Gold Sellers, Chat Spam, And You


No matter what measures are taken gold sellers infect MMORPGs like a black cloud of locusts. The swarm descends on the newest game ready for harvest, chomping away until both players and farmers move on to the next field. But gold sellers are also the pond scum that lets you know life lurks beneath the surface. After all, if no one was around to purchase gold broken-English sellers would jump to a new business. Not everyone’s happy about a hijacked general chat with more advertisements than AOL circa 1997. What’s happening?

Popular MMORPGs develop a festering black market where stolen credit cards purchase cash shop cosmetics and gold to sell at a discount. Sometimes private sellers go the legit route, hiring a less than minimum wage factory to farm Sky Shadows in Deadwind Pass (back-in-the-day gold farming). And, of course some players are going to buy, for the same reason my aunt buys pirated DVD’s at the airport: it’s cheaper. Face it. There’s no way to stop the gold sellers.

Who do you think is responsible for gold sellers book-ending borderline cybering in Black Desert Online’s chat log, or any game for that matter? Well, it’s you and I, the players. If we didn’t buy gold from reputable Mr. Ming Xing Hai then he would be busy stitching together Nike shoes (then again both jobs are fairly labor intensive). According to a tenuous 2009 article by Eurogamer, an estimated 30% of players have purchased bannable goods. Former owner of WoW Gold Facts “Extreme Gamer” said:

"In my opinion, the industry would be better served if publishers would recognise that lots of gamers - I've heard it's 30 per cent of the player base - like the benefits of RMT, and work with credible companies and allow it to happen."

The percentage does seem ridiculous, judged from intuition, but someone is buying the gold. And Mr. Extreme Gamer may be right in another way.

Want to combat gold selling dear developer? Sell some gold yourselves. Before the pitchfork brigade throws a brick through my window keep in mind people are going to buy gold no matter what. It’s like drugs in that sense. Making drugs illegal doesn’t stop Bubbles from doing Baltimore dope, and making gold-purchasing a bannable offense doesn’t stop XxXCoolGuy69XxX from inflating the market. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Daum Games can patch Black Desert Online every day for the next year and they will never unmask all of the thieves hiding in their game.

Developers selling gold is undoubtedly a slippery slope into a big hole of spikes labeled “pay-to-win.” It also undermines value in accumulating gold yourself, building up your own trade networks and feeling satisfied that you’re richer than your neighbor. Who can brag in Discord when your inept buddy can fill his wallet with a credit card? Beyond undermining in-game markets, it seems MMORPG chat is destined for spam.

Not that I’m missing out on much. MMORPG chats have never been a bastion of rational discussion—the symposium where the finer points of game mechanics are relished. A part of me is thankful spammers chop senseless conversations, and do so in creative ways: “††††††” repeated ten times. Whereas garrulous players ask questions about game mechanics, tempt others to press “ALT + F4,” and Sir_Derpington eloquently types “FAGGOTS, KILL YOURSELVES.” MMORPG chats bounce between honest questions and irrelevant trolling. There is something magical about channel-wide player chat—it’s as if the soul of Barrens latches onto every game—but I can't say my eyes mind the break from bleeding every now and then.

So, there’s two choices for developers: sell gold yourselves or don’t and as a consequence let the black market flourish. I’m all for letting the black market backalley keep rolling. I’m not offended by gold spam. And at this point it feels natural to the genre. I would probably miss “WXyss” if she stopped spamming her nonsensical domain wrapped in neat “█.” I would wonder, "where are they now?" Because gold farming creates jobs. We all like jobs don’t we? Maybe that ought to be a presidential candidate's platform: “Bring gold selling jobs back to American shores!” (Not that they were ever local in the first place.)

Gold spammers are as natural to MMORPGs as a login screen. They’re the cockroaches of the genre; squashing one leaves an enormous noxious mess and attracts more to the chatroom. But they’re familiar cockroaches, the ones that lived in your overpriced college apartment. Without them it’s not the same. Sure, the place is cleaner but it’s lost it’s charm.

You can disagree with me and leave a comment disputing everything I’ve said. But I’ll tell you what you can’t disagree with. If an MMORPG has a playerbase there’s gold sellers lurking somewhere between the walls.


Eurogamer: 30 per cent of MMO players buy gold
NPR: China's 'Gold Farmers' Play a Grim Game

Photo credit: Gold Chains by AZAdam - (photo was altered for the purposes of this post). 

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.