Gold farming is an inevitable part of online gaming. Not everybody has the time or desire to farm the gold necessary for repairs, equipment, potions, and other in-game products in games like World of Warcraft, and choose to purchase in-game currency with real money to get a leg up despite it typically being against the terms of service.
Gold Farming Has Real Repercussions
It doesn’t sound all that terrible in theory, but purchasing gold gained through gold farming can have disastrous consequences on a game’s economy. Increasing the amount of gold available on a server can cause inflation, making auction house prices outrageous for those who don’t purchase their gold.
Some gold comes from people playing the game and selling the money they earn, others from bots and exploiting flaws in the game. Some more nefarious methods of generating gold come from hacking other players’ accounts, creating new accounts with stolen credit cards, or other shady dealings to help generate the gold people want. While not all gold farmers are using these methods, the reliance on buying gold does lead to less-than-savory methods of generating gold.
There are also some real-world moral issues—many of these gold farming operations are known as “virtual sweatshops” due to their reputation for long hours and low pay, and it’s difficult to know which ones use shady methods and which ones don’t.
Blizzard Fights Gold Farming With New Tokens
Because Blizzard produces the most popular MMORPG in the world, they’re no stranger to dealing with the repercussions of gold farming. With the release of Diablo 3 they attempted to make a profit off of those who preferred to buy their gear with real-world money with their auction house system, which was discontinued in 2014. The trouble with the auction house was that it completely undid the purpose of the game—if players could defeat the lord of all evil by purchasing weapons and armor with real money, what was the point of playing the game?
In World of Warcraft, Blizzard is taking a different approach. Starting April 7, they’ll introduce tokens that can be purchased for real money. World of Warcraft players in need of in-game gold can now purchase tokens for real-world money and sell them on the auction house for a guaranteed price. Other players can exchange their in-game gold for 30 days of game time, offering a legitimate, Blizzard-sanctioned method of fighting gold farmers with a benefit for players and the company alike. The idea is borrowed from EVE Online and WildStar, both of which allow players to purchase game time with an in-game currency.
Will This Anti Gold Farming Measure Work?
Blizzard has obviously put a lot of care and consideration into this plan to eliminate gold farming. Banning and responding to hacks as they appear is only a temporary solution, but allowing players to trade real-world money for gold in a way that benefits the company is a solid alternative to the often shady business of buying gold. For players who want the gold but don’t want to support gold farmers, this is the perfect alternative. It’s also a great way to get players who might have lapsed subscriptions, but lots of gold, to pick up the game again.
Prices will be fixed, meaning players won’t be able to undercut one another on the auction house. The amount you list it for, which is controlled by Blizzard, will be the amount you receive after a transaction, with no cut taken by the auction house.
That doesn’t mean the plan is foolproof. Gold farmers work for cheap, meaning gold will likely still be available from farmers for obscenely cheap prices. Four thousand gold costs around five dollars depending on which server a player is on, meaning that if Blizzard wants to eliminate gold farming entirely they’ll have to price the tokens competitively. And if the tokens are priced too competitively—for the price of an equivalent amount of gold, for instance—they’ll be in danger of losing monthly subscriptions to the cheaper tokens.
As of the initial announcement, the tokens will be 20 US dollars and 30,000 in-game gold. That undercuts gold farmers by a significant amount (between nine and 70 dollars, depending on seller), but these numbers will fluctuate as time goes on.
It’s a delicate balance, but Blizzard has more than likely considered the potential danger in it. Gold farmers will most likely lower their prices in response, but those who prefer a legitimate method of purchasing in-game currency now have an alternative to buying from gold farmers.
It may not be a perfect solution to the problem, but the fact that Blizzard is now offering an incentive to purchase gold legitimately is a step in the right direction. Only time will tell whether it will solve the rampant hacking and inflation problems World of Warcraft players experience, but it’s unlikely to make the situation worse, and it’s hoped that the token system will not only revitalize the game’s economy but also bring in new players who might have turned away due to the monthly subscription.
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