by

This. Isn’t. Sparter.

The collective Slashdot hivemind shoots some questions at Sparter, one of the newer RMT players.

I’m concerned that this platform is devoted to promoting activity that the largest game (WoW) explicitly forbids. How do you plan to handle the fact that the entire premise of your site is one that could get your “customers” banned from the games they play?

Sparter Executives:
Good question. Here’s how we see it: publishers do not have the right to tell gamers that they can’t accept money from someone outside of the game.

You gotta fight! For your right! To parrrrrrrlay!

Most of their answers actually center around Sparter’s conceit that it isn’t really gold farming, but innocent trade between actual game players. A quick browse of the auctions disabuses that notion fairly quickly — in the above link at the time I checked, literally every single listing appeared to be from a gold farming shop. (RMT executives would never lie in interviews, would they?)

This section in particular amused me:

Sparter is trying to be proactive on this issue by requiring that all our users recognize the rights of content originators and the limitations of gamers’ rights. Third, we estimate there are several hundred B2C web sites in operation, most outside of the jurisdiction of US courts. Lawsuits are not going to be effective in shutting down RMT. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply. So let’s figure out the best way for the demand to be served and take control of the situation for the benefit of gamers and the industry as a whole.

So… Sparter requires that its users recognize the rights of game publishers, but you know, everyone ignores them anyway, so why not just let us make some money off of your work, hm?

If you want the tl;dr version, a comment by a Slashdot reader is +5 insightful/funny:

For those unwilling to read, they essentially said: “We think it’s certain behaviors such as spamming, bot farming, hacking and duping that cause the most concern.” and then, “We think it’s certain behaviors such as spamming, bot farming, hacking and duping that cause the most concern.” and then, “We think it’s certain behaviors such as spamming, bot farming, hacking and duping that cause the most concern.” and then, “We think it’s certain behaviors such as spamming, bot farming, hacking and duping that cause the most concern.” and one more time, “We think it’s certain behaviors such as spamming, bot farming, hacking and duping that cause the most concern.”

This is a common refrain by RMT merchants. “Oh, it’s those other bad people that cause all the misdeeds in games that you see. Not us. Gold sales in and of themselves isn’t bad… it’s just when bad people do it. We’re not bad people, oh no. We’re the good guys. Trust us.” Ironically, that is how IGE got started, as the white knights fighting manfully against those bad people at Yantis Mysupersales. Just before IGE bought Yantis. Now Yantis owns IGE, IGE…er, Affinity doesn’t own IGE, and every observer involved is suitably confused, as befits a completely above board and ethical business.

So what can we learn from all this? Yes, boys and girls, it’s time for a PUNCH LIST.

  • RMT isn’t going away. There is a market for it. Litigation and regulation will shape the market but it will not remove it.
  • RMT-related abuse is one of the largest challenges facing MMO providers; there’s no motivation to lie, cheat and steal quite like cash money. RMT gold farmers, without fail, aggressively use whatever exploits are available: speed hacks, teleport bugs, dupe bugs, scripting, botting. They have to – the more that they sploit, the more money they make. Business is serious business.
  • MMO providers can’t afford to stick their heads in the sand about RMT. Either they need to have aggressive enforcement of their policies (which will send their customer support costs into the stratosphere, as World of Warcraft is discovering) or they need to co-opt the farmers and take the money off the table somehow (see: SOEbay).
  • The future of MMOs is in Korea. This means that going forward MMOs will have what Korean MMO players tend to call “item shops” or “character shops” – things you buy with cash. Usually these are cosmetic items that have little to no impact on actual gameplay – but not always. Many games sell gold, items… everything an RMT provider would.
  • The Western market is not the Korean market. Attempts to simply clone a Korean-style character shop often blow back on their creators. To date successful Western company-run RMT shops simply sell alternate currencies or in some cases the real thing. However, in my opinion, this doesn’t scale well; for larger games this won’t actually solve the gold farming problem, but will actually encourage it as people try to bot farming in-game currency and converting it to out-of-game currency.
  • Why do I keep going on about this? Because it’s the future. Because game companies HAVE to take control of the RMT market, whether through bringing it in house (the “capitalist” approach) or making the game’s economy RMT-resistant (the “socialist” approach). Because if nothing is done, online games will become like email traffic – 99% spam for gold farmers aggressively chasing after ever-shrinking margins. And that, more than anything else, will spell the death of the online game industry.