Virtual Economics of World of Warcraft: The Buying and Selling of Gold and Accounts in the WoW Online Marketplace

Virtual Economics of World of Warcraft: The Buying and Selling of Gold and Accounts in the WoW Online Marketplace
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Proofing the Recession

As the U.S. economy heads into one of the most profound crisis points in recent history many people have been inundated with phrases like speculative bubble and sub prime mortgages. These topics can be complicated for most citizens as their working knowledge of economic systems usually ends at their meager investment portfolios. As we dart into the twenty first century our conception of what property is has shifted from tangible objects we can touch and move to digital systems that have no real world parallel.

In the same way the economic principles connect with many of these new world investments, yet each development enters into the “free market” chaos at different planes. What we have seen with the proliferation and importance of games like World of Warcraft and Everquest is that not only are the accounts themselves becoming a product worth a monetary value, but even specific objects and properties within the said title. With this we have to present changing economic models based on this new “virtual economics” paradigm. World of Warcraft is easily a staple for computer gamers of all ages, and with that is an entire market for real money going for virtual loot.

What is the Virtual Economy?

All MMO RPGs in recent memory have been part of the emerging virtual economy. The principles that are referred to with the term virtual economy are applying real world economics to a series of items that exist only within the digital context of a game. In World of Warcraft this refers to things ranging from gold to different items. Traditionally the rules of normal neoliberal economics do not apply fully to virtual economics as the stakes are not as high. People do not rely on the sale of virtual good conventionally to actually see a profit as a legitimate investment. Instead this is just another fun aspect to gaming and a way to sell off your progress when you are done.


This was true until the upsurge in the sale of virtual properties in games like Project Entropia and Everquest began selling for incredible sums of money, at times even into the hundreds of thousands. Now you can find brokers selling different items in MMO RPGs all around the internet, leading this into a legitimate multi-million dollar industry.

World of Warcraft and the Digital Sweatshop

World of Warcraft itself plays a unique role in this virtual economy both because of the specifics of the software and because of what Blizzard allows. Where the virtual economy plays most is in the buying and selling of World of Warcraft gold. This process often referred to in internet retailers as gold farming, is part of the exchange of World of Warcraft gold for real U.S. currency. This marketplace is so profitable that there are actual companies in third world nations employing people to play World of Warcraft so that they can acquire gold and other items.

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This World of Warcraft gold is then sold to consumers through internet brokers, hence the title gold farm. This marketplace model only exists on the fact that sweatshop labor in the third world allows it to remain cheap enough to do this, which adds another questionable layer to the virtual economics model of World of Warcraft. The disastrous real world work condition for these “paid players” is another part of the hazy ethical rules that take place in this new economic framework.

Making Money in WoW?

If you are intent on purchasing your way into a prime position in World of Warcraft then you can start here, or you can go to an independent player. This is usually going to cost you much more and will require you to seek people out specifically. There are hundreds of locations online to find players selling items, but you will want to look specifically for someone selling their entire account. This is going to be the most efficient way to buy into a successful World of Warcraft position. Many people want to delude themselves into believing that they are not cheating by purchasing small amounts of gold or items at a time, but in terms of the virtual economy this is less than strategic. Buying in bulk is still going to be the standard in World of Warcraft, so start with an entire account.

Das Kapital

For those that are planning on becoming rich by playing World of Warcraft you may want to find a new line of work. Recently it was seen that for the most committed players in Everquest their total assets could reap them between three and four dollars and hour for their total labor. Everquest had more items for virtual sale than World of Warcraft, though the numbers are still climbing. The problem is that to get to the level where you could make a significant profit of any kind you have to dominate for years. This means the kind of commitment the majority of players simply do not have the time and commitment for. At the same time there is no way to guarantee the actual value of any item or property in World of Warcraft as their ascribed value is based on a speculative bubble and is only decided around what people are estimated to pay.


As the market expands, and new games come out, there is no telling what people will be willing to shell out later on. At the same time, if the market becomes large enough there is no way to tell what type of restrictions on sale will be implemented so as to maintain the rights of workers and fair taxation. If you are going to create a business model of item acquisition and resale you will have to start by estimating in all the costs of operation, including technology and account costs. Once you get right down to it the most economic thing to do with World of Warcraft is to just play it for fun.

No Investment Stability

Virtual wealth in World of Warcraft has no lasting value as its value is temporary and in response purely to the market. This market is controlled by situations not based in the real world as World of Warcraft is a game at its heart. On top of this there are already issues with the security of your World of Warcraft accounts and accounts in general, not to mention issues with identify theft that come along as well. This does not mean that you cannot make a little cash when you are done playing the game or even some while dug right into it. Do not simply cancel your account if you have achieved a certain level. All accounts over level 60 tend to go for a couple hundred dollars at places like Buy MMO Accounts, World of Warcraft Gold, or Game Pal. This is not even to mention the retail service that allows you to hire people to level up your WoW character.

Do not let this control your playing, however, as its investment status makes currency trading look like a concrete foundation. If you really want to try and make money off of a computer game it is time to jump ship to Project Entropia.


This post is part of the series: Guide to Buying & Selling WOW Gold

Should you buy World of Warcraft Gold? Is WoW gold worth the price? Take a look at this article series for the buying and selling of gold and accounts in the WoW Online Marketplace.

  1. Should I Buy WoW Gold?
  2. Should You Buy World of Warcraft Gold?
  3. World of Warcraft’s Virtual Economy, Gold, Account, and Character Selling (RMT)