Facebook game profits are big, but MMO gold farming is huge

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Gold Farmers
In fact, a report (PDF link) by the Word Bank's infoDev finance program suggests that 75 percent of all virtual goods sales globally are from gold farmers. Gold farmers are folks who make money off of gathering gold in games like World of Warcraft and selling it for real world currency. The types of gold farmers range from those who do it for a wage to those who steal it directly from players' accounts to bots, or automated programs that do the in-game dirty work. Facebook games might be worth $5 billion in four years, but gold farming was worth at least $3 billion in 2009.

Because most gold farmers originate from poorer countries, infoDev recommends that these services be supported whose revenue could help the development of said countries. The only problem is that this practice is largely forbidden within the agreement that players accept when first signing up for their MMO of choice. The report goes so far as to recommend that the US companies behind these games support the largely Chinese gold farmers, which has all but become a business in the past few years.

However, considering companies like Blizzard make absolutely no money from gold farming, it's terribly unlikely that developers would support such a thing unless it involved them. Unfortunately, what's more likely to happen is that developers will cut out the $3 billion middle man and develop currency sales platforms like those in FarmVille and other Facebook games. The Facebook games and gold-farming industries are putting the pressure on subscription-based MMOs to adapt, which increasingly seems to be their only option.

[Via Gamasutra]

[Image Credit: Next Nature]

Have you ever bought gold for an MMO game or currency in a social game? Do you see gold farming lasting much longer as a business model? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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