Sunday, January 6, 2008

Online Games Economy - Part 2

Trading of in-game items, gold...etc using real life money (a.k.a Real Money Trade - RMT) is quite a debatable activity from both legal and ethics perspective.

From the legal perspective, it is not clear if the Terms and Conditions for use of the online games would prevent an individual from trading off his in-game items , golds for real life money. Some gaming companies have come out clearly to say they forbid such activities, and any persons found advertising or selling his in-game items, gold would have the account deleted. There are also cases where the company assist players to remove any in-game spams about in-game gold sales. Of course, there are other games / virtual worlds where exchange of in-games gold/ money for real money is allowed, e.g. 2nd Life with an exchange rate of about 265-270 Linden dollars to US$1 (picture below). Some would argue that 2nd Life is not an online- game. Sure, but there is also EVE Online where some form of in-game trade for real life money is allowed when there introduced the 'Eve time Code' prepaid code. Guess real money trade for in-game gold / items is just an arbitrage between those with too much real money but not enough time, and those with too much time but not enough money. Add to the equation is the fact that such trade could take place seamlessly across the globe where income disparity is higher compared to national income disparity and we get flourishing trade.

Having said that, it is not always clear that the gaming company would have absolute say over the games economy or in-game characters' possessions. There are also legal cases where gamers could have an upper hand but I side-tracked.

From an ethical perspective, there are many views about why such RMT should or should not be allowed. Gamers argued that using real life money to power level or get in-game gold / items is not fair to others who have grind their way through to the higher levels or more in-game wealth. While there are also players who said that having the option to 'trade' gold and items among players in the game as an option, means there is an implicit agreement for players to do as they wish with their in-game items. The former group may at times target 'gold farmers' in the game and disturb their 'gold farming'. This Wiki article has a fair bit of description about farming and the reasons why it is a viable business. Picture from a site selling WoW gold shown below.

One downside of such trade is the possibility of fraud, and it is difficult to catch fraud on such online games platform. Would blog about it soon.

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