRA' We'll just use the extra revenue to build more roads when the old ones collapse from the strain and wreckage. Strangely enough few real life judicial systems have been keen to carry out this... logic.

Or easier: think of it is your local cops legalizing the mafia in return for some cash, ignoring why their acts where made illegal in the first place.

Just hand out a few large scale public announced bans to the BUYERS as well as the sellers. It would die away in weeks. Take the pressure of those who don't want to cheat this way but feel obliged too by those who do - these games might not be competitive, but they definitely are comparative. Everyone knows that buyers don't get in trouble.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:34AM Nadril said

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People say things such as "ban the buyers" but you should know that a lot of Gold buyers have gotten really good at hiding the money trail before it enters someones hands. If you just start to ban because "person a" sent "person b" 5000g than you start getting into a lot of issues due to false bans because someone was sending an alt some money, or sending a friend something.


Not saying that it shouldn't be done, or it is impossible, but its much harder than that.
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 12:12PM (Unverified) said

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I don't doubt it's hard for one second. But for example if a games log in screens featured a named section of that weeks banned players word would soon get around. Like I say, everyone knows you wont get banned for buying. Just be bothered to enforce the games rules properly.

I got pressured into doing it once on my first WoW toon. I was part of a band of 'noob's and it only took one person to start buying and everyone reluctantly was forced to compete that way. Again: You are always going to be compared when it comes to group play in these games, ALWAYS and your either getting what's out there or not playing. It is not optional in reality.

And to Zorom: If you need to buy items to compete in an arena you really shouldn't be in there anyway. Maybe I am a purist but what's the point in an arena ranking when people like you are making the ratings pointless! I just don't want to be in a game with you, there's no point really, especially when it comes to Arena ranking. And yes, I have the cash, just more sense.

Commence with the moding down now please :))
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 2:44PM Gaugamela said

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I don't think it is necessary to ban buyers for the gold-selling industry to fall.
WAR took a pretty harsh stance against gold sellers and they effectively drove them out of thhe game before tthe game started sinking due to other issues.
You can go to their site and see how many accounts they banned due to gold selling.
Their though stance coupled with alternative ways of acquiring competitive gear and mats besides gold completely destroyed any gold seller chance to earn something with the game. Allthough it also made the game economy crap.
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:32AM (Unverified) said

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It's a circle in some online games. Some of the high end guilds or decked out players sell their services to less capable players at a premium. Some of the players who purchase these services also purchase gold from 3rd party sites to pay for the services/ Of course some of the players/guilds supplying the services sell the gold to a 3rd party site. You might think of it as the online method of money laundering. RMT has been around a very long time. So long as someone is willing to pay for something with real life money, there will always be some creative person willing to supply the item or service. In my opinion there is no way to completely prevent something that is a part of the game mechanics that honest player utilize every day. The only way to come close to combating the problem would be to make the game so enjoyable to play that just playing would be the best reward. Then again, how many posts and argument have there been explaining how someone else can't possibly be enjoying the game because clearly they are "doing it wrong".

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:34AM Gaugamela said

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IMO RMT are here to stay and the way that companies have to stop gold sellers and shady companies from profiting of their games is by offering RMT stores in the games that offer quests/dungeons (but that offer good loot and a huge amount of crafting materials and potions) much like DDO to cut down the grinding and interesting vanity pets, mounts and cosmetic stuff as WoW (although for a smaller price).
This way the money players spend on gold sellers will instead go for the companies! I prefer to pay to a company that built a game i like than to a shady company even though i've yet to spend money in f2p games.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:37AM Arkanaloth said

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RMT is such a massive issue, but I agree with the article. The means of stopping RMT is in the hands of the players, not the companies. Don't create a market for it and it'll go away.

Companies are often blockaded by international law with respect to what they can and cannot do to protect their products, these laws are put in place in some cases just to make it difficult for foreign companies to exhibit power in a particular territory... Companies cannot make the difference here, only someone unhindered by legal borders can and that would be the players simply not buying anymore gold.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 10:45AM Tom in VA said

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I spent some time in DDO:U last night and I must say I like the way Turbine has set up the RMT/in-game store. I only wish the game itself was more intuitive and fun.

