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Report: MMO 'Gold Farmers' Make Up 85% Of $3B 'Gaming Services' Industry
Report: MMO 'Gold Farmers' Make Up 85% Of $3B 'Gaming Services' Industry
April 11, 2011 | By Mike Rose

"Gold farmers" in Asia who stockpile game currencies to sell to MMO players now make up 85 percent of the $3 billion global "third-party gaming services" industry, according to a new report [PDF] from The World Bank Group's InfoDev arm.

That $3 billion figure is from 2009, and includes revenue generated from services such as gold farming (85 percent) and power-leveling (15 percent) for MMO players.

"Gold farmers," or those players who collect in-game currency to sell to other players, should be encouraged, as these services could aid development in poorer countries, the report suggests.

Western players have limited time to collect resources in popular MMOs such as World of Warcraft, and therefore are increasingly turning to other players to supply them with gear and items at a price.

The report says that the supply chain for these goods has developed into a full blown business model, with individuals working together to secure as much currency as possible, and splitting the revenue between a retailer and a "farmer."

It is suggested that around a quarter of MMO players spent real money on in-game items, with some paying significant amounts to help their characters expand more quickly.

Dozens of Chinese virtual item retailers now make around $1 million each year from the practice, with nearly a dozen retailers making as much as $10 million on a yearly basis.

[UPDATE: An earlier version of this story referred to the global virtual goods market instead of the "third-party gaming services" industry. We've updated the piece and apologize for any confusion.]

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sophie dionne
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I wouldnt risk my WoW account for a couple of gold...

Shava Nerad
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Cory Doctorow has got to be grinning today. Read his novel, FTW, ( and then toss him some money if you love it. The only speculative fiction on game behavior analysis, poverty amelioration, labor rights, gold farmers, and adventure! ;)

Fredrik Liliegren
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How long will it take these western MMO guys to understand that its OK to charge for easy of prograssion, rather than chasing these farmers, whom are destroying the experience anyway, just sell the items for cash in the game as well as currency just like all the asian MMO's do. Now all that cash that are flowing away from the game makers would now be collected instead.


Kim Pittman
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Honestly there is no reason people should turn to EULA breaking gold buying. WoW and Blizzard has already set up the ability to buy gold. Just buy one of the TCG mount cards off ebay (100-1000 bucks) and then activate it in game, and sell the resulting BoE item on the auction house for more gold than the equivalent gold buying price would net you. Bam, all the gold you could ever want, and completely legit.

Also this way, you aren't supporting people who's main way of getting the gold isn't farming it anymore, but rather hacking accounts.

Matt Cratty
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The problem is that those gold farming business also set up account stealing businesses to fulfill their gold sales. They aren't entrepreneurs only, there's a huge amount of thievery. Its to the point that I wish they'd entirely lock out Asian IPs from NA/Euro servers. So, no, they should not be supported in any way.

As to Fredrek's post, I hope that the earth crashes into the sun before your vision is ever realized.

Dennis Crow
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Calling gold farming a "Gaming Services" industry is like calling real world counterfeiting a "Financial Services" industry. Both are illegal and don't deserve the legitimacy that this reporting gives them.

Cody Scott
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agreed. Breaking an EULA to make a profit is breaking a license and legal action can be taken. Calling this a service slaps every developer who has been fighting it. And if you didnt earn it, its not worth it.

William Ravaine
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Some kind of "Virtual Federal Reserve" comes to mind :P

Sean Danielson
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The World Bank Group is a bunch of delusional idiots who are only focused on money, and have no interest in the ethics of how that money is made.

Therefore, I call their report garbage.

I don't need to explain my reasons why - it's evident that the gold farming industry is no longer "gold farming" to an extent...the real players of that "industry" will turn to hacking as a quick-and-dirty means of acquiring currency to sell.

And hacking is bad.

Unless it's, of course, for National Security. Savvy?