Blizzard: Buying Online Gold is Dangerous

Life in the virtual world can be just as devastating as the real world, especially when the two interconnect and bite the player in the rear.

There seems to be a fine line between acceptance and rejection when it comes to purchasing and selling items in MMORPGs. Many companies have attempted to thwart such practices, especially when players look to third party companies for leveling up characters, or gain access to bags of gold by shelling out real world cash. In some cases, such as Jagex's browser-based MMORPG RuneScape, the banning of gold farming cost the company two million active accounts, half of the overall user base, because the players believed gameplay deteriorated once the "anti-gold-farmer" controls were implemented at the end of 2007.

However, despite user feedback, companies such as Jagex and Blizzard appear more concerned about subscriber security and engine code stability, and for good reason. Gold, weapons, armor, and possibly even high-level characters for sale within MMORPGs may very well be stolen, taken from hacked accounts by 3rd-party companies who originally provided a "service"--usually power leveling--to the account owner in previous months. By accessing the account, said companies can not only hijack the account, but steal important information such as credit card numbers, addresses, and other billing information.

"Our developers, in-game support, and anti-hack teams work diligently to stop the exploits these companies use and help players who have become victims of their services," said Blizzard in an official statement located here. "We regularly track the source of the gold these companies sell, and find that an alarmingly high amount comes from hacked accounts. These are the friends, relatives, and guildmates you may know who have gone through the experience of having characters, gold, and items stripped from them after visiting a website or opening a file containing a trojan virus. Our teams work to educate players and assist them in avoiding account compromise, but the fact remains that the players themselves are often these companies' largest target as a source for gold, which the companies then turn around and sell to other players."

Because of the overall security threat these 3rd-party companies represent, Blizzard has banned the use of external power leveling and the selling of gold for real money. In fact, that very reason alone is probably why many MMORPGs are now following suit. Additionally, tracking down potential violators only drains the resources needed to tack down code bugs, thus costing MMORPG companies unnecessary time and money when dealing with gold farmers who, in turn, create realm performance and stability issues through the use of "disruptive hacks." According to Blizzard, any account suspected of illegal in-game activity will be terminated.

"The companies essentially take time away from our development and in-game support efforts as we work to stop their exploits and assist players who have become their victims in recovering characters and items," the company added. "They spam advertisements, use bots that make it hard for players to find the resources they need, and raise the cost of items through inflation."

But why would gamers use an external service? After all, doesn't that take away from the experience of receiving gold through quests and encounters, from the experience of receiving points earned via battle and quest completion? Isn't character progression the whole reason for role-playing in the first place: to evolve the character from a mere peasant to a powerful entity? 3rd party farmers seem more like cheat houses, similar to those devices that hooked up to consoles and provided extra cheats originally not available.

Still, the topic of gold farming and its presence within MMORPGs is not new. In fact, a few articles covering this topic actually displayed a gold farmer advertisement within its Google Adsense window. Curious as to what it offered, the click-through led to Forsaken-Farmers, a site offering everything Blizzard banned from its MMORPG: powerleveling and gold. For $12.50, gamers can get 1000 gold pieces; 10,000 for $125. Want to jack  up the character's level? For $60, the company will level the character to 60. However, the site now has this disclaimer posted on the front page: "Due to Blizzard diligence on stopping gold selling, we no longer offer in-game mailing of gold.  All deliveries are made Face 2 Face and we request that you contact our Live Help staff to setup delivery."

Ultimately, MMORPG subscribers may have to be wary about buying special items in-game, especially when they seem a bit too over-the-top. Gamers should also avoid external powerleveling and gold banks simply because no one should be trusted other than the account owner and Blizzard. Still, as Jagex has seen with RuneScape, many gamers will still reject the new MMORPG laws even though it's in the best interest for everyone.

  • crisisavatar
    Nice they are trying to scare people, I honestly think is a noble idea.
  • bpogdowz
    blizzard lecturing us gurus on PC security. WoW = teh suck
  • brendano257
    "These are the friends, relatives, and guildmates you may know"
    OMG Even Blizzard is beginning to think their game is real and worthy of such 'honorable' terms

    If you will pay 125$ for something in a game...get a life.
  • unlicensedhitman
    I think it's not to scare people, but it is to inform us from the Blizzard's and Jagex's perspective on why buying online gold is dangerous. I play Runescape on and off,and I have never bought any in game items for real life cash because it's not safe and the risk is too high. I have seen some of the websites that sell gold.Some have bogus paypal screens and some tried to give me a trojan. Of course, I have Anti-virus, however many other younger players don't know a darn thing about whats out there on the internet. As a result,this effects many younger players who don't understand that these gold-selling websites are scams to get their personal information, parent's credit card, paypal information,in game account,and their game items.
  • CCP, the makers of EVE, introduced something they call PLEX (Pilot license extension) which is 30-day playtime card that you can buy for about 15$ and sell in-game. The going rate for one is about 350 million isk (interstellar credits) which is a rather good sum of money. So buying once for real money, and thus getting the funds needed to start a "business" in-game,can ultimately allow you to pay for your subscription with in-game money.

    I know this has been done before in other games but just wanted to point it out anyway.
  • Ellimist
    It really is cheating though. I don't care one way or another if people do it but also have no sympathy if they loose their character and items because of it either.

    I mostly play EQ2 and haven't had a problem leveling my character quickly. theres plenty of guides on the good EXP quests to do to level quickly anyway.
  • mdillenbeck
    Silly game makers - don't they smell an opportunity to make money when it stares them in the face? Instead of banning it or pushing gamers out to 3rd party services, offer it yourself!

    Want some gold, a particular item, or extra levels? Get it charged to your account (or convert a game card to cash for these purchases) by visiting the Wizzard.

    This would give them the opportunity to take revenue from these 3rd party services while letting those who can only occasionally game maintain relationships with constant gamers. For example, I stopped playing because my available time dropped to about 1-2 times/month (where I could play up to 10 hours because it was my day off), but the groups I was involved with were able to play almost every day and soon were well beyond my power range. If I could have bought levels, I could keep playing with my group and thus would have still been a customer.
  • Blizzard doesn't want people doing it because of security? What a joke.

    I played eq2. I made a decent amount selling platinum to other players through sony's own station exchange which allowed you to sell and buy characters as well as items and money. I never heard about any higher rate of account hacking on the station exchange servers than on the normal servers.

    Blizzard accounts will be hacked continuously until the game is in the grave. It's the biggest game on the block and people are stupid in their choices of who to trust and in their id/pass choices.

    Having seen what life is like with EQ2 and the station exchange I have no doubt that allowing just one or two wow servers to use the current incarnation of the station exchange, livegamer would not only NOT harm the game in any way, but would actually reduce the amount of hacked accounts.

    Finally, Blizzard is selling a extra security gizmo for like $7 a pop, anything they can do to scare people into buying them is more money for Blizz $$$$
  • stradric
    This is really nothing compared to Second Life where people were buying Linden dollars to put it in the virtual banks that paid out at 100% interest. They had a rude awakening when the money dried up and people weren't able to cash out.

    I agree that Blizzard is missing an opportunity to cash in. But then again, I don't really give a damn since I don't waste my time and money on these games. I waste my time and money on other games.
  • Greatwalrus
    I used to buy gold for an MMORPG called KalOnline :\ I probably spent around $100 on gold an armor.

    I thought it was very worth it at the time, and I kind of still do. I wasn't about to spend any more than that though.