Gold farming, real money trades banned in China

The Chinese government has banned all forms of exchange between game economies and cash economies, including the extremely popular Chinese online games that involve buying and selling virtual goods with cash, as well as the infamous practice of gold farming (creating in-game wealth that is sold on to rich foreign players), a practice that is said to employ 400,000 people in China.

I've spoken to gold farm researchers in China, the UK and the US, and many believe that the gold farming industry is controlled by Chinese cartels that use language barriers to exclude others from the internal exchanges where gold from one server of a given game is exchanged for gold on another server. Of course, many people who speak Chinese live outside of the Great Firewall, but still, this might the chance that Indonesia and Vietnam (already outsource destinations for Chinese gold farming operations) as well as Eastern Europe to launch their own competing gold farming sector.

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.

China Bans Gold Farming


  1. Good news from china at last.

    Gold farmers are scum who ruin online gaming.

    When I’m questing I do not need 10 whispers from level one characters called ‘gkjgkkhkjhknkb’ offering to sell me gold. When I’m looking for a group I do not need spam about the latest website selling gold. When I’m grinding I don’t need the area overrun by gold farmers killing mobs and ruining the experience. And when I’m trying to mine I do not need gold farmers using teleport hacks stealing the nodes.

    People who defend gold farmers never actually play online games and have no idea how hated they are.

    It will be interesting to see if there’s any drop in gold farmers in western games.

    btw heres a cool youtube gold farmer link

  2. The same reason why they turn money into anything else beyond food, water, housing, clothing and transportation?

  3. I have seen a marked drop in farming on our server. A big rise in scams. These scams are the new gold generation. Steal from people duped into giving you account information. Seriously I think the number employed for gold farming is far overstated, or is based on many other games other than WOW.

    Interview with a scammer:

    Some common new scams that generate gold for sale:

  4. There are so many workarounds here it’s not even funny.

    Using Paypal, an arguably “virtual” currency (since money you receive on Paypal is virtual until you dump it into your bank account) you could pay for virtual gold on farming sites and still technically not break this law.

    Short term effects? Gold prices are going UP as in right NOW. If you have gold on an MMO, now is the time to cash out.

    Long term effects? This law is probably going to turn a reversal once the Chinese gov’t realizes the GDP gold farming is for China.

  5. Someone wrote a really great short story called “Anda’s Game” about the dynamics and real-world implications of in-game economies. Now if I could just remember that author’s name…

  6. If it cuts down on the chronic spam that everyone in City of Heroes gets from gold farmers, I’m all for it.

  7. The same reason why they turn money into anything else beyond food, water, housing, clothing and transportation?

    I’m not questioning spending money on a game – I’m questioning spending money on game items that you are “supposed” to be getting through your own efforts.

    I think it’s laziness tinged with jealousy, overcome by the almighty dollar (QQ coin, gold piece, etc..).

    I think it’s cheating no matter how you slice it.

    And I think the ban will do almost nothing.

  8. “I’m not questioning spending money on a game – I’m questioning spending money on game items that you are “supposed” to be getting through your own efforts.”

    Keep in mind that mmos are social games. I used to play one, during a 6 month period i was unoccupied, so i got to play a LOT, and so did a friend that had his back hurt and couldn’t work for something like 9 months.

    But we had a third friend that lead a normal life at that point in time, and he could only play during the weekends, and he bought gold so he could keep up with us and the three of us could play togheter.

    it’s a game, not a sport, who cares? (and if it really demoralizes you that the other player has the bigger e-dick, you are the one with the problem)

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