Updated Sun, Feb 24, 2008 by Messiah
In this weeks editorial I look at a topic that I haven't touched in a long while. With the new year here though, I feel the need to go muck around in the hornet's nest again. The topic is: Gold Sellers. This time I want to take a look at how the community supports them and allows them to continue to exist. I take this stance since they obviously do massive sales and continue to exist despite Blizzard's action against them in the form of large scale bans. Their continued existence comes as a bit of a surprise to me since such a large part of the vocal World of Warcraft (WoW) community is against the secondary market.
I say the vocal WoW community since it seems the biggest thing that most players are against currently is the amount of in and out of game spam by gold sellers. This is made up of all the in-game low level characters sitting in the capital cities spamming messages about cheap gold for sale or leveling services. You also see it in forums by people spamming web sites and contact information. As much as players seem to dislike this, enough players are supporting the market which continues to to make it worth their while.
What keeps it going?
Maybe it's just me, but I thought that the secondary market would have dried up long ago in the World of Warcraft. It may sound naive, but why do you need it in WoW? WoW is insanely easy and fast to level in (even before the recent level speed increase), gold is rarely an issue, and Blizzard is fairly focal and frequent about banning accounts. Given these three things, you would think that it would have disappeared. It hasn't though, if anything it gets bigger all the time. Why?
Here's my thoughts on what I think keeps the market going. I believe it starts from the fact that many players do not really understand the secondary market. They see ads, and figure that if it's out there it must be ok. After all, how many of you have really read the End User Licence Agreement (EULA)? While Blizzard does a decent job at banning gold sellers and advertising it on their site when they do, they have never really made it blatantly obvious to players that it illegal. Would as many of the players that buy gold do it if every other time they logged on there was a big warning on the screen stating something like, "Buying gold or characters is illegal and subject to account deletion"? My guess is that no where near as many would.
The second key factor that I believe keeps the secondary market going, is the apparent non-caring / support for it from the average player. Many believe that what they do is up to them, after all it's not hurting anyone is it? Huh? Am I blaming the average player? Yes to a degree I am. After all, without a market the sellers would not exist.
The companies advertise and spam in nearly every single space they can find both in and out of game, find players willing to pay. In the end enough players either do not care about the legality, or do not realize the illegality (as above), or figure they are not hurting anyone and buy gold. Having proven that their methods work, the companies rinse and repeat, putting out even more spam, and get even more sales.
Who does it hurt?
Many of the players that do buy gold, even though they know it is against the EULA, do so based on the belief that their time is worth more than the money they are trading for the gold. They also justify it based on the fact that they have limited time in game and purchasing gold allows them to enjoy their time in game more. While both may be true to some extent as time spent farming is not that enjoyable and for many with spare cash it would allow them to move on, there are other costs. These players are under the misguided conception that they are not really hurting anyone
The biggest impact that the secondary market has is its effect on the entire WoW economy, both socially and fiscally. Players that buy gold, help continue the cycle, by driving up prices for everyone on in-game goods. By having more gold available to spend (after having purchased gold), players are generally willing to pay higher prices for items in the game. By paying higher prices, sellers quickly mark up their items to even higher prices. This means the prices on the auction house (AH) go up, which drives other players to feel the need to buy gold to buy the items they need, which drives up the AH price further, which... Well, you get the picture, right? It's a never ending circle until the players decide that they are going to get the gold themselves and not pay real money for it. This would cause a decrease in the gold available in game and lower the overall price of items.
In the mean time though, players that have not purchased gold, feel the effects and develop a dislike or hatred for the gold farmers, sellers and buyers. This translates into game tension and even at some point, for players to leave the game.
How do we stop it?
So, how does this ever come to an end? I can think of a few steps that I would take to eliminate it if I was in charge. The first thing that comes to mind is the same solution as almost every other problem in existence, education. Until everyone understands the issue and the ramifications of it, we can't solve it. This editorial is just a small piece of that education. Players need to understand that by participating in the secondary market they are hurting themselves and their fellow players. They also need to know that there are alternatives. If the game really isn't fun enough to do it on your own, there are many other hobbies out there than may appeal to you.
The second thing that's needs to happen is more activity by Blizzard against gold sellers and spammers. While they have eliminated much of the in-game mail spam that once existed, it has simply been replaced by in-game characters standing there yelling about gold sales. It limits it to capital cities, but as long as the advertising exists, players will see it and potentially buy gold from them.
The third thing is that there needs to be a strong anti-gold community stance, and this is really starting to take place. Many sites, not the least of which is our own beloved Ten Ton Hammer, have taken firm anti-gold stances. While this means the loss of very lucrative secondary market advertising funds, it sends the very clear message that "we the players" are against this. To make this effective though, all players need to make every effort to not support gold funded sites, which unfortunately include several very useful sites.
The last thing that needs to happen is more activity against the actual gold buyers. If Blizzard banned or deleted several thousand players that purchased gold and advertised it heavily, it could put the fear of God into other would be purchasers. If players had to actually consider that their loved character that they had spent months working on could disappear due to purchasing gold, they would probably not even contemplate buying it in the first place. Many consider this too harsh a penalty, however I think it is the only way to make the market dry up. Until players no longer are willing to buy gold, the secondary market will always exist. If they fear buying, then the market will disappear.
The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours? Do you side with or against the gold farmers? Do you want to see everyone that uses them banned? Flogged? Or are you ok with the economy the way it is? I want to hear your comments and explanations.