With over 8 million users, World of Warcraft (WoW) is the biggest online game of all time. As with all success, there is always a group of users looking to exploit that success for their own personal gain. In the case of WoW and many other games of that nature, that exploit has been the sale of in game currency and items for real money. Blizzard, the company responsible for WoW has taken a strong stance against the sale of anything within the game for real money to the point where they will ban any user accounts that are suspected of breaking that rule. As a result of their hard-line stance, there has been an almost ongoing debate as to whether this restriction is the right thing for the game. Many times, a casual player who is done nothing that they consider wrong will be banned for buying a small quantity of gold from an outside supplier. Additionally, in order to supply the constant demand for gold, a small black market economy comprised of “Chinese gold farmers” has arisen to take advantage of these outside gold transactions. The question at hand is now is this good for the game or not?
From an economic standpoint, the firms and players offering virtual gold for sale in exchange for cash are simply acting as middlemen between players who have excess gold in those players who do not have enough. Often, these firms act as speculators, buying gold when it is extremely cheap and selling it when it is in high demand. From simply a player standpoint, the gold sellers are increasing the utility of players to buy the goal while monetarily compensating the players who sell gold to make up for their loss of utility.
Unfortunately, there is another issue at hand which has not been discussed extensively in economics. Since this world is a virtual one, and not one where many products have an intrinsic value, the virtual currency and equipment being sold is virtually limitless. As a result of this, Blizzard has repeatedly stated that the practice of gold farming for sale to the gold merchants is hurting the economy that has been created in the game. This is then argued by the players to be merely a cop out from the company as none of the revenues from these gold sales go to Blizzard itself.
The arguments for and against gold farming in online games will continue as long as these games remain popular and for the near future this looks to be the case. Hopefully this article has provided you with some food for thought when making an opinion as to the morality and legality of gold farming in online games so that you can determine where you stand in the ongoing fight between the powers that be at Blizzard and the players who make up World of Warcraft.