World Bank: gold farming (etc) paid poor countries $3B in 2009


27 Responses to “World Bank: gold farming (etc) paid poor countries $3B in 2009”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah let’s not help the poor countries because it might piss the game companies off.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You just saved my final paper. Thank you for legitimizing my procrastination!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Poppy, coca, and cannabis farms make much more for the third world than gold farming does… Why not fund that too eh World Bank?

  4. Anonymous says:

    This phenomenon raises some fascinating tax issues that are still unanswered.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know who I should feel sorry for:
    The poor gold farmers,
    the players paying them to improve virtual characters,
    or the game designers who made a game so tedious, repetitive and time consuming that gamers have to pay someone to play for them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m in SE Asia. Added the first WiFi to the village. Started a blog. I hope to generate an ethical income via social participation and esoteric contributions.

    At first I was uplifted by the article. That segued to ambivalence; and ultimately sadness when I arrived at, “While the virtual economy unlocks a plethora of business opportunities, it should be noted that not all these activities are viewed positively.”

  7. Shart Tsung says:

    Is there a difference between game currency and “real” currency?

  8. Anonymous says:


    Your calculations appear to assume only one transaction per participating player per year. There are plenty of people doing many transactions a MONTH that I’m aware of, so the numbers are within reason.

  9. travtastic says:

    Now that’s some sustainable development!

  10. Anonymous says:

    My BS detector has just gone crazy. Sounds like a few research analysts in the world bank have nothing to do or have also been playing too much WoW.

    Seriously. How many PAID MMO players are there on earth ? say 100 Million people. The average power-leveller request is about $50, so let’s say 20% of players use this service. that’s 20m*50 that would be a billion. Assuming population and cost are accurate, you would need 60million players to participate (annually) to make that sort of cash.. hardly feasible.

  11. fnc says:

    “…even playing online games on behalf of wealthier players who are too busy to tend to their characters themselves.”

    It continues to boggle my mind that I live in a world in which this sort of transaction actually takes place.

  12. one pieceman says:

    What’s with this “virtual” weirdness? We’ve been virtual for centuries.
    An author is merely arranging characters into a sequence for the pleasure and entertainment of others.
    A musician does the same with notes.
    A software developer spends their time causing pixels on a screen to arrange themselves in appropriate ways.

    In what way are these activities “real”, “physical” or in any way new?

    So someone seeks to re-arrange some game parameters to provide entertainment for others. Is that really so different?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how they came up with this figure? Regardless that is all money the game companies could make if they sold it themselves.

    Online games have never had an even playing field. Just the fact that some people play constantly means a casual player will always be limited even though they pay the exact same monthly fee.

  14. Anonymous says:

    How about pay them to fold proteins all day for the same amount of money, a small stipend from the gamers to keep them OFF the games. everyone wins.

  15. Raelias says:

    Which is it, the $9B in the headline or the $3B in the body of the post?

  16. xzzy says:

    Report seems to glaze over the fact that these gold farmers are effectively working in a sweatshop.

    It’s really not any better an opportunity than assembling running shoes, other than the fact you do it on a computer instead of a sewing machine. Calling it “play” would extremely generous, these people have recipes for maximizing the return on time investment and are expected to do it for a full work day.

    It’s the same old story of 1st world brushing the boring work off to the 3rd world, acting like they’re being done a favor.

    • lasttide says:

      There is, in fact, a very significant difference between gold farming and making running shoes: Safety. A fatigued gold farmer that misclicks the mouse doesn’t lose a finger.

    • danbanana says:

      that’s a narrow and short-sighted view of the situation. although one can’t justify sweatshop conditions, implying that low-paying (in western terms) work in developing nations is inherently exploitive is historically incorrect. china’s economic expansion can be linked to their development era when these low-paying jobs were located there. now, as the labor costs in that country have risen, much of that work has moved to southeast asian countries like vietnam. but even now, those wages have moved up (as is vietnam’s economy) and low-cost labor is being found elsewhere.

      this isn’t a perfect system and increase in wage rate doesn’t directly lead to increase in quality of life or local economy. but there’s certainly proof that starting small can lead to bigger things.

  17. dagfooyo says:

    I wonder why the game companies don’t just cut out the middleman and start charging for instant gold, items, and upgrades themselves and pocket the 3 billion every year.

    • AnneH says:

      The gaming companies are reluctant to legitimize assigning real-world value to virtual goods and currency, because there is government interest in taxing virtual economies.

    • codesuidae says:

      Well, lots of games do that. Even a few things can be purchased for WoW (like the Celestial Steed). But the game has to be balanced for that dynamic.

      For a lot of players simply purchasing stuff cuts out the skill and dedication that are valued. Too much purchasing of in-game goods ruins the fantasy world dynamic for many kinds of games.

      I’d like to see some kind of network environment where the time and skills of these workers could be applied to some kinds of non-game tasks (or game tasks with non-game applications).

      • Anonymous says:

        The vast majority of the benefits in games doesn’t come from skill (pushing button X fast enough is skill?) but from playing constantly at the expense of your personal life. You also have to have the chance to play regularly with other addicts (aka “dedication”) to get the biggest gains. Not so much skill as how far are you willing to sell yourself out?

        I’d rather just have shortcuts to things so I can see game content without having to risk sleep, my job, hygiene, family, school, etc.

  18. Anonymous says:

    As someone that actually plays online games I cannot state enough how much players hate goldfarmers.

    This isn’t a ‘harmless’ activity for third world workers… this is the equivalent of third world sweatshops in which workers complete captcha so companies can spam people over and over again.

    The whole point of a online gaming world is that everyone is equal and people succeed or fail due to their skill and commitment. Allowing people to buy advantages due to outside wealth kills this type of game.

    The reason game companies don’t sell gold themselves is because it ruins the game for the vast majority of players. Who wants to play a game in which your opponent can buy a unfair advantage over you? It ruins the gaming experience.

    More importantly it is absolutely not a sustainable activity. Goldfarmers can make games unplayable due to the way they harass legitimate players. When a game becomes unplayable it will lose it’s player base and close down… forcing the farmers onto a new game to destroy.

    Why not encourage thirdworld countries to actually make something worthwhile that people can buy? They could make their own games or make modded content to make other games more interesting and fun.

    Cory only thinks goldfarming is such a cool concept because he reads about MMO’s instead of playing them.

  19. Anonymous says:

    This is why I like Cory’s work — aliens and time machines and what have you are great Sci-Fi, but Cory’s stories are more likely to actually happen, often in our lifetimes.

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