Once DDO:U comes up with a way to unlock/purchase (permanent) hirelings/mercenaries that level up with you and are customizable (like the Heroes in Guild Wars), they will really be on to something good.

I'd like to see WoW or LotRO offer NPC hirelings (or the equivalent) in an online store for those of us who want to run the instanced content but are put off by the hassle and time-suck involved in most LFG. I really liked that option in Guild Wars.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 11:07AM (Unverified) said

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I think the way EVE handles is has been great (The PLEX).

It's hard for game companies to break even in game development. I support anything that helps them bring money in. There just needs to be a steady focus on the game's economy to ensure that gold buying doesn't go out of wack.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 11:24AM AllenJB said

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Next week: Why articles on "why rmt won't go away" won't go away

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 11:33AM (Unverified) said

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The situation with RMT is simple and can be boiled down to the age old notion that: time = money. Many people are willing to use one in place of the other and generally speaking people with lots of one have little of the other.

If they can't make the exchange thru legal in game channels then they will use illegal channels. I admit I have bought gold online to use in-game to buy arena points from people in game for me and my friend's characters. Why did I do this? Because I didn't have the time to practice and get good at Arena or cultivate the relationships in game to get good partners to arena with. I wish I did but simple fact of life is, I have a good job that pays lots of $$ but leaves me with little time for hardcore gaming. Now if I had a legit way of converting my real world $$ into in game benefits (equipment/money/etc), I would have been happy to use that channel but since Blizzard does not offer it, I have to go thru other channels. It's simple supply and demand. Demand is and always will be there, if Blizzard doesn't supply it someone else will.

The way I see it, there are two groups of people who are the most vocal complainers about RMT:

1) Those without the means to benefit from RMT and don't want their in game power to be diminished by those who can benefit.
2) Those who are gaming purists who feel everything has to be gained in game to mean something.

Group 1 should be ignored since their complaint is fueled by simple jealously. Group 2's worries can be solved by making certain items obtainable in game only (ie legendaries, progress tier gear) thus still creating incentives for hardcore players to keep playing.

RMT is here to stay and as long as only illegal channels exist to satisfy the demand, game companies will continue fighting a futile losing battle to stop them.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 1:09PM Tom L said

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Excellent points but you don't take the scenario far enough. If so many people are willing to break the rules (ie. black market trading of $usd for $game) then maybe the game companies should look at the rule itself. So called black markets are purely the result of legislative fiat. IRL it's called being a smuggler. In the gaming world it's called being a gold farmer. One breaks the law because there is an economic incentive to do so that far outwieghs the potential cost of getting caught while the other breaks the EULA (law of the game) doing the same calculus.

Both scenarios are the result of the formation of bad rules/laws. Having a rule and enforcing that rule are two completely different processes. RMT is never going away and those complaining about it might as well be complaining that the sun rises in the East as opposed to the West.

Ta,
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Posted: Nov 20th 2009 12:07PM (Unverified) said

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I have been buying gold in games since UO in 1998. I am a Process Manager for a large company and travel the country visiting facilities. I am married with a child, I enjoy my MMO's but do not have the time in life to grind out gold.

I make a lot of money, I do not have a lot of time.

I cannot even put a price tag on what an hour of grinding gold is for me. I can buy more gold than I could ever make in an hour for ten bucks. That is 15 minutes of my hourly wage.

Some people have time and no money, Some people have money and no time. Its not going away, and the more socially acceptable it becomes the better. Face it... People that make decent money will always have things that people who do not make decent money do not. Its life.

Posted: Nov 20th 2009 12:20PM (Unverified) said

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"People that make decent money will always have things that people who do not make decent money do not. Its life."

Try repeating that one to the police if you're ever late for a meeting and caught speeding. I'm sure that officer will see the wisdom in your words ;)

All it really needs is for games to have the nuts to enforce the rules the same way really. That's why I like subs only game: It's a level playing field once you're through the door.



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