Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How WoW could ruin gold farmers easily

A commenter assured me that gold farming in WoW isn't so bad any more. So I entered "WoW Gold" into Google, got 5 million hits, and checked how prices are nowadays. On US servers you pay $80 for 1,000 gold, on Euro servers €40. Lots of supply, it appears the business is booming. Maybe WoW got less spammers now, but the gold farming hasn't gone away. Now some rejected my opinion that dev-controlled gold selling was better than black market gold selling. I respect that as a valid opinion, even if I think that Blizzard makes more money from gold farmers than SOE does. Just multiply all the bannings per year with the cost of a new account, it's effectively a tax on gold farming. But if we don't want to get the gold farmers out of business by sanctioning RMT, we have to come up with something else. How can we stop gold farming in WoW?

Well, the farming itself you can't stop, unless it's done by bots. A guy in the Chinese sweatshop I keep reading about in all major newspapers farming 5,000 gold to sell them will be indistinguishable from a guy farming 5,000 gold to buy an epic flying mount for himself. If we want to stop gold farmers / sellers, we need to stop them from getting that gold to their customers. And for once that is actually an easy task. Because all the gold farmers use the same method to supply their customers: The WoW mail box. So we have to ask ourselves:

Does World of Warcraft absolutely need the ability to send gold by mail?

I think the sending gold by mail option could easily be removed and replaced by options that don't help gold sellers. I don't know about you, but most of the gold I mailed went to my other characters. So why not have a gold transfer functionality on the character selection window? Hey, add the ability to transfer gold to all your characters there, even from Alliance to Horde, and the new option will be hailed as being more player friendly. The other legit gold transfer, to friends and guild mates, doesn't really need a mail box. You can give them the gold when meeting them. Yes, a bit less convenient, but you should be meeting your friends in game often enough anyway.

But for the gold sellers the removal of gold sending by mail would be a logistical nightmare. It wouldn't totally stop their business, but slow it down considerably if they would have to meet every single customer avatar to avatar.

Human nature is hard or maybe even impossible to change. RMT is a form of cheating, trying to get ahead faster by spending some money. Appeals to the better nature of 9 million WoW players will never stop RMT. But if buyers and sellers certainly are responsible for the existence of RMT, so are the developers. Game features like easy money transfer and big money sinks are aiding and abetting gold sellers. World of Warcraft shouldn't be designed for the maximum convenience of gold sellers. Removing the option of sending gold by mail would be a big step to reducing gold selling to a far more manageable level.

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