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

36 Readers Commented

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  1. Jules on October 12, 2011

    You know the part that really bothers me is that it would be EXTREMELY easy for game devs to to eradicated gold selling on their games if they really wanted it gone. The problem is they do not want it gone, there have been many DEVS and GMS busted in many games supplementing their incomes by being the major gold sellers on their games/servers, and for every one of them busted there are 100 or 1000 that are too smart to get caught.

    Ultimately however, there is really no one to blame but ourselves, players have way more power than they think if they would just organize and show commitment to making the change. Even a player association of 500k members could have drastic influence on the industry in every possible way if we would just organize.

    The real problem we face in every aspect though is the player base themselves, we have gone from educated, intelligent, creative, imaginative gamers who care about something better, to uneducated, moronic, closed-minded, angry players who care about destruction and making things worse.

    Young people today are lost, and as much as it saddens me to say this, most of them are beyond redemption. At this point we can only hope, that there are major changes made in both parenting and education before we have to face the next generation coming into their own, otherwise I truly believe not only gaming, but every aspect of modern society is doomed to its own loss of humanity.

  2. nbforrest on May 3, 2011

    “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”

    Farming for gold is part of a MMO games mechanic and was designed to be that way. if people with full time jobs dont have the time to play a MMO game the way it was designed to be played then they should play a different type of game, perhaps a FPS game. I mean, isn`t that the basic premise of all MMO games, grind and farm, grind and farm, if someone doesnt have time for a grind and farm type game then they shouldnt play a MMO game.

    I think you missed the most important dark side of most MMO games. poor customer service is without a doubt the biggest and darkest side of most MMO games.

    • Stefan Heesters on May 12, 2011

      Custom support isn’t a problem with all MMO games, there are a lot of companies with a decent support team behind it but there always will be bad ones but I wouldn’t classify that as the “dark side”.
      But to come back on the grind in MMO’s, sure a lot of them are but a lot of the newer MMO’s have a system that make the grind less and use some kind of premium service in order to keep those with full time jobs happy but since this comes with a fee, a lot of those people choose to go with gold sellers instead.
      Something I in no means so support but I find it understandable.

  3. Anonsubscriber on May 3, 2011

    The problem with gold farming / selling isn’t just the other guys problem, it effects everyone involved in that economy. The farmers gain gold at a rate extremely more efficient than the average player. The average player can then buy copious amounts of this gold, thereby, hyper-inflating the economy. Hyper-inflated economy means that prices for EVERYTHING goes up at an exaggerated rate. This can greatly effect the average player who chooses to play the game according to the EULA, who I might add is also the majority of the player base. Average players would not be able to trade in that economy making it stagnant for the average guy and only viable for the guy with the gold. If you’ve been around in gaming at all you not only know this but you’ve seen this all happen before. I have seen it plenty. Not really sure why you’re saying these are things that nobody else discusses, forums are littered with posts about how gold selling/farming is ruining economies all over the game worlds. There’s also plenty of posts about emulators but generally forum rules of gaming don’t allow those posts to stay up, as they reference illegal activities outside of the company. This really ain’t new info and you’re sorta missing some big pictures here.

  4. Unknown on April 26, 2011

    the problem is gold farming create heavy inflation in the game economy. it will severely increase the gap between heavy paying gamer and non or less paying gamer. also such act encourage the used of illegal way to obtain ingame gold such as botting,hacking and so much more.

  5. Nymyon on April 23, 2011

    I dont see any ,,dark side” in gold faming :X

    • Artimus on April 24, 2011

      “I dont see any ,,dark side” in gold faming :X”

      TROLL ALERT! TROLL ALERT! some one stirrin things up with no explanations ;P

  6. Geel on April 21, 2011

    Don’t forget that by gold farming that you can also fight poverty. There are companies that hire people to create in-game money and sell them for real world money. I don’t see any bad points in gold farming except for the game owners themselfs.

    • Artimus on April 22, 2011

      “Don’t forget that by gold farming that you can also fight poverty.” Hey I am all for fighting poverty but in every video article I have seen or blog/articles I have read the folks workin for the companies are college students who technically are almost always poor (been there workin through school) they are not impoverished in the sense you are talkin bout! There are better ways to fight poverty than gold farmin come on!!! Sides I thought the point of this article was the effect on the player and the quality of their game playin experience. Lets put humanitarian aid out there in the forefront of real life not virtual game play.

  7. Nakina on April 19, 2011

    Like kulas, I also think private servers could work as a franchise in fact, i have an example. Minecraft sells servers to people and that game is doing very well. Just figured I’d throw that in there 🙂

    • Entarri on April 21, 2011

      That’s on an entirely different level. Minecraft servers are comparable to, for example, Battlefield or Left 4 Dead servers.

      It is against the TOS to host a private server for games such as WoW where they explicitly forbid hosting your own.

      Two completely different points there.

      • Nakina on April 21, 2011

        I was stating that Blizzard could cash in on private servers. They could remove that from the TOS and start selling their own private servers like Minecraft does even though they are different types of servers. Like kulas was saying, they should franchise private servers for their games so they could cash in on private servers and players would still be happy.

