Anyone associated with online games and MMOs in particular will likely know of dominant in-game item trading firm IGE,
which was founded in 2001 by Brock Pierce and Alan Debonneville. The
two principals were, according to the company, "keen to identify the
need for a safe, reliable trading platform to support the then 'gray
market' RMT of virtual items between MMO game players."
of course, the concept of trading virtual items and currency has also
been a controversial one at times, with the item trading and 'gold
farming' phenomenon much remarked upon in the media and gaming world.
The situation was brought to a head earlier this year, when U.S.
magazine PC Gamer announced that it would no longer carry print ads
from MMO item-selling companies.
the time, PC Gamer EIC Greg Vederman commented: "Lately, 'gold farming'
companies such as IGE and Power Leveling — companies whose business is
the accumulation and (potentially illicit) real-world sale of virtual
MMO property, including gold, in-game items, and characters — have
begun running ads in magazines like ours. For the record, PC Gamer’s
official stance on these types of companies is that they are
despicable: not only do they brazenly break many MMOs’ End-User License
Agreements, but they all-too-often ruin legitimate players’ fun."
addition, a number of those in the MMO community have been concerned
with the way that IGE has been serially acquiring major MMO content
websites in a low-profile fashion, including major item listing sites
Allakhazam and Thottbot and major MMO portal OGaming - none of which
explicitly list IGE or its parent company as the owner on their 'About'
pages. This has led to speculation regarding further item-selling and
website integration in the future.
The IGE-owned Thottbot
fact, IGE has been relatively low-profile in terms of press coverage
throughout its time rising to the top of the MMO item trading industry.
One of its few recent public announcements
has been a partnership with Chinese auction website Alibaba announced
earlier this year to offer items on Alibaba's Taobao online trading
platform, important because major competitor Ebay has been restricting
auctions posted on its commercial service, citing EULA issues.
Gamasutra managed to gain the opportunity to sit down and speak with
James Clarke, IGE's chief operating officer in Asia, during our time in Shanghai
(where Clarke is largely based) last month. We had a chance to find out
more about not only his role at the company, but also IGE's plans
itself, giving a rare insight behind the curtain into the workings of
the MMO trading titan.