The Price of World of Warcraft RMTs in the Auction House

Updated Tue, Aug 02, 2011 by Xerin

Diablo 3 looks like it will have a Real-Money-Trade system placed in for the buying and selling of in-game items but could this feature somehow make its way to World of Warcraft? Okay, so here’s the deal. In Diablo 3 you can list items up in the auction house for sale for real world cash, USD, YEN, whatever floats your boat. If another player buys it then Blizzard takes an eBay™ transaction fee out of it and then you’re given the money directly in your PayPal™ account. You can sell anything from items and dyes all the way to characters. The big question many players have is will we see people able to buy in-game items for real life cash in our favorite online game: World of Warcraft?

The truth is, I honestly don’t know and I’m placing bets that there is a small chance we will. Normally I’d say that Blizzard wouldn’t dare cross that line but here is the thing: it happens anyway. Don’t say it doesn’t, in all likelihood you’re guilty in some way of buying something inside of the game for real world currency. Look at eBay or forums designed to allow players to buy, sell, and trade in-game items and characters. There isn’t any stopping it, the Chinese gold farmers to this day still exist and are bartering their wares of hundreds of different websites.

Now, before you get your pitchforks, let’s do a quick apple and orange shaped apples comparison. Diablo 2 had a particular website where you could buy/sell/trade items and characters for points on that website which were bought for real life money. Not only that, eBaying™ things in D2 was easy as pie and honestly, it had no effect on anything since you weren’t going to end up paying real life money to “win” the ladder, so no one cared.

In World of Warcraft items are like magic (and, strangely enough, are filled with magic) and are used persistently in a persistent world. Having a better item or a full set of something is super important and has a big impact on gameplay for you, your guild, and the server. So paying $20 for the best shield in the game from the uber elite raider may be considered by many to be unfair, at the same time, it’s already achievable by simply buying gold then buying the item off of the auction house.

Which is better? Supplying the illegal gold farming companies with gold or just giving the money directly to the player with the item? Both, right now, are in illegal in the game but I can tell you one thing: I’d rather see the money go straight to a real actual WoW player if someone was going to do it then I would like to see it go to gold farmers.

One neat quirk about something like this is that I’m sure, right now, you’re saying couldn’t the gold farmers just use WoW to peddle their ill-gotten gains? Well, we’re looking at a few things here. First, to sell an item that would fetch anything more than a shiny dime we’re looking at items that are either rare (companion pets and the such) or come from end-game instances. So they aren’t going to be getting their hands on those types of things in bulk (and if they could, oh they would be selling them like mad).

Will you see players in mass farming zones to try and find rare drops to put on the AH? Who knows...

Second, I’m sure that with D3 Blizzard will make sure you have to actually link your PayPal™ account to them and will have a huge fraud detection system online to stop it. First, it’s for your local currency, so you’re not going to link your Chinese WoW account into the North American servers. Second, you can’t make new verified PayPal™ accounts with ease. Games like Second Life have strict rules about where Lindens go to and come out of, and if a company like Linden Labs can keep things secure then I’m sure Blizzard could.

So, let’s look at the facts. Are we going to be seeing real life money prices in the auction house soon? I doubt it. Would it be a horrible idea? By Doomhammer no! It would simply circumvent an already existing (and illegal) process that many players exploit currently to bring it more into legal territory. Not only that, it’d provide an excellent way for WoW players to produce a bit of extra income from their constant farmings or guilds to come up with a way to foot guild hosting (or even better, a way to snag a bit of money to hook yourself up with a Ten Ton Hammer Premium Membership for our awesome PlayerScore perks).

At the end of the day, I feel that this move with Diablo 3 is a step in the right direction and would love to see something similar in WoW, although with a few caveats. Disagree? Come bring your thoughts to our comments section below. Love the idea? I’d still love to hear your thoughts!

My concern with your article is that you're suggesting a flawed method that is simply better than another flawed method. How about we address the root cause, which is that WOW allows everything to carry a price tag yet the only method of control being character level or class. Allowing this system to continue, but in another form, will mean still yield the same results- an Azeroth that is full of players with high Gearscores and low skill levels, and a currency system that is open to abuse.

As a suggestion, I think there should be (something along the lines of) an achievement requirement linked to items that are currently only obtainable in end-game PVE instances. This would allow those who've run the content (but can't get the drop they need) the opportunity to buy items with in-game currency.

Similarly for PVP, a high Arena/BG rating would be required for top-tier Gladiator items. Subsequently, this system could also be tailored to reduce the need to wholly rely on grinding large volumes of Honour/Conquest points, meaning those who play less frequently aren't as disadvantaged.

I know these suggestions don't fully address the problem, but they may take us one step closer to improving the effectiveness of in-game currency. Food for thought :)


My problem with the article is that you pretty much come out and say the entire player base are scumbags. What's with the "In all likelihood, you have...."

No, I haven't. Neither has any of the people I play with. Clearly, YOU have, or you wouldn't have said that.

Here's a nickles worth of free advice from someone in the publishing business:

Try not to take a pretentious, smarmy stance in your writing, because it only makes you look, you guessed it, pretentious and smarmy. It's fun to prognosticate, but try to avoid dragging a large portion of your (soon-to-be-former) readers through the mud in the process.


My first reaction: lousy idea. And no, I've never done RMT, thank you very much. But then I started thinking about it...

After leveling a couple of other characters, I decided to try a Hunter. I'd gotten him through the starting zones, then got really bored doing old world content yet again and semi-abandoned him. But - aha - my nephew wanted to take up WoW but was short on cash. So I bought him the game, and the game time, and did the Recruit-a-friend thing. A few "gimme" levels, and - BOOM - my Hunter was ready for Outland, complete with a zherva mount that I won't use much because I can fly now. Still a long way from max level (this was in Wrath days) but a whole lot closer than I had been.

So, I spent over a hundred bucks for a slightly-over-mid-level character with a gimmicky mount. Yes, I got to enjoy the game with my nephew, which was fun. But honestly, getting him into the game was at best a thinly veiled excuse.

Why did I do that and not just pay for a leveling service? (And probably pay a lot less, I dunno what they charge). It didn't break any rules, it didn't expose me to any financial risk due to identity theft, no worries about an account ban. In short - I indeed had participated in RMT in a roundabout way, and the experience was pretty positive. I just wish it had been a little cheaper.

So, maybe not such a bad idea after all.

No, I've never traded my real life moniez for in-game warez either through official, sanctioned channels or a farming service. Other than my initial purchase and subscription fee, all my spoils have been acquired strictly through gameplay.

You make a point or two about the benefits of microtransaction system in WoW, or how the "economy" of past Diablo games were pretty much unbound and broken. But I'm pretty turned off by the accusation that I have ever participated in such things, or even that most of the people I've played with did so either. Yes, I've had a guild leader who bought gold for an epic staff back in vanilla, and I know that kind of thing is popular enough for a lot of players to resort to it. But I don't appreciate having the majority of players, including myself, thrown under the same tarp just so you can rationalize a cash-grab by Actiblizz.


People actually buy gold and leveling? I always assumed that idiots like that got their account stolen and credit cards maxed out by some guy in china like they deserve. Sure go for it blizzard you get your RMT on I'll be playing SWTOR anyways by then.

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