As part of Gamasutra's latest feature
, an in-depth examination of how MMO economies really function, Trion Worlds studio general manager Scott Hartsman explains exactly how gold farmers hurt developers and players.
"If you're talking about what different kinds of fraud exist in the world, the ones that for us as a developer and a publisher, the kinds of fraud that concern us the most, are the actual credit card frauds," Hartsman tells Gamasutra.
The problem is that unscrupulous gold farmers turn around and perpetrate fraud on the same players take make use of their services, says Hartsman.
"Where you go buy gold from a disreputable gold site, and they say 'thank you' and deliver your gold, and sell your credit card number, or start registering accounts with your credit card.
"It's those kinds of things where people laugh and go, 'Oh, that never happens.' No. It happens. It happens a shitload. To the point where, over the last three or four years, I would dare anybody to ask an exec at a gaming company how much they've had to pay in Master Card and Visa fines, because of fraud. It happens a lot."
Unfortunately, he says, the effects of this on games are palpable: "Those fines are money that should be going into making games better, and instead they're going into fighting the fact that people are jerks in the world."
The full feature, an in-depth look into how the gold economy functions in MMOs, features quotes from developers and analysis from MMO economy expert Simon Ludgate, and is live now on Gamasutra