Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 29, 2012
 
Will Blizzard keep you from getting rich in Diablo 3?

Diablo 3 is going to have an auction house in which players can sell virtual items to other players for real money. Which prompted some people to start dreaming of getting rich by playing video games. I've been chronicling the negative consequences of that for some time, from the difficulty of getting rich in face of strong competition, to the expected negative social consequences. But it seems I have neglected one aspect: Blizzard might actively stop you from getting rich. My favorite virtual snake-oil vendor Markco posted that Blizzard kicked him out of the Diablo 3 beta for earning too much gold and beta bucks in too short time.

While of course I don't have all the details of the story, it appears to me that Diablo 3 has some sort of hidden code which is designed to ban gold farmers and bots, but which could end up banning players that are too good at making gold as well. Now some people will call that "unfair", but what it is not is "illegal". Blizzard has the absolute right of kicking out players they believe are harmful to the game at large. And if Blizzard doesn't want "professional" players in the game, they can kick them out. In the end it doesn't matter whether you are a Chinese guy working in a sweat shop, or an American college student who would rather get rich by playing video games than studying. If Blizzard thinks that you are just out for the money, and not just playing, they can ban you.

While I think that this is a good idea, I am certain that this will still cause a lot of controversy in the future. Players will want the "Chinese gold farmer" to be banned, but will insist on their right to farm gold and make money, without seeing that this is exactly the same thing, and mostly indistinguishable by Blizzard (unless you add an illegal racist bias to the criteria).
Comments:
Is it reasonable, though, for Blizzard to design and implement something like the Real Money Auction House, and then decide that they don't want "professional" players in the game? I'm not sure it is.
 
Blanket statements that something is or is not "illegal" under civil law tend to be meaningless outside of totalitarian states. Whether or not any action a company like Blizzard might take in a situation like this would be legal would depend on the judgment of the relevant court. Or, more probably, courts, following a lengthy appeal process.

Of course Blizzard has the (probably insuperable) advantage of immensely deep pockets and therefore whatever they say will tend to stand. This has nothing whatsoever to do with legality, it's just a function of the cost of going to law.
 
The fact that Marcko makes a lot of (real) money by selling "gold guides" makes me suspect that Blizzard simply got tired of him. After all you cannot just open a little shop and sell "Blizzard merchandise" without permission, right? Gold guides are the sane stuff.
 
Maybe I'm just too trusting towards Blizzard, but to me it seems like the ban wasn't predicated on him making too much money per se, but rather on the fact that he made repeated use of an exploit he found instead of reporting it.
 
Whether or not any action a company like Blizzard might take in a situation like this would be legal would depend on the judgment of the relevant court.

Sorry to pop your bubble, but there is no jurisdiction on earth where a player can force a company to let him play their online game. The online game company always has complete discretion about who they let in. The best a court could do would be to force the game company to refund the cost of admission.
 
I think it is way more likely that he is just hyping his upcoming scam. This sort of blog response is just what he needs to drive more people to him.
 
My completely baseless conspiracy theory of the day:
After advertising the heck out of "sell thing for dollars!" blizz never intended *other* people would actually make money with it.
It's all just a smokescreen so they can sell things with automated ActivisionBlizzard bots, and get 100%, which is far greater than 30%.

/tinfoilhat.
 
"The Gold Guide so good, it got BANNED!"
That's a pretty good ad right there.
 
I've been following the story and I have a hard time accepting that the ban was merely for making gold too quickly.

It had to be how he was making it.

And his hints at a "secret", or that he got banned for not revealing that method, are personal marketing tools.
 
Whatever the case banning him was the most idiotic thing they could do, if they are serious on curbing the "dollar farming". I mean, you have a guy who will push as hard as he can to game the system to pump money out: you definitely WANT him in the beta to see what he does and then fix it. Even if he doesn't report his approach, server logs are there for that....
 
Well, isn't D3 in beta? Maybe he's discovering unintended money-making schemes or border-line exploits, and is not reporting any of them so they can be fixed.

And Blizzard is booting him for not reporting bugs/issues in a beta, instead hording them for private use, which seems to be a legitimate reason to boot someone from a beta.
 
His latest comments reveals Blizzard banning him because they don't want people to use the beta to produce and sell unauthorized and unlicensed third party merchandise, which his guides definitely fall under.

