Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 12, 2006
SCANDAL ! Secret Blizzard - IGE Deal Revealed !!!

Our investigative reporter for the MMOG Tabloid News, Carl Woodward, discovered shocking news when he stalked followed Jeff Caplan, Chief Hardcore Designer at Blizzard to a secret business lunch. Jeff was meeting no other than Brock Piercing, former child star and now CEO of IGE, the world's biggest company in the Real Money Trade (RMT) business, selling millions of dollars worth of virtual currency. Our intrepid reporter confronted Jeff and Brock and got the following interview with the help of a hidden tape recorder:

Carl: You two having a business lunch? Is there a secret deal between Blizzard and IGE going on?
Jeff: Nothing is official until you see the IGE logo on the World of Warcraft website.
Brock: If this isn't official yet, why am I paying Blizzard such a big slice of my income already, Jeff?
Jeff: All items and currency of World of Warcraft traded by IGE are the intellectual property of Blizzard, and thus we deserve that slice.
Brock: The question whether virtual items and currency are intellectual property of the game company or property of the players has never been fully resolved.
Jeff: Yes, and I think you agreed that it is not in the interest of either of our companies to get that question resolved in a court of law. That is one of the most important points of the contract we signed.

Carl: Brock, why are you meeting with a game developer from Blizzard, and not with some financial guy?
Brock: Game design is very important for RMT. Jeff and I are currently discussing the Burning Crusade expansion. Talking about intellectual property: the 2,000 gold price tag for the flying mounts was *my* idea.
Jeff: And that idea will earn you millions.
Brock: Us, Jeff, us.
Jeff: Money sinks are very important to the RMT business. Buying epic items on the auction house looks expensive to the player, but it doesn't remove the money from the economy, and unless the epic is sold by an IGE employee doesn't earn us anything. In hindsight the level 40 mount was too cheap, and the epic mount not useful enough, not everybody bought one. The flying mount will be absolutely needed to get to some zones, so the profit is assured. Few players have the time to farm 2,000 gold on their own.

Carl: So your main customers are casual players, people with a job and family, with little time and lots of money?
Brock: These are our most valuable customers. The average age of MMORPG players has gone up over the years, most players have a good income, and playing World of Warcraft is considerably cheaper than playing golf. So there is a lot of potential and people willing to spend more to get ahead in the game. But we are trying to serve the less casual customers as well.
Jeff: Don't worry, Brock. Wait until you see what a repair bill on level 70 epic armor after a typical raid costs. Not to mention the cost for potions, this again only feeds gold back into the economy and isn't a money sink.
Brock: But don't forget to make the loot in the level 70 raid dungeons just like the loot in Molten Core. Epics, to motivate players to go there, and worthless junk like coal or lifeless stones, so the money earned in the raid doesn't cover the repair bill.
Jeff: Understood. We will also continue the system introduced in patch 1.11, where players will need to spend money or resources to get access to raid dungeons, thus removing the resources from the economy. And we are thinking of more quest series like the tier 0.5 upgrade quest, where doing the quest would cost you hundreds of gold.

Carl: When you announce your deal, will that not cause a huge outcry and a loss of customers for both of you?
Brock: You learn to live with bad publicity. All these rabid anti-RMT people on message boards and blogs, their bark is worse than their bite. 9 out of 10 uber-guild main tanks are already customers at IGE to cover their repair bills. Who wants to go gold farming between raids? Many people just buy gold and keep mum about it.
Jeff: The Station Exchange hasn't hurt SOE's business a bit. We don't force anyone to buy gold, farming it for yourself is always an option. And our deal includes a clause that IGE employees are not using bots and cheats to farm gold. We will continue our policy to ban every account found cheating to farm gold.
Brock: Thus conveniently eliminating the competition.
Jeff: Having official RMT is much more convenient for our customers, as it prevents scams, and gives them better legal security. We never banned anyone for buying gold, but haven't been able to get that message across up to now.

Carl: Thank you two for the interview, I'm looking forward to see the official announcement.
Brock: Interview?
Jeff: This was completely off the record. WAIT! You taped this?
[Sounds of falling chairs, angry shouts, and running footsteps]

Disclaimer: All characters and events portrayed in this work are fictional and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. Only the link between game design and the profitability of RMT is very, very real.
Maybe I am missing something here, what's the point of this post?

The point is that game developers often claim to be against RMT, but the reason why people buy virtual gold are directly related to game design. I don't know how much the flying mounts in Burning Crusade will cost, but it is a good example where by making a game design decision like a hypothetical 2,000 gold price tag, game developers are helping RMT companies.

