I’m here to discuss things nobody else does, discussing the “dark side” of the MMO industry. You must have heard this stories about private servers and gold selling. This is bad right, or wait is it? Let’s start with the easy one…
Gold selling is a big problem on both free-to-play MMO’s as subscription based games. Most popular games in these areas are Silkroad and World of Warcraft and pretty much every member here has noticed this while playing one of these games. Blizzard has recently contacted PayPal to block some accounts from gold sellers on their game World of Warcraft. Joymax is still trying to block bots on their game Silkroad which is used to farm for gold and other acts. There a lot of more games struggling with this but I’ve limited this article to those who are most known for this.
However, I do not believe this leads to the a lower player count, lose of sales and the likes. Gold selling wouldn’t be a profitable business if there wasn’t any demand for it. People with full time jobs don’t want to waste hours of farming for gold and just pays a small amount of money for a lot of in-game gold. Seems like a win-win for both parties involved, but the party operating the game isn’t that excited. Probably because they can’t take a cut of that money. I have yet to see a game with a great in-game economy that hasn’t been altered by buyers of gold or people selling it. I believe that publishers of these titles should discuss the oppurtunity with the game developer to implent a system where people could buy a limited amount of gold that can’t be traded for a cheap price on their item shop once a month or just ban trading of gold from the game entirely. There are a lot of possibilities and the ones I described are just some I came up with right way so I don’t see why this isn’t happening already. On the other hand, it might lead even more problems for current titles but could work out pretty good for games in the future.
Private servers have always been something in the “grey area”. Emulators are legal, official server software isn’t. Well this is way more difficult then you might think it is. Almost every big MMO has a private server nowadays running on an emulator or official server software. The majority of these servers run on donations in order to keep their servers running but also provide an item shop in order to make a quick buck. This may be unethical to you but a lot of people in the private server scene aren’t some kids in a basement but people with great knowledge of several programming languages and security who work very hard to provide an alternative service. Lots of these developers have learned programming during the time they made their first private server and acquired a lot of skills you don’t learn anywhere else. It’s often stated that these private servers also harm the MMO industry in large ways but games such as MU Online, Flyff and Maplestory still have lots of people playing and not less important, paying on official servers for items. It has been 6 years since the first MU Online server files where leaked and spawned private servers all over the place and still going strong. I would like to see statics about the decrease of population and item sales on these games.
For other games it has done a lot of harm such as LineAge 2 and Gunz Online because of LineAge2’s pay-to-play model and the lack of updates for Gunz. NCsoft has had some success with shutting down the biggest private server of LineAge 2 in the past and so did MAIET once during the development of the first private server. Later NHN (the publisher of Gunz Online the North America, Europe and Mexico) has been trying to take down big private servers without luck. I believe that you can’t ever stop private servers because you never can satisfy everyone with the service you provide. However, I believe the problem could become less significant if the publisher of these titles would support feedback from the community so developers could enhance their game. Community created content comes to mind. Give them tools to make new maps or skins for items and give other players the ability the rate on this or report when they are breaking the rules. This would make the life of the game a lot longer which would lead to more profit on the publishers and developers end. I am aware this wouldn’t work for any game, but there’s enough games that could use something like this to become popular again. It’s never too late for change.
By Stefan Heesters