      • Stefan Heesters on April 23, 2011

        I actually meant feature, Entarri and often articles are classified as that.
        News often just as a post.

        Could reply to the previous comment because it would stretch the layout.

  8. quickman007 on April 18, 2011

    First article (at least, I think it is…) and you’re already getting a new @$# hole ripped open. Get used to it…>.>

  9. kulas on April 18, 2011

    Well we can view gold miners/sellers and private servers as challenges for the MMO gaming world for the players and the developers, we are in the MMO golden age/revolution and gaming has evolved because of this, where there are lots and lots of MMOs to choose from either they be free-to-play or pay-to-play and those in between, be client based or browser based. The gamers and the community are the essence and the gears which runs and fuel this revolution, this huge MMO machine market, while the designers and game developers are the architects and the pilots of this machine. Now these gold miners/sellers and private servers are consequences of this huge machine we are all in, they are as part of this machine as we are, now we can either fight them or embrace them.

    Say we fight them, resources will be used to handle these gold miners and private servers, resources which are better spent on game and content development. Developers will have to expend time and effort to curb or destroy them in their games, while players and the gaming community will go and whine, complain and stop playing their games. Everyone looses, the developers loose money and time, gamers quit their once favorite game and well the gold miners loose their customers.

    Say we embrace them, baaad idea… or is it?
    Design the games where gold miners/sellers can set up shop, those who want to buy can buy those who choose not well don’t. Set the auction shop so the sellers can exchange their goods with what they want in-game or real world cash. Then how will the game create income? Well if they are P2P then no problem, if they are F2P then they can sell things which are not attainable just by playing the game, like special game instances or some glow in their swords or some hat, gears and costumes for eye candy, many games are already doing these in their item shops. Another thing is they can put ads in-game, whoa noooooo!.. why not? Google did this and its a billion dollar company because of this. Set them up as that they would meld in the game environment, that they won’t become an annoyance but as a part of the game world. These game developers are crafty and creative enough to do this, if its done right we gamers and the community will embrace it.
    Now how do we embrace the private servers? Set the game up as like a franchise. Those people who have entrepreneurial and creative spirit out there who see your game as a potential for great profit and a canvas to build up on, should have access to the game, they should have the power to revise the game to some extent for their target markets. Lets face it, your game is not perfect, there ought to be people out there who wants something different in your game. Market them as ‘Private Servers’ and market yours as the “Real Deal’ then let people choose, if they choose the private server then what did you loose? the developers didn’t loose, they profit from that since they are a franchise, what did the gamers loose? nothing, we gain the power to choose, to choose the flavor and the build of our favorite game.

    Now the challenge here is balancing all these in a game. For now I don’t have the answer to that, yup sorry about that but soon we will have the answer, the MMO developers and the community creative minds are vast and many, they surely can find the solution, can’t say when but soon. 😀

    Now these are just my opinions and ideas, crazy maybe but thanks for reading anyway. 😛

    • Stefan Heesters on April 18, 2011

      You seem to fully understand where I’m talking about, thank you!

  10. wtf on April 17, 2011

    This article isn’t very well written or organized. Most of the statements are based off self speculation with no real backing to the claims. This article is just full of claims “trying” to look at gold selling and private servers “from both sides” but no point was made. Also, you never talked about “the dark side of mmo games.” In the future, write an outline, this is a mess with no clear point of view, and use spellcheck.

    • Stefan Heesters on April 17, 2011

      This isn’t just speculating, I’ve been in this scene long enough to know this.
      I wouldn’t write an article if I couldn’t back up the statements.
      I’m not picking any side here, I just share what I do know.
      You have to see “dark side” in a context which is clearly described in my article.
      Also, I’m unable to actually link or share very detailed information because it would be considered advertising or could reveal the identity from people inside this scene who want to stay anonymous.

    • Bryan on April 18, 2011

      This reviewer obviously doesn’t have any clue what the phrase, “proper grammar” means.

      • Stefan Heesters on April 18, 2011

        If a few typing errors are the worst thing about this article, I’m doing pretty good.

  11. AdamTM on April 17, 2011

    There is a reason why there is no gold/ISK selling in EVE Online.

  12. Artimus on April 17, 2011

    My first experience with Gold Sellers/farmers was as AV mentioned the notorious RF online economic fiasco. It had totally screwed the official games economy making it impossible for a regular non buying player to afford any decent equipment.
    On the other end Gold farming bots were so profuse at one point that a person trying to do there level required kill task quests found the environment let’s say very target poor to the point of the bots kill stealing from the players.
    Both acts tend to drive people from games that had great potential for hours of fun play, yes it can kill good games.
    Other issues I have personally experienced economy screwing inflated prices were LoTR online gold buyers and sellers had the prices so whacked out that a player not buying gold had to grind for unreasonable hours either playing or crafting in order to have any chance of enjoying group/party play. DAoC was another where farmers would take over areas where one could make decent gold for the player trying to earn their way. There we even saw some serious cases of account sellers and buyers that definitely made a difference in the quality of RvR play causing long time players like myself (4&1/2 years) to look else where for better playing evirons.
    Bottom line Gold buyers and seller/farmers will always have detrimental effects on game economies and drive ethical players from the games.

