Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Buying WoW gold, the other point of view

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has an article about a casual player buying WoW gold. Very well written, and balanced, telling the story from both points of view.

The author of the article is obviously a casual gamer, and he recounts how farming money by collecting tradeskill resources or killing harmless monsters was a "drudgery" to him, due to not having very much time to play. So he went to IGE and in 20 minutes got 500 gold for $60. He explains how that allowed him to concentrate on the fun part of WoW, questing and leveling up: "Like any self-respecting lottery winner, I had essentially quit my job and grabbed for life's gusto."

On the other side it is mentioned that "Many players feel that buying high-level character accounts, rare items and in-game currency devalues the long hours of play put in by hard-core fans. There is also a suggestion that buying gold inflates prices in the "WoW" auction house, since wealthy players are more likely to bid up items." The article also quotes Greg Vederman, editor-in-chief of PC Gamer, whose magazine recently announced that his magazine wouldn't accept ads from gold sellers any more. (The current PC Gamer has a quite amusing reply ad to that from SOE, saying that they are strictly against illegal gold sales, and that players should instead buy the legal gold on their Station Exchange. PC Gamer did *not* refuse to carry that ad.)

I liked the St. Paul Pioneer Press article very much, because it shows the matter from the point of view of the buyer. It raises some very valid points, like "IGE operates right out in the open, but well-heeled MMO companies like Sony Online, Blizzard and NC Soft do not seem inclined to address the issue. Perhaps they have worked the numbers and reached the conclusion that an appreciable number of their paying customers enjoy the option to buy outside normal channels." I find it hard to believe that Blizzard couldn't sue IGE if they wanted to.

In any case, I still think that the existing demand for virtual currency is a result of bad game design. If making money in the game was actually fun, and not the "drudgery" described in that article, demand would plummet, and gold farmers would go out of business. Blizzard banning 1,000 accounts once a year with loud fanfare for selling gold is just a publicity stunt which only sets back the gold farmer a tiny bit. The hardest hit Blizzard ever landed on the gold selling business might well be the line in the 1.10 patch notes announcing that soon you will be able to make gold at level 60 from questing, transforming each 1600 xp of quest xp reward into 1 gold piece instead. This has a large potential of persuading potential buyers of WoW gold for an epic mount to go questing instead of shopping at IGE.
Total agreement here Tobold.

I understand why people don't like gold buying - but if the MMO Game Companies want to continue to cast a wider and wider net and get more casual gaming customers (which they obviously do) they need to get rid of the traditional MMO Economy. When someone works 40-50 hours a week and gets maybe less than 10 hours to play it's exceptionally retarded to expect them NOT to consider buying gold.

Now I know Tobey is gonna get a lot of the typical "Gold Farming is Bad" sorts of replies... it "causes inflation"... it "encourages large troops of single, chain-smoking, chinese males to live together in tiny apartments"... "if these people have to buy gold why are they even playing the game in the first place"... "maybe MMORPG's aren't for these types of people" etc...

The usual elitist bullsh*t. They can all go take a short walk off a tall cliff as far as I'm concerned.

Now on the other hand some aspects of a traditional MMO economy are pretty solid - the rarity of different drops for example. They create a collection buzz in the game community the exact same way things like Beanie Babies and Baseball Cards do in RL. But they need to focus on that end of things IMO. Make everything Bind on Pickup essentially.

That is if you don't want the problem of gold buying.

If devs DO want gold and selling items existent in a game however they need to come down off their high horses and sponsor gold and item buying with RL currency like Sony's station exchange does.

But you can't have your cake and eat it to. As long as WoW's economy looks like it does there will always be Gold Farmers and nobody will ever be able to do anything about it.
I think Blizzard is hedging their bets by allowing *some* black-market gold trading, while also managing to keep it low by making the best items BoP. This gives them (Blizzard) knobs to tweak if they ever decide to shift to a more restrictive or more open attitude.
"The usual elitist bullsh*t."

How so? I have a retired 60 Pally. My main is a 60 Undead mage with 7/8ths Magister and some nice crit/+dmg gear. No purples. I just got my epic mount after saving up via Herbalism and Alchemy. I recently joined a medium sized guild that has just started taking out the first ZG bosses and made a couple of attempts on Lucifron.

I doubt I would qualify as one of your elite snobs.

And yet, I find the practice of buying gold deplorable. I really don't want to possess anything I didn't earn, either through work or through smarts. I didn't BUY my Onyxia key, I made it, and wiped a few times in the process. I didn't buy all but one of my Magisters pieces, and the one I did buy was with gold I collected in game, not purchased with my Amex. You know, even many non-hardcore types inspect some noobs and find all these purple and blue BoE items there, and we just know these were all purchased with farmer gold. So why should I bother playing a game when others can shortcut their way to similar rewards?

