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 Dec 21, 2004 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
* How to police MMORPG economies?

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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft
Wired's got a story on how difficult Blizzard is finding it to crack down on people selling in-game goods for real-life cash. I remember being disgusted by this in FFXI as well - the selling and the spawn-campers who sold spawn items at ridiculous prices, that is.

Many in the virtual worlds community are now trying to determine what methods game developers can use, if any, to retard the growth of such transactions or even if anything should be done.

"There's a lot of debate about whether anything could be done," said Ed Castronova, an expert on the economies of virtual worlds. "People get wrapped up in the mechanics of this particular technology. The broad question is whether someone with policy tools can affect how someone acts."

In its announcement on the World of Warcraft community site, Blizzard stated its policy against the buying or selling of the game's objects for real-world money. Its goal, which many MMO developers share, is keeping the game pure from an inflated economy and from players who buy game attributes rather than earning them. And they often claim that such objects have no real-world economic value.

"If you are found to be selling in-game property (such as coins, items or characters) for real money," the policy says, "you will lose your characters and accounts, and Blizzard Entertainment reserves its right to pursue legal action against you as well."
Basically, it all comes down to sting operations - Blizzard and the rest have to infiltrate the sellers' networks, present themselves as "legitimate" sellers, and then nuke the accounts of suckers who take the bait. A few hundred nuked accounts, and the sellers' networks will dry up.

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