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What Is Gold Selling?
MMO games such as World Of Warcraft have their own economies, as one would expect from a virtual world. The surprising practice that has sprung up ever since the creation of MMOs is that of gold selling, or gold farming as it is commonly called. The premise is simple; As players work their way through the game, they earn items, weapons, and money in the form of gold. This gold can then be used to purchase better armor, weapons, and other items available in the game. Not too long after the MMO industry began (specifically with the game Ultima Online and rise of Ebay's popularity), gold selling companies began to pop up all over the place. They employ workers (usually at very low wages) to work 10 - 12 hours playing the game and accumulating gold. This gold is then posted on Ebay or notices are posted within the game itself advertising the gold for sale. The buyer transfers real money to the company - via Paypal or some other mechanism - and in return the "virtual gold" is transferred to their character in the game.
Gold sellers also provide other services, such as power leveling characters. Basically this means you allow an employee of the company to play your character (via your username and password) for some time until the desired level is reached, and you pay real money for this service. Another service gold sellers provide is the selling of accounts. For example, if you have an account that has ten characters at the highest level possible, you may not wish to play the game any longer. Imagine if you can sell this account to someone else however; they get characters that already have the levels and gear, and you get real money for the time you spent playing the game. The gold sellers act as the middleman, processing the transactions for a fee.
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Developers Are Not Amused
As you can imagine, MMO game production houses are not exactly onboard with the idea of gold selling. For one thing, there is the opinion that such activities negatively affect the otherwise stable economy of their virtual worlds. One other problem revolves around the unaware gamer who tries to buy gold and ends up losing their money with nothing to show for it. Inevitably, the gamer will likely try to blame the MMO game instead of their own lack of investigation of the process. Finally, there's the issue of hacks. In the case of power leveling, the transfer of username and password to someone else is effectively a hack, allowing multiple people to play on one account. It doesn't matter what the desire of the gamer is; participating in this activity means going around the security processes in place. MMO game companies have enough trouble as it is dealing with hackers trying to affect gameplay anyway, so it's no wonder they are not pleased at anything else that changes the way their carefully designed game runs. In many instances, game houses have been known to ban user accounts for the use of gold selling activities.
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Not All Gold Shines Bright
If you're thinking the practice sounds a bit shady, you're not alone. MMO gamers are usually outspoken against it, but there are indications that as many as 30% of gamers do engage in this activity. While there are reputable gold sellers out there, there are also companies just waiting to take advantage of the unaware. Considering the fact that many online gamers are young teenagers, there is significant opportunity to "take their money and run". When purchasing gold or services from gold selling companies, it's incredibly important to do your homework. While gold farming is not necessarily illegal (depending of course on your local laws), it isn't exactly a shining example of good commerce either. Take a good look at the user agreement of the game. See what the game company's stance is on gold selling or gold farming. Sites like WoW Gold Facts are available for reference, but remember to take them with a grain of salt (much like any other site on the Internet). The whole practice of gold selling borders on grey or black market activities, so be warned.