Real Money Trading: Don’t Be Naive.

I’m a long time MMORPG player, coming up to almost 7 years if I count correctly. I haven’t been playing any recently since I’ve had so many other games to play (and 3 still awaiting their turn) but whenever there’s a drought of good game releases I’ll usually find myself back in World of Warcraft or the new MMO of the day. During that time I believe I’ve got a good feel for the general MMORPG community as I’ve been involved in nearly every aspect of those games, from the lowly casual just looking for an hour of fun to the 3AM hardcore raider who’s friends question his sanity.

One of the bugbears of the MMORPG community has always been that of players with more in real life (IRL) cash buying their way past parts of the game that less financially well off people have had to slog through. It’s a genuine gripe as it serves to lessen the value of their in game achievements if someone can just slap down their credit card and get the same thing. Most MMORPGs strictly forbid any form of real money trading because of this, usually banning people from selling in game items and currency and shutting down accounts that are caught doing so. There are a few that condone it in a limited sense, like EVE Online that allows users to sell game time (keeping all the money in CCP’s pockets), but they are in the minority.

You’d think being a long time MMORPG player that I’d be with the community on this one but I’ll have to admit to using a real money trading (RMT) service in the past. You see back when I was just starting out in EVE Online I wasn’t terribly familiar with the games rather ruthless take on death. For the most part I had stayed in high sec space, running PVE missions and slowly building my way up to one of the sexier battleships. I eventually got it and started running missions with it and that’s when I was introduced to the world of high sec piracy. Not long after getting my shiny Megathron I lost it, along with all the cash I had plunged into it. Angry and frustrated I turned to the online ISK sellers in order to get myself back to where I was, shelling out $25 real dollars to get myself back on my feet. I went back there once more in order to get myself ahead again, but I haven’t used any RMT services since then.

To me the fact that a player can pay a token amount to get ahead doesn’t lessen the achievement any more for me, mostly because I know that despite the game developer’s best efforts it still goes on in every MMORPG. No matter how many characters they ban or currency they remove from the world there will always be a legion in waiting, ready to service those who’s credit card is more readily accessible than their free time. The best thing game developers can do in this instance then is to make sure that there are approved channels for doing so within the game so that players can easily tell who’s bought their way into success. Driving it underground just ensures that the game developers are missing out on some potential revenue, whilst the players still suffer in the same way.

You can imagine then how disappointed I was when I read how naive the World of Warcraft community was being when the release of a new pet, the Guardian Cub, that was tradeable in game sparked widespread concern that RMT was coming:

The other, major, thing which sets the Guardian Cub apart? It’s tradable. Once you’ve purchased it, you can on-sell the little guy to other characters, in exchange for in-game gold or items – and you can set the price. Sticking with the “one-time-only” theme, once you’ve handed the Guardian Cub over, he will be added to the recipient’s Companions list and cannot be re-traded again later. “Be sure to choose a master wisely,” warns Blizzard.

Costing the now-standard US$10, but tradable for almost anything you’d like, the big-eyed Guardian Cub is being heralded as the Beginning of the End – opening the door to real money trading in World of Warcraft.

Realistically you can say that RMT is already here for World of Warcraft as a quick Google search for “WoW gold” will net you dozens of sites ready, willing and able to switch out your cold hard cash for in game currency. The only difference this new pet makes to that equation is there’s now a semi-legitimate way of doing it even though most people who want the pet will just go straight to the Blizzard store to get it. Really if you’re worried about Blizzard bringing an official RMT system to World of Warcraft you should really open your eyes to the reality of the situation, it’s already happening, it’s just not Blizzard who’s doing it.

I’m not saying that RMT doesn’t have any effect at all on MMORPGs but their overall impact is realistically quite low. RMT has been around for as long as MMORPGs have been and many players will go their entire in-game lives without even noticing the impact that it has on their game of choice. Officially sanctioned methods are far and away better than their black market alternatives and opposing them is akin to sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending it doesn’t happen already. It does happen, it will continue to happen and you’d be best served by a supported method, whether you believe that or not.

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