And before you accuse me of being an elitist little teenaged sh*t who is crying sour grapes because he can't afford to buy gold from farmers, I'm a 35-year-old VP in one of the largest banks in the world, and I make six figures, so trust me, buying a few hundred bucks worth of gold to get my Cap of the Scarlet Savant (the Pristine Hide needed for it), or some BoE MC loot on AH would only register as petty cash for me.

Im not showing off here, I'm merely pointing myself out as an example of a person whose time is limited and precious, who has the means and the motive to purchase farmer gold, but chooses to not do so. Not only does the server economy get screwed, but it essentially negates the hard work I put into creating my toon and learning how to play it.

Also, those who purchase said gold and then join up with parties for instances waste everybody's time. I had one idiot in a Scholo raid ninja 2 blues off of Ras Frostwhisper, and when confronted, he asked "What's BoP"? Upon inspection, he had all the BoE epics we call Farmer Favorites: Destiny, etc. Luckily, I didn't need the Magisters piece that dropped, but if I did, that would have been time and effort wasted.

Make everything BoP: well, not mats and crafted items and such, but rare/epic items that drop in instances, I'm all for it.
As it stands now, I view external gold purchasing as natural consequence of an in-game economy. The external gold purchasing can be sanctioned or illegitimate, officially-run or left to the 'entrepeneurs'. Any way you slice it, though, a thriving virtual economy will lead to external connections with real world currency.

Now, whether you choose to approve or disapprove, make use of or rail against the external market is more a personal choice than anything else. It's there. You're not going to stamp it out unless you eliminate the virtual economy, which you probably don't want to do anyways.

Mr. VP's position above is entirely valid. So is that of the first reply. The difference here being that Mr. VP (and please excuse the moniker, no offense intended) wants to earn his items with blood, sweat and tears (and time and effort). The 1st-reply wants the game operator to work on mechanisms to reduce the appeal of buying gold - he doesn't blame the players who are enticed.

As for me, I view the external market as a necessary evil. Would I personally purchase gold through it? Maybe, probably. Although I'm certainly no fan of CGFs, I hate farming my own gold. Thus far I've been lucky enough that I've been able to meet my gold "needs" by lucky drops and lucky rolls. Before I did purchase gold, I like to think I'd exhaust my other remedies and sell off my saved blue items first to try and make the coin myself. (I easily have over 150 gold in saved blue and green items and components.)

In any case, I love these discussions because this is such a devisive issue on which I think everyone is right.. and everyone is wrong. (Me included.)
Yeah - VP - if you wanna talk about your RL job and getting what you "Earn" I'm all for it.But forgive me if I surpress a giggle when you talk about WoW in those terms.

It's a video game.

Certainly that is part of the appeal of a MMORPG - accomplishment according to time invested. But that doesn't mean you keep shoveling sh*t just to prove you can shovel sh*t.

WoW - for as advanced as it is in terms of providing good content to players - is still stuck banging rocks to the thunder god in terms of it's economy. You have to do mind-numbing drudge work to get rich.

Not exactly an appealing aspect to a game.
Actually the dollar cost of WoW gold is trivial to most of us. MMORPG demographics include lots of people over 30 with a steady job, and whether they are VPs or editors of a St. Paul newspaper or something else, $60 is petty cash, while 500 gold in WoW is lots. A MMORPG is a very cheap hobby compared to other typical hobbies of people like us.

I agree that there is no right or wrong in this debate. There are people who like the challenge of mountain climbing, and others who would just like to pay some cash to take the cable car to the top. The guy taking the cable car isn't competing with the mountain climber, even if they both end up enjoying the same view.

Blizzard wisely made lots of content in WoW not buyable. Claiming "I didn't buy my Onyxia key" isn't necessary, because you simply couldn't even if you wanted to.

But I don't see any difference at all between farming yourself to buy your epic mount and paying some Chinese to farm for you. I paid a guy to paint my appartment, does that make me a cheater?

The only thing I really dislike about real money trade (RMT) is the hypocrisy of the game companies. They are largely responsible for the situation, both due to their game design, and due to their decision not to sue IGE. Thus if I hear people like Mark Jacobs whine about how bad RMT is for his game, it makes me want to puke.
You guys may have misunderstood my point, and that's because none of us mentioned a significant fact related to farmers.