  13. Another View on April 17, 2011

    Heres a little comment on both points.

    Gold selling is just another gripe for “Pay to Win” whiners, its the relative “Those with the most money will always get the best stuff” mentality. This then makes new players either obtain illegal gold or suffer under the wrath of hated level capped players with max gear. Aika was plagued by gold selling bots for the longest time before Gpot intervened and rewarded players on certain days for an even trade of # of bots= rewards.

    Private servers are a different monster all together. There are pro’s such as trying out different mechanics before you officially play. However the cons are so minimal on games that are so large and cost way too much to be feasible on a fixed income, IE WoW costs upwards of 100 bucks just to get up to date with everything. However some private servers are so well kept and known to be completely better than the original that the original hardcore players flock to them, then take over with the “micro transaction shop”. Best example is to look at one of the best RF Online private servers, they once sold +7 gear (which was only obtained ONCE in the official game, which was then deleted by the GM’s in an immense cover up) which then was bought for the entire .DOT guild on the Accretions. This little thing destabilized the ENTIRE game and made it impossible for a fair chip war to happen since all the gear was obtained within the games rules.

    As one of the commenter mentioned, there will always be a way for those who are willing to pay. The only way to reverse these actions is to take control of the reason they exist, or show that players should take some of the blame and control the economy themselves.

  14. random714 on April 16, 2011

    The only way for the game publisher to take a cut would be to make gold purchasing options in their in-game store, but then people would just think that the game is very unbalanced when it comves to paying people versus free people.

  15. Thanator20 on April 16, 2011

    I hate shitti gold sellers, just like in cabal online, shittti cheaters, why cant play fair ??? bann them all !

  16. Peanut on April 16, 2011

    I think MMO’s get more players from private server. On a private server you can test certain things and if you like the game but dont want to have the lagg/bugs from a private server you buy the game and go play official.

  17. Nox on April 16, 2011

    I agree with Entarri. Also I don’t think this is the “dark side”. I would be a lot more concerned about the affect mmo’s have on people, especially younger people. especially young stupid people.
    Also the private server gray area has been gone for years, the EULA changed to encompass private servers, they are and will always be illegal. The gray area only happens if the server is hosted in one of the countries that doesn’t have laws about internet piracy.

    • Stefan Heesters on April 16, 2011

      MMO’s can certainly affect people who aren’t even allowed to play those games.
      We all know this happens anyway, however this isn’t the problem of the developer or publisher since you are being warned for this upon creating a game account.
      Parents should supervise their kids on their computer and apply internet filters.
      This problem isn’t related to MMO’s but to the entertainment industry in general such as movies and music.
      Not all private servers are illegal, a lot of older games that have been emulated are sometimes even totally legal.
      Others still fall under the grey area which is exactly why a lot of them aren’t being sued.
      There certainly are a lot of MMO’s who have this in their EULA but certainly not all.

      • Megazell on April 16, 2011

        I’m curious which MMO’s are ‘totally legal’ for private server use?

      • Nox on April 16, 2011

        I must have missed the “Here be trolls” warning while creating an account. I’m talking about certain mmo gamers affecting other mmo gamers, such as leet speak, there was no such thing in mmo’s until fps players brought it in.
        Again, the publisher is allowed to change the EULA without any notice and when it suits them, no matter when the game was made.

        The following is Blizzard’s EULA, WoW is a very old game.

        Additional License Limitations

        The license granted to you in Section 1 is subject to the limitations set forth in Sections 1 and 2 (collectively, the “License Limitations”). Any use of the Service or the Game Client in violation of the License Limitations will be regarded as an infringement of Blizzard’s copyrights in and to the Game. You agree that you will not, under any circumstances:

        F. facilitate, create or maintain any unauthorized connection to the Game or the Service, including without limitation (a) any connection to any unauthorized server that emulates, or attempts to emulate, the Service; and (b) any connection using programs or tools not expressly approved by Blizzard;…

  18. Entarri on April 16, 2011

    You completely missed the reason why gold selling is a real problem. The issue isn’t just “loss of players” or economy imbalance, but due to the means of which a majority of that gold is acquired. Accounts are hacked and gold is taken, causing much unneeded grief for the person whose account was compromised.

    People want an easy way to acquire gold sure, but at what cost? You’re buying the gold that got stolen off someones hacked account. Their might be a “profitable business” as you put it, but that’s because of it’s viscous cycle of sell gold > pay hacker for stolen gold > steal account > steal gold > sell gold. Rinse and repeat.

    The fact that it sounds as if you condone this is disgusting.

    • Stefan Heesters on April 16, 2011

      I do not condone this in any way, I’m just looking from it from both sides.
      Sure, accounts are being hacked for this but there are also a lot of people using own accounts to farm gold and sell it to gold selling sites.

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