It's an open question of whether they would ban him from the released version if he was to continue selling guides, which is really the only ammo they have since I can't see how his guides are illegal even given the hucksterish nature of them.
 
Markco probably did something that he isn't sharing. After the whole WoW Crusher debacle I am not surprised in the least. I think he had it coming. Would you expect someone who steals content from other websites and claims it as his own to play by the rules?
 
I guarantee you that selling gold in Diablo 3 will be the least profitable method of making actual dollars in the RMT.
 
It's going to be easier to sell the in game gold on the black market that it's going to be to turn a big profit on the cash market. People will probably do fairly well at the start but the market will collapse in a month or two.

This whole fantasy that nerds are going to make their rent off selling D3 items is pure delusion. It's the same excess enthusiasm that makes every MMO the greatest thing ever for the first three weeks of its release.
 
@Loque: After all you cannot just open a little shop and sell "Blizzard merchandise" without permission, right?

Not even remotely close. I'm pretty sure that Marcko does not market himself as a merchant of "Blizzard" goods. Google it up if you want (I'm not going to linkspam Tobold), but no where does he come close to doing something like infringing on trademarks, etc.

At worst, he's a blogger who has the brains to realize that people will pay him for what he writes, and cashed in on it. That's really no different than all these other WoW gaming sites that are making money off of commentating on WoW, so why should only he be banned?

@Tobold:If Blizzard thinks that you are just out for the money, and not just playing, they can ban you.

While I think that this is a good idea


I disagree; lots of people have fun working the economy and making profits on it. I spent tons of time during my WoW days doing exactly just that. I would hate to see Blizzard trounce over basic economic fun.
 
It's my fault for the confusion but I am not associated with wow crusher.

I am currently investigating who sent the unsigned email from blizzard about selling unlicensed guides. We'll see if it's real or not.

Either way, I'll be buying the game through a friend and not revealing my character names in retail.
 
The RMAH is something Blizzard is really investing in so it comes as no surprise to me that they are working so hard to protect it. If someone is producing a guide that cuts into their bottom line you can bet they are going to hammer it down.

They have an interest in the economy in this game being tightly balanced because unlike WoW, they are getting a cut for it. If people can get gold easily they aren't as likely to spend real money at the AH.
 
@Tobold "Blizzard has the absolute right of kicking out players they believe are harmful to the game at large. And if Blizzard doesn't want "professional" players in the game, they can kick them out."

"Sorry to pop your bubble, but there is no jurisdiction on earth where a player can force a company to let him play their online game. The online game company always has complete discretion about who they let in. The best a court could do would be to force the game company to refund the cost of admission."


I think you need to educate yourself more on the topic. Blizzard is protected from the real life jurisdiction in their games that prohibit RMT transactions. So in WoW they are in their right to kick out whoever they want - at least until it is successfully challenged in court either on the premise of consumer protection or whether EULA is enforceable.

Once Blizzard brings RMT in the game they break so called "magic circle" and are liable to real property claims over virtual property. Moreover, there are legal precedents like in Bragg v.s. Linden Lab (Second Life). Though it was ultimately settled out of the court nevertheless it resulted in the District Court decisions that certain provisions of Second Life EULA were not enforceable and that person interaction in a virtual world with RMT can satisfy legal requirements for personal jurisdiction (i.e. to have among other things the same level of protection concerning virtual property in the US courts as real life property).
 
Ah Tobold, you really need to paint it as only a gold farmer (from whatever country) can be banned.

Actually they can ban any account, no matter how little gold someone collects.

Trying to pretend there is some sort of line that if you stay inside it they CAN'T ban you is just a fantasy.
 
I think the idea that making gold easy to obtain will deflate the RMT AH is actually the opposite. Gold was worthless in Diablo II, they say they will better control its value in III. However, regardless of the value of gold or rarity, people will still use real world money. Gamers fall into two classes, poor college kids, or rich college graduates. Some people find joy in ironmanning it, others drop a thousand bucks on a few lvl 85's with full tier gear. As long as the path is difficult/time consuming, ie getting gold/unique items, there will be an RMT demand. I've got an uncle who made 6 million USD paying Koreans to play Everquest. Fat wallet nerds will pay.
 
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