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 China Bans Gold Farming

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  Tue 30 Jun 2009 - 7:34  #
In addition to its ongoing crackdown on Internet porn, the Chinese government has declared that virtual currency cannot be traded for real goods or services.
Virtual currency, as defined by Chinese authorities, includes "prepaid cards of cyber-games," according to a joint release issued by China's Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Commerce on Friday.

The ruling is likely to affect many of the more than 300 million Internet users in China, as well as those in other countries involved in virtual currency trading. In the context of online role playing games like World of Warcraft, virtual currency trading is often called gold farming.

The most popular form of virtual currency in China is called "QQ coins," a form of virtual credit issued by, which has about 220 million registered users -- about as many as Facebook -- is quoted in the Chinese government news release as "resolutely" supporting the new rule. The government justifies its ban on virtual currency trading as a way to curtail gambling and other illegal online activities.

The extent to which the Chinese government will apply its virtual currency rule to online role playing games remains unclear. A report in the English-language China Daily says that in-game gear is not considered virtual currency, so selling virtual items may be allowed to continue.

The trading of virtual currency for real cash employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates between $200 million and $1 billion annually, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester.

He estimates that between 80% and 85% of gold farmers are based in China.

"[M]any online games have a virtual economy and an in-game currency," he states in his survey. "Gold farmers can play in-game to make some currency. They then sell that for real money -- typically via a Web site and using the PayPal payment system -- to other players of the game."

Game companies typically forbid gold farming but committed virtual currency traders find ways around such rules. Some game companies have recognized the futility of trying to ban the practice and have built virtual commerce into their game infrastructure.

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Updates: currency conversion corrected, added China Daily reference.

Thomas Claburn

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  Tue 30 Jun 2009 - 7:35  #
Gold farmers! They're everywhere, right? We get spammed by them, we run into them farming Dire Maul, we put them on ignore. Lazy people with too much disposable income buy gold from them in a show of crass consumerism. Blizzard has done their best to stamp out gold-farming services, but litigation is difficult due to the fact that most of the major gold-farming companies are based in China or other parts of Asia. They've instead opted to try to control and stop gold farmers from being able to complete transactions via other methods.

This time, though, it looks like Blizzard may have an unlikely ally in, of all things, the Chinese government. They announced today that the trading of virtual goods for real money is now illegal in China. This ruling reaches farther than just gold farming, though. It also bans the sale of prepaid time cards for MMOs or other online games, as well as numerous technicalities we're sure to hear about in the weeks to come.

To give you an idea of how much an economic impact this will have on China, gold farming alone generates nearly one billion dollars a year worldwide, with China's specific numbers growing at a reported rate of 20% per year. It's estimated that 80 to 85 percent of gold farmers reside in China, so this ruling is massive and, to be frank, pretty troubling.

From a gamer's perspective, yes, it'll be nice to worry about this kind of service a little less, but from a human perspective this places hundreds of thousands of Chinese people in one of two kinds of serious trouble: the first is financial hardship from the "honest" gold-farming companies that will close down after this ban, and the second is legal issues from the companies who don't close down because they can't afford not to do what they've been doing.

It's not my intention to defend gold farming as an industry, because I used to have to deal with its more nefarious effects every day -- compromised accounts stripped of gold and gear, keyloggers, disruptive spam, all of that. But life isn't easy for many Chinese people working jobs like this. Many gold farming centers are much cleaner and safer, in relative terms, than other places in China where one on the bottom rung of the financial ladder might seek work, so while I appreciate the change as only a white first-world male can, I worry about what will happen to the underprivileged working-class Chinese people behind the spam ads and dead gnomes when this law starts getting enforced.

Michael Sacco

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  Tue 30 Jun 2009 - 8:28  #
I stopped at the 7th paragraph caus it's a little long but yeah it sucks. I don't really think they can prevent people from selling cards online, but if they can decrease the number of farmers, there will be less buyers indeed

When you log on a realm type "/join english" to get in touch with the community members.
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  Tue 30 Jun 2009 - 11:15  #
...a little late, the gold is already circulating the WOW economy and its never gonna get any less. Only the spammng can really be policed I guess, but I can't see that happening. Besides I like it....I can make 2-4k G tanking a gold run!! ...besides no one is being forced to buy gold or cards.

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  Fri 3 Jul 2009 - 8:36  #
well there loophole in banned gold selling.

That loophole is the fact that their law has no jurisdiction over foreign transactions.

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  Tue 7 Jul 2009 - 12:10  #
Well you can still sell playtime cards for golds in CHina.
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  Today at 4:40  #

China Bans Gold Farming

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