Our decision to drop advertising that benefits the secondary market (Gold sales predominantly) has created ripples around many game communities. So much so, that when I threw out the idea of keeping a master list of "Gold Free" sites I was drowned in a flood of e-mail asking that we make it happen.
Here's the deal, we can't run around checking on every site to see if they are "Gold Free". If you work for or run a "Gold Free" site drop me a line. We'll check it out and if things look on the up and up then we'll add you to the list. Our crack team of readers is sure to let us know if you slip up, so no cheating! In a perfect world, this list would become the place for publishers to visit when they had advertising dollars to spend and for readers to visit to insure they did not unknowingly promote sites owned by gold selling companies or who promote gold sales.
Make no mistake, the secondary market is big business. This isn't a mom and pop show being run from some basement in Lower Slobobia. To quote one of the largest companies servicing the secondary market;
"Analysts estimate the 2005 marketplace for virtual assets in MMOGs is approaching $900 million. Some experts believe that the market for virtual assets will overcome the primary market—projected to reach $7 billion by 2009—within the next few years."
If this is true, people are spending nearly as much money on the secondary market as they are on the games themselves. An article from May, 2005 on GameSpot reported the following:
"According to data gathered by Advanced Economic Research Systems, a company that tracks eBay sales, through April more than $2 million was spent on World of Warcraft (WOW) gold this year. Most of the company's employees are dedicated WOW players, and CEO Anthony Sukow began to examine the statistics after making a questionable purchase of his own.
"I have purchased some gold on eBay," Sukow admitted. "You're not supposed to do that." But that inspiration revealed that capitalism is going strong, even in fantastical realms that only exist as ones and zeros.
"I was just amazed at the sheer volume of transactions," Sukow said.
Sukow discovered that the top seller of WOW gold made more than $23,000 in April, just on WOW gold. And that wasn't even a good month--in January and February the number-one seller took home more than $44,000 each month. "
Sony Online Entertainment, the publisher of EverQuest and EverQuest 2 blocked the sale of items and currency on EBay. Sony then turned around and began selling the same commodities in-house as part of their Station Exchange program. ZDNet had this to say:
"And judging by the results of Station Exchange's first 30 days of operation, during which the system saw more than $180,000 in transactions, quite a number of EQ2 players have cashed in on the exchange, which allows gamers to trade real cash for virtual items used in the game."
So why don't more individuals enter the market and make some money rather than spending it? If the market is as large as stated then surely there is room for the little guys even if the 800 pound gorillas are already taking the majority of what the market has to offer. The answer is that they *are* entering the market, "farming" for gold and selling items. The difference is that they are selling the goods to the 800 pound gorillas, who then resell them to the end-user. It wasn't always this way. In the early days of EverQuest items were often traded on EBay. In fact, it was a lucrative revenue source for the online auctioneer. That all came to a screeching halt when Sony Online Entertainment asked that the sale of goods be blocked on the premise that the "intellectual property" belonged to them. One individual who was a participant in the trading of secondary market items was Julian Dibbell. TerraNova wrote this about Dibbell's experiment:
"Julian Dibbell reports that his year-long experiment in virtual item trading from the fantasy world of Ultima Online netted him, in its final month, a tidy profit of $3,917. Over the course of a year, that would be $47,000. The self-imposed challenge here was to beat his best-ever earnings as a writer, but that's not the only benchmark one could apply. Consider the following:
GDP per capita in both China and India: Below $700
Average earnings of short-order cooks: $17,000
US poverty line for a family of 4: $18,400
Average earnings of dancers: $27,000
Average earnings of drug abuse counselors: $32,000
Average earnings of firefighters: $38,000
Average earnings of museum curators: $40,000
Average earnings of secondary school teachers: $46,000
Trader Dibbell: $47,000
Average earnings of insurance salesmen: $54,000
Average earnings of computer programmers: $63,000
Average earnings of economists: $76,000
Average earnings of lawyers: $108,000"
When World of Warcraft appeared on the scene the sound of the secondary market players rubbing their hands together echoed across the planet. Then Blizzard blocked the sale of WoW items on EBay and the market, like water, chose the flow of least resistance. In this case that flow was directly into the pockets of the large secondary market companies. Blizzard then banned over 1,000 accounts for "farming" gold. The bannings had little effect, with the secondary market as strong as ever.
