Usually we lose money by playing a MMORPG. We either pay a monthly subscription fee or have the option to purchase special items through a cash shop. But there are many who make money playing these games by selling in game currency or items for money in the real world. Today there are literally dozens of websites which are willing to purchase in game currency from players in order to resell it. Obviously by selling to a retailer, the player gets a lower price than if he were to sell it directly to another player, but the fact that so many sites exists makes the virtual market place much more reliable and liquid. It also shows how large the market as grown.
The virtual market has become so profitable that virtual sweatshops have sprung up in places like China where dozens of people are payed simply to farm virtual items in today's most popular games such as World ofWarcraft and Maple Story. Unfortunately, many of these "gold farmers", as they are styled, use bots and other third party programs to automate the process. The industrialization of the process has made it almost impossible for the average player to make any money playing the game legitimately.But while players cannot compete withbotting gold farmers, they can still make money by becoming traders. I personally made about $50 a day a few summers back playing Ultima Online. 90% of my time was spent at the bank of the capital city simply buying and selling rare items and powerful equipment.
While buying and selling virtual items is a reality in almost every major MMORPG, there are many players and developers who fiercely oppose it. Selling items or currency is technically illegal in every game but like any good black market, the virtual market is hard to follow or shut down. The argument against virtual trading is that it gives buyers an unfair advantage over those playing the game honestly. There can be no denying this, a player who pays $50 for a rare and powerful weapon does gain an advantage. But how does that necessarily spoil the game for other players? I personally enjoy facing foes that are better equipped then my self and in non PvP games, it doesn't make much difference at all.
Different companies have tried different techniques to combat the selling for virtual goods. Sony has allowed it, but only if its done through their website while others have made the most powerful items "bind" to the player who picks them up, making it impossible to sell to others. Recently,Ebay which was one of the largest sites to buy and sell virtual goods on has bowed to pressure from game developers by banned all auctions involving the buying and selling of virtual goods in MMORPGs.
I personally have no problem with the buying or selling of virtual goods. I've sold tons of currency and items in Ultima Online throughout the past 8 or so years but never really purchased items for my own use. Even in games where I was neither a buyer or seller, I never felt cheated or at a disadvantage by players who did. What are your thoughts on this issue? Does selling virtual items to other players for money ruin the experience for everyone else? Should it be banned? Regulated by the publisher? Post your views below.