Remembering the Wild West Era of Videogame Gold Farming

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Wired recently interviewed Julian Dibbell and Marcus Eikenberry for Episode 245 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Julian Dibbel was one of the first journalists to cover RMT (Real Money Trade), the sale of videogame items for actual money. When he began investigating the market, he started hearing rumors about “Chinese gold farms” where low-paid workers gathered in-game resources to sell to wealthier players. For years the farms were just a rumor, but Dibbell was eventually able to confirm their existence.

“I visited these factories in China that were literally guys working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, living in factory dorms, playing World of Warcraft, just cranking out the gold,” Dibbell says in Episode 245 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Such elaborate measures made sense because RMT was highly lucrative. Marcus Eikenberry, a leading figure in the virtual goods industry, says that for years he enjoyed phenomenal success trading items in games such as World of Warcraft and Ultima Online. But the business was always unpredictable.

Eikenberry is still involved with RMT for games such as Shroud of the Avatar and Crowfall, but these days he only works with developers who endorse him as a certified business partner. It’s part of what he sees as a maturing game industry, with reliable RMT vendors replacing the shady black markets that plagued earlier games.

You can find the entire Podcast here!




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