Friday, June 08, 2007

Class-action suit for virtual gold farming

(via Terra Nova) I missed this one during my travels, but I find it such a great story. A Florida law firm has initiated a class-action suit against Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE), a gold farming company based in Hong Kong and Delaware. According to the plaintiff, one Mr Antonio HernĂ¡ndez, he "spent hundreds of hours" playing World of Warcraft, spent $100 USD on the game and game expansion, and spent $15 USD per month on subscription fees. According to Mr Fernandez, this constitutes a substantial investment on his part on the game and its mechanics.

His argument is that IGE and other gold farmers act against the terms and conditions specified in WoW's EULA and Terms of Use, which specify that the user may not sell items for real money outside of the virtual world. IGE uses gold farmers from developing countries, who are paid to collect the gold, which IGE will then sell for "real" currency. The current exchange rate for 11,000 gold in WoW is $ $1,425 USD. Yes, you read correctly, more than a thousand dollars. Similarly, a Level 60 Female Night Elf Hunter with weapons and mount is sold for $279.99 USD in a European server.

Similarly, the plaintiff claims that IGE has sold virtual gold for millions of dollars, and that the amount of gold on sale is such that it creates a tangible economic damage to "honest" players because it devalues the currency and their own their efforts, it reduces the amount of virtual goods available to them, and it also places their characters at a disadvantage in PvP, because they are not willing to purchase powerful items through the farming system.

Although I find these claims spurious, there may be something to be said for the economic effects of farming. If resource drops are limited, as claimed by the plaintiff, then farming would certainly have severe economic consequences in the virtual world. However, if item and loot drops are instanced per kill (as in City of Heroes), it would not matter how many people are farming resources, you would all have a chance to get a drop because the system works on percentages. In City of Heores you are more likely to receive rare items by killing bosses than minions, and some special missions are guaranteed to produce a rare recipe upon completion.

My question is, what sort of gamer would purchase virtual gold? Where's the fun in that?

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