The hot topic of the week is online gold and Real Money Trading (RMT). Players are buying in-game cash, levels and gear and there is no shortage of companies now happy to supply them, despite serious attempts by game producers to gain control of the issue.
It can be difficult to keep up conversations taking place on blogs instead of newsgroups and message boards, so here’s a round-up of the recent discussion, with a brief quote to give you a taste of the post.
Mark Jacobs (Mythic Entertainment) started things off with this post on his blog: Online Games are a Niche Market:
I hate gold sellers/spammers. No, that’s not strong enough, let me try again. I HATE GOLD SELLERS WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING. Ah, that’s better. Now, why do I hate them you may ask? I hate them for a number of reasons, most of which have been detailed in various interviews I’ve done over the years. And now that they have taken their obnoxiousness to new levels with gold service spamming, I HATE GOLD SPAMMERS EVEN MORE NOW THAN EVER BEFORE.
Syp the Engineer kicked the ball into play with his response on Waaagh! A Warhammer Online Blog:
The Golden Rule
The problem doesn’t lie with the gold selling companies — they suck, yes, and they’re going against the EUALA, yes, but they’re providing a service that is in demand. Let’s re-read that sentence, okay? They’re providing a service that’s in demand. If the potential for pay is high enough, shadowy forces will weigh that against the risk and take their chances. The problem lies with Mike, and people like him. People who have no sense of morality or honor in online games. People who go ahead and buy gold to be instantly gratified, and a lesser extent, friends that see them do this and say nothing.
Tobold posts a surprisingly reasoned response to Mark and Syp on his MMORPG Blog:
WAR and RMT
Syp is right in saying that the problem of gold selling is the demand of gold buyers. But his solution is wrong, because he short-sightedly attributes the demand to notions of “morality or honor”, which is just plain silly. Player’s demand for gold is simply a function of how grindy it is to get gold, and what you need that gold for. And that are all questions of game design. It is a lot easier to solve the problem with good game design than to start a successful crusade to stop people from cheating in video games. Google has 80 million hits in a search for “cheats”, most of which are about video games, that isn’t something we can make go away if we all just hold hands and wish for it very, very strongly.
Michael Zenke of MMOG Nation weighs in with his view of the real problem:
On WAR, RMT, and Goldspammers
The truth, though, is that people wanking about the dishonor of goldbuyers and the scourge of goldsellers should really put it back in their pants. For better or worse goldselling is something that’s … well, I’ll say it outright: in my mind it’s not an issue that players have to worry about anymore. Every game I can think of has done their best to deal with goldfarming and spammers at this point. Every one. It’s 2008, and if you are still getting spammed by goldfarmers in-game it’s becuase the game developers want you to be. It’s as simple as that.
Scott Jennings (author of Massively Multiplayer Games for Dummies) puts forward a detailed solution based on treating RMT as vice on Broken Toys:
How To Stop Gold Farming
However, my belief – and this may well be false – is that enlightened self-interest does in fact work, and given the choice between patronizing other players and bad actors for RMT sales, players will patronize other players.
And that, I believe, would completely devastate the third party markets because there was no financial interest for that free market to develop external to the game.
Chris F of I HAS PC weighs in with a different solution:
$0 DOWN, $199/MONTH 2.3% FINANCING
What we need is some sort of solution. An obvious one, but one I haven’t seen or heard much about (I don’t read every blog and website out there, so sorry if it has) is the simplest one of all. Make gold bind on pickup. Eliminate it from the equation altogether. How can we eliminate gold changing hands, without eliminating item trading? Enter the lovely world of leasing.
Matt (Sparkplay Media) writes about their blind auction and arbitage system on his blog, The Forge:
Dual Currencies in MMOs
At Sparkplay, we’re tentatively planning to restrict credit transfers as well as have the currency exchange (blind auction) that Iron Realms has, and I’m reasonably confident it will keep professional gold farmers out of the game. I firmly believe that gold farming isn’t the problem anyway – it’s the behavior of many of the pro gold farmers that’s the problem. Anyone throwing ‘morality’ out there as an indictment against gold farming is not to be taken seriously on the matter in my book, but it’s certainly legitimate to find being spammed with gold ads obnoxious as hell.
Will the next generation see the end of the gold spam? Certainly it seems to be a priority with the developers of the moment.