Banning accounts doesn't work. A gold farmer can have a character back to farming level in days. Publishers have a difficult job containing the secondary market, but if they are truly against the practice of selling their intellectual property then they need to do more. TenTonHammer.com dropped secondary market advertising as our best means of helping publishers reach their goal of slowing the tide. Game sites, publishers, fans, and the community as a whole will need to work together if the secondary market is to feel any repercussions. So far, that just isn't happening.
I'll write more about this tomorrow, touching on the "sweat shops" of Asia and the covert purchase of your favourite websites by secondary market companies.
Comments? Flames? Send them here!
Game Movie: Amish Paradise - Your skill in butter churning has increased to (12).
Vin Diesel Fact of the Day:
Vin Diesel won the Kentucky Derby without a horse. [Thanks Troon]
We have some fantastic new network content for you today. Jeff even managed to wrangle you a discount on Irth Online
thanks to the folks at Magic Hat!
Why are players leaving World of Warcraft and returning to EverQuest 2?
The Auto Assault
team took a look at post-apocalyptic humour and talked to a regular Joe.
Our Dungeons and Dragons Online
winners were announced. If you entered, you'd better check it out.
team finds out what an Ogre wears under their kilt and chats with the good folks of the Druids Grove.
Which World of Warcraft mods get top marks? WoW potions explained.
A look at Guild Wars Factions and another great PvP build.
All this and more is yours...read on!
Here's what's new on the network!
- Irth To TenTonHammer, Part 2
"I feel a little bit like a Ginsu knife commercial spokesman listing everything this interview has in store for you, so... hey, it's late and I'm gonna go with it! Not only does Thomas Gale, artist for Irth Online (the newest MMO to hit the market, a game known for its unique skill system and one-of-a-kind PvP setup) discuss the tools and knowledge it takes to become a quality game artist, he'll even tell you what makes Irth artistically unique among its peers.
But wait, there's more! Irth Online's developer, Magic Hat Software, was kind enough to send along five exclusive screenshots for your viewing pleasure.
But wait, there's more! The developers might just pull a special discount offer out of their Magic Hat (sorry) for readers of this article! Click the link now, our site is standing by!"
- Auto Assault: Interview With The Regular Joe
"This week we interview someone really special to the Auto Assault community. Someone you might not know either. That's right, we interview the casual Auto Assault player taggle. Noone popular, just someone who was graced with the ability to play the Auto Assault closed beta. Even though he doesn't have the best loot or even his own brand of mouses, he has realstic views and opinions on the game. So this month, let's look at the views and opinions of just a regular Joe of Auto Assault."
- Auto Assault: Roadstop Comedy Club - Part 2
"Last we left Devrek he had just gotten a new job at the Roadstop Comedy Club. They probably made a mistake by hiring him.
Nevertheless, this week we bring you another episode of the epic adventure of Devrek. This stand-up comic is trying to make his harsh living in the wastelands through the power of comedy and his hate of the penguin race. Join him this week as he discuses the fashion of duct tape hats and how penguins can read your mind."
- Dungeons and Dragons Online: Create Your Character Contest Winners
"DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer is pleased to announce the winners for the Create Your Character Contest. We asked DDO fans to write their most creative descriptions of their player characters, and we received several dozen fantastic entries. Our two winners received an identical amount of votes (from the DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer staff) to tie at first place. The winning entries are: Cost, by Andrew Ferguson, and The Goblin Thief, by Richard Davey. Our winners will each receive a DDO pre-order, so they'll be ready to play when DDO launches on February 28th. Congratulations to our talented winners and runners-up!"