If farmers earned their money the way everybody else does, their impact would not be severe - perhaps even trivial. But we all know that these guys are using hacks to dupe items and gold. This destroys the balance of the economy. Furthermore, there is evidence that they use flaws in the code related to instance entrances to perform this duping, which some believe may lead to instance and server crashes (the Maraudon entrance seems to have been a suspect in the past, with lots of toons with names like "Loveusa" observed hanging out there for hours, jumping in and out of the entrance).

I am very much against grinding. WoW is my first MMORPG, and I spent most of the career of my first character (the retired 60 Pally) grinding. Little did I know how much more fun this game could be. That's why, with my undead mage, I refused to grind for pretty much anything. I never did quests where I had to "kill 27 Smelly Skankboars" or "collect 14 Yellowed Strumpet Fangs". I spent about 75% of her career to 60 in instances, most of the rest doing very sparse herb collection (usually while waiting for my friend to get online with his priest, or a few guildies to finish their instance run and join us for a new one) and fun quests (kill this outdoor boss). I did some research and found a profitable, grind-free solution to gold in Transmute Undeath to Water (and, recently, Water to Air).

stormgard, you make fun of me for comparing RL to a video game. You imply that I shouldn't take my video games so seriously. When it comes to single-player, I agree with you. If I screw up, it impacts nobody but me. Nobody else's "errors" can affect me. If I hack and cheat, I am hacking and cheating myself. But when some fool uses a power-leveling service and farmer gold to get a blue/purple-equipped toon, or buys a toon from someone retiring from WoW, and ends up in my group, say, a warrior who somehow doesn't wipe us until Gandling (he wasn't the tank, that's why) and then ninjas the Boncreeper Stylus which only I needed, with the excuse that he "thought he could use it as a ranged weapon", well, that's when my thoughts go from hard-core to HOMICIDAL.

Maybe your time and effort are worth nothing. I tend to value mine a bit higher than that. And I don't suffer fools or idiots. I don't mind someone in the PuG telling us he hasn't done much instancing getting to 60 - I give him my guild's TS server settings, and spend some time educating him. (I've even recruited a couple of decent people for the guild this way). In fact, I LOVE showing people the ropes. But most people think that blues and purples make them hot sh*t, and that leads to catastrophe, usually at my expense.
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As for all the snide remarks regarding my title,

If farmers earned their money the way everybody else does, their impact would not be severe - perhaps even trivial. But we all know that these guys are using hacks to dupe items and gold.

No, we don't all know that. Actually I'd guess 99.9% of farmers play the game without any hacks or dupes, just using standard ways of earning gold, 24 hours a day, in shifts, over and over.

Some people might be *trying* to invent hacks and dupes. Some of these hackers and cheaters might be gold farmers, but many of them are hardcore players looking for a fast way to leetness. Most things that were later labeled as exploits in EQ were all invented by uber guilds.

Anyway, resistance to hackers and dupers is a game feature, unrelated to gold farming. WoW is relatively resistant, I don't know of any successful dupe, and lots of the exploits you mentioned have since been fixed. In WoW you could think of hackers as being a kind of late beta-testers which end up making the game more stable. SWG's economy once completely crashed due to a dupe, with the duper distributing lots of duped credits to others, and Guild Wars just had a server rollback due to a money creating bug.
I put hacking/dupes/"cheats" in a separate category from farming/CGFs/external gold markets. Although the two may be related, and even that interrelation is difficult to prove or show, you cannot confound arguments for one of those categories with arguments for/from the other. Furthermore, arguments concerning PUGs and player abilities are a thin response (at best) to gold market issues. Likewise complaints about loot distribution (if you don't like it, only use ML or only raid with friends or only form your own groups where you are the ML).

One thing I like about Blizzard - they have some experience with online games and servers and preventing hacks/duping/"cheats"/exploits therein. I'm specifically thinking of Diablo 2 though maybe Starcraft and Warcraft had some of this too (I'm not familiar with those). In this respect, I think Blizzard has done a fair job thus far with WoW. The SOE SWG debacle Tobold sites was ridiculous.
I refer you to a past post of yours linking to a US-based EQ platinum farmer discussing his business even as he was shutting it down. If you remember, he couldn't produce the quantities of his overseas competitors because he used the old-fashioned way of working for the gold, whereas they were using hacks to dupe.

Also, this. (No, I'm not implying the Chinese characters prove he's a farmer, just that it would be mind-numbingly stupid for farming ops to sweat for their gold when they can do this once every few minutes)
I have bought gold etc in every game I have played. EQ, WoW, EQ2... I work hard and make a great living better than most. I will continue to buy. Until the grind and drudgery go away. I really don't care who says what. Most I hand out to friends for bdays and such. I can buy high end cars, mountain bikes, dinners out, clothing, my house... Does that make me bad too? Suck it up! $200 in gp or pp is a dinner out to me.
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