So I was trying my hand on a different style, a humorous conspiracy theory thing, which I found fitting for the subject. Blogs are wonderful places to experiment with writing. Sorry if that failed.
the thing is if Blizzard can make this worth while I am more than willing to pay for my gold...I just hope the new content justifies the cost
lollerskates @ above poster
-anonymous ^^
I've gotten beyond the point of judging people who pay for gold. I've never done it, doubt I will, but I have friends who have done it and I totally get their reasoning. When 5 hours of farming can get you as much gold as 1 hour of being at your job can if you went ahead and bought gold with the money it doesn't make as much sense to toss 4 hours away doing something we all hate in a game.

I'd go so far as to say IGE and the others are quickly becoming more accepted by the majority of gamers. Nobody likes to be the has-nots.
I've bought virtual currency and even a virtual house (back in UO when I couldn't find a spot to place mine) in the past. I don't mind people doing it.

The thing I do mind is the hypocrisy of game developers, who in the majority pretend to be against RMT, but refuse to act on their words. RMT can be strongly reduced by not putting in too many money sinks into the game. It can be eliminated by changing the way items are traded in the game. And if selling gold was really a crime, why are companies like IGE allowed to operate without any restrictions?

Note the latest "we banned 30,000 accounts last month" announcement from Blizzard. It a) states that the reason for banning was mainly cheating / botting, not RMT. And b) it says that *selling* gold can get you banned, but apparently buying doesn't. I'd actually prefer an official Blizzard-IGE deal to the current situation where the company just pretends to be against RMT.
lol tobald - brilliant post. I almost believe it - it answers a lot of quesitons. Your points about money being removed from the game economy and the nature of loot in MC make me start wondering how Blizzard could be so naive - hey, maybe they aren't as naive as we think...

I'm willing to place their economy problems in the category of "keeping players busy" rather than a collusion with money-sellers at this point. Basically, they have a big world and if raiders never use any of it, they will brun through new raid content incredibly fast. Forcing even hardcore raiding guilds to spend 3-4 nights a week farming in old content is one way to ensure 2 to 3 times the duration for new raid instances. I do hope Blizzard reads your post, though, to see what the downside to their strategy is...

Great post! Not sure why the first poster didn't get the tongue-in-cheek humor of it...perhaps it was a stealthed Blizz rep and it struck too close to home?

I'm in a raiding guild. I make six figures. I can most certainly afford to buy gold, and lots of it.

But if this happens, I'm probably quitting WoW. I won't be doing it in protest, I will be doing it because I don't see the point.

Unfortunately, I am probably in the minority.
Awesome post, Tobold!
A well written piece of satire, to be sure. I link you from time to time on WarCry, and enjoy reading what you write.

Don't be discouraged by those who don't get it, they are probably the ones who care about the character building that comes from mandatory link lists.
Thanks for clearing things up, Tobold. It all makes sense now. Anyway on to the topic about gold selling, there is no fool proof system to prevent it. It is a simple economy theory, if there is demand, there will be supply.

Blizzard understand that real money trading is bad for WoW. It makes gold less desirable since they are easily available from farmers. This would result in goals like buying epic mounts, for example, for casual players easily attainable and cut short their subscription.

Blizzard want players to make money by playing the game. Other than the apparent subscription reason, it will also slow down drying up the contents too quick.

Real money trading is here to stay as long as there is demand. There is no way game developers can stop it. Even if they chose to make all items including gold non-tradeable, people can still sell characters/ accounts.

I play FFXI. I've read the RMT situation described in FFXI as a "complete meltdown." For those of you who find a way to justify RMT, it will ruin your game's economy. Square-Enix has been taking big steps to prevent RMT, continues to delete accounts in large numbers, and has made it very obvious that buying/selling Gil will get you banned.

There have been updates that gimp bot farmers by locking up their abilities if they attempt to claim a mob too quickly, there was a limitation placed on the amount of Gil you can send to people. Overcamped NMs have had their drops made untradable (soulbound). These are positive steps that good ole bliz is not taking.

These steps have improved the AH costs of low-mid level items, but the high-end stuff continues to approach/exceed 10 million Gil. 10 million!

The next time you purchase gold in WoW, I want you to remember that your transaction is damaging the game. You are helping IGE put more gold into circulation, which will raise the prices of the AH significantly, over time.
I dont mind people paying someone for in-game cash or items. What i mind are :

1. People who buy accounts, simple reason is they dont know their class. Can hold back or make it hard to have a successfull raid / group. ( i dont play wow dont know how its there )

2. Farmer. They not evne try to steal any named they see perma camping it no if you get in their line they may even spam you like "no!!" "do not do that" "^_^ i will report you" etc. Annoying as hell and makes it hard to farm myself a bit as i cant do it 24/7.

3. In-game advertising, nuff said.

So either Blizzard etc. sell the stuff official and without disrubting the gameplay - or for pete's sake do something about it for real.
Anyone can type this.. could you please post the recorded tape online?
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