The Gold Hits the Fan

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As reported on over at Gamasutra, there has been some recent - but separate - movement by both Blizzard and by players to try and put a stop to systematic gold farming and its illegal real money sale in World of Warcraft.

Blizzard struck first, including "technical counter-measures designed to combat in-game gold spamming" in the latest WoW content patch, as well as filing a lawsuit against 'Peons4hire' - an organisation that offers gold for sale, as well as 'power leveling' services. Via a post on the official forums, a Blizzard employee stated that "As part of the lawsuit, the operators of Peons4hire have been asked to immediately cease all in-game spamming efforts by all entities and websites under their control." While this post was made over a week ago, Peons4hire's site still seems to be in operation, which will no doubt draw the ire of Blizzard, and as noted in the forum post: "If this organization refuses to act accordingly, further legal action will be taken."

In a separate action - unrelated to Blizzard - a class action lawsuit has been filed in Florida against IGE, the self-styled "Leading MMORPG Services Company", which also sells WoW gold, items and accounts. The suit alleges that "IGE's gold farming activities not only substantially diminish the enjoyment and satisfaction customers obtain by earning, through the expenditure of vast amounts of time and energy, virtual assets within World of Warcraft, they also violate the express terms of agreements Subscribers enter into to participate in World of Warcraft." The document goes on to itemise the damages that mass gold-farming and mass gold-selling have on the in-game economy, as well as to the experience of players.

While both cases could be important litmus tests for the future of unsanctioned exploitations of in-game economies, we're particularly interested in following the class action lawsuit, as it's a great example of gamers taking matters into their own hands and attempting to regulate the virtual worlds in which they have so much invested, themselves. Plus, we just can't help but love the impassioned indignity evident in some of the text. Think of Seinfeld's Jackie Chiles as you read it, because it's "unlawful, unfair, unconscionable."

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