25 August 2011

The life of the Chinese gold farmer

Notes from a June 2007 New York Times article about gold farming by Dibbell.

Julian Dibbell, June 2007, The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer, 
  • 100k Chinese workers are involved in RMT. RMT market = $1.8 billion worldwide
  • 80 MMOs and 30M players worldwide. WoW brings $1bn/year to Blizzard.
  • The Gross Domestic Product of the MMO player population is between $7bn and $12bn.
  • The gold farming wang ba given as an example has 10 employees and generate $80k/year. 12-hour day/night shifts. Dormitories are in the second floor of the wang ba.
  • Farmers collect 25 gold/hour. For 100 golds, the farmer receives $1.25 by his boss, and the boss receives $3+ by the gold selling website which sells those 100 gold for up to $20.
  • After Blizzard banned 50k gold farmers, the exchange rate went from 6c/gold in Spring 2006 to 35c/gold in January 2007.
  • Differences between power levellers and gold farmers: bigger teams (25 per 12-hour shift), less sweat-shop-like, have a company tee-shirt/polo, team spirit, less ban (because they use the customer's account and act nearly like actual players). Some leave gold farming to power levelling to have more room to play for themselves. They like the game/work because playing WoW = learning. Some even buy gold because they don't have time to grind.
  • Raids have drops bound when picked. Therefore, gold farming/power levelling for high-end content is hard. Solution: make a guild, invite the customer in it, raid with him, and have him pick the loots when a boss is downed. Problem: too few customers buy it => cancelled.
  • Gold farmers too want to play.

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