- Vanguard: Wolves, Trees and a Pint of Ale
"Today Lady Sirse shines the community spotlight on The Druid's Grove. A class site that has been a haven for Druids of all sorts since 1999. She talks to one of the current administrators of the Grove's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes side of the site. So grab a drink and kick back while we have a chat and find out what exactly goes on in the Grove."
- Vanguard: What is the Well Dressed Ogre Wearing?
"Just in time for Spring, our MMO fashion guru Eliana takes a look at some do's and dont's for those that know the importance of a good impression when showing up for a raid!"
- Coming Home! Leaving the Most Popular MMO Behind and Why
"Unless you've been in a cave, or living with the Amish, you've probably heard of World of Warcraft. Those of us familiar with it, know it flexes its dominance like Godzilla in Tokyo. What brings people back to Everquest 2 from such an apparently popular game? RadarX interviews two people who have recently returned and finds out what World of Warcraft is doing right and what can turn people off to it."
- World of Warcraft: Guide to Alchemy
"Being an Alchemist allows you to create powerful potions that will help you and your friends in the World of Warcraft. From the common healing and mana potions to the high end flasks available only to alchemist masters there is something useful to create. Alchemy also allows you to transmute many items from one thing to another, this includes iron to gold and elemental essences form one type to another."
- World of Warcraft U.I. Mod Reiews - Titan Panel
"We review our second WoW UI mod. It's an addon that many players consider indispensible, pinning two extra-thin, information-packed bars at the top and bottom of the screen. What's perhaps even more impressive is the array of modules already available to customize these bars to your liking."
- World of Warcraft: U.I. Mod Reviews - Decursive
Our third WoW UI Mod. An addon that allows easier removal of player debuffs, a must have for all raids if you play a class that removes debuffs."
- Guild Wars: Arena Build - Poison Assassin
"Enter a new assassin. One that is not an A/W pre-made template. One that throws notions of defense to the wind and goes all out in an offensive rampage. One that deeply inflicts poison and bleeding wounds upon victims on the ground. Taking upon challengers in the arenas, it is hard to find a match among either hard or soft targets."
- Guild Wars: Taking a Stab at Factions
"With the Factions event going on this weekend, we're getting a peek at the new classes and some of the abilities they're bringing with them. PvP is going fast and furious right now, with everyone eager to take the new Ritualist and Assassin classes out for a spin. In this update, I've listed five of the most interesting looking skills off the Assassin's elite list."
- EverQuest 2: Guide to Maj'Dul"The City of Maj'Dul is home to thieves, cuthroats, snake charmers, and three government factions pitted against each other in a struggle that has lasted over 100 years. This level 50 zone is not for the weak. Almost every NPC is attackable, many of them with sharp shiney things to poke you with. Slide shows us some "recreational" things of note in this dangerous, sandy city as he keeps a tight fist on his purse. Yes, he carries a purse. "
- EverQuest 2: Interview With a Brewmaster Who Makes EQ2 Themed Beer
"I enjoy high-quality, unique beers like some people enjoy Renaissance paintings. While college friends were pounding swill and sleeping away the weekends, I much preferred a quiet chat with a few close friends, enjoying a random selection from our favorite tavern's sizable beer list. I still, on occasion, will travel far and pay big a few favorites by the case when I can't find my McEwan's Scotch Ale, Beamish, or Franziskaner Weiss at the local establishments."
- AARP Takes On EverQuest 2
"The word veteran in "veteran gamer" doesn't usually refer to the 50-plus set, but TTH's own Patrick "Troon" Connoy puts hands to keyboard to describe his introduction to and enjoyment of EverQuest 2. That is, as a proud member of a little-known (but steadily growing) gaming demographic!"
Now on to the real world. You can't make this stuff up.
As always, thanks for visiting TenTonHammer.com,
-- John "Boomjack" Hoskin