What’s With all the Gold Seller Spam Anyway?

We’ve received many reports over the past week from players concerned about the recent mass influx of gold advertisements on their servers. Many readers had questions about the meaning of such advertisement in terms of the effect on the WoW economy or Blizzard’s enforcement policy. More to the point, fellow WoW players have asked us, what’s with all these adverts lately?

First, to be clear, we’ve stated before that we don’t support gold selling or buying. There are many reasons that it is a bad idea to do business with these companies and gold is easy enough to make in WoW if you simply do your research. We do, however, understand the motivation to buy gold for those that can afford it. We won’t go into great detail here but suffice it to say that just as there is opportunity cost in WoW, there is opportunity cost in real life. Many players with the financial means simply decide that rather than spend a few hours a week of their precious play time on building in-game wealth, they’d rather spend a few dollars to get the same results. The equation becomes beneficial when you can make the real world equivalent amount of cash as the gold you’re buying faster than you can make the gold in WoW. Or, alternatively, when the real world money actually doesn’t cost you anything so the risk or loss to you personally is nil (think a person with their parent’s credit card) the gold buying equation can seem beneficial. So, we don’t support the actions of gold buyers but we do understand the motivation. Easy money… who can’t get with that?

We took the liberty to chat a bit with a GM (yes, we waited over 48 hours for a response) about the adverts, just to see what Blizzard is telling their employees about these advertisements. After getting through the standard form letter stuff: “Blizzard is firmly against such advertisements…” “ We are working to resolve the issue…” “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention we encourage you to do so using our in-game spam report feature…” “Blah, blah, blah.” We left the conversation with the impression that Blizzard is either powerless or otherwise lacking the resources to fight the gold selling advertisements effectively. In short, it would appear that the recent influx of WoW gold sellers has little to do with Blizzard themselves. They’ve not changed their policies or stance on the issue, their tools are as effective (or ineffective) as they’ve ever been, and no game mechanics have been changed that would (visibly) make selling gold for real world money easier.

So if it’s not a change on Blizzard’s part than the increase in gold selling advertisement activity is on the part of the sellers themselves. We’ve stated previously that we are not fans of gold sellers. But we do know a bit about their business. We’ve researched them before and have come to understand a few things about how they work. It is not typically a high margin business. There are very few titans of industry and, for the most part, the people doing the selling are certainly not sitting on piles of real world money. Much to the contrary, the business is much more like a sweatshop, with employees working long hours for little pay and having to deal with moral ambiguity. What this means to us is that if these companies are choosing to spend their precious resources on more advertising, even with the knowledge that these accounts will be banned regularly, they must be predicting an increase in the need for their services. We can all probably guess what players might need more gold for in the wake of 3.1 but that is not really relevant in for the purposes of this discussion.

The increase in the number (and importantly, diversity) in these adverts means that there are many companies making such predictions. In this sense, we actually see the increase in gold seller advertisements as a sort of a good thing. Good in the informational sense anyway. No one is a fan of being spammed either privately or in a public channel. But it has to be said that the increase in these types of advertisements does allow us to gather insight into the demands of a much larger player base then even our three test servers or extensive WoW social network allows. It’s just common sense that, even though we write and think about WoW finance every day, the gold sellers are much better aligned with the actual financial needs and desires of the WoW player population.

Again, we are not fans of gold sellers or their business. We’d be much happier if they were simply gone and our /trade chat windows went uncluttered (leaving more room for Chuck Norris humor no doubt). In fact, we encourage you to report any and all gold selling advertisements as soon as you see one pop up. But, as traders, we’d be wrong to simply react emotionally and not take the information we are seeing into consideration when evaluating the economy as a whole. That information, this time, is that the gold sellers (people acutely in-tune with the financial needs of our fellow WoW players) are seeing or otherwise predicting an increase in demand for gold. With that demand from players comes desperation. With that desperation comes some excellent deals for WoW traders to profit on. So, report their spam messages… then go search the AH for some sweet deals. A good trader sees opportunity where others only see spam.

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9 Comments

Filed under WoW Market Commentary

9 responses to “What’s With all the Gold Seller Spam Anyway?

  1. Gargisar

    I just wanted to make a comment. Not all Gspammers are above board.
    I had my account hacked, and all gold/items/mats stolen.. then a email from blizz sating my account was blocked for Gspam and they had deleted one of my chars to accive this.

    And by buying their gold your continuing the cycle.
    And then server economy goes bunk >.<

  2. Aro

    I’ve thought about this for a while, and I think that there is actually only one thing that Blizzard can do to ensure that their intellectual property rights (in-game gold) are protected: Sell the gold themselves.

    Think about this: the demand for gold for cash is there, and there is absolutely nothing whatsoever that Blizzard can do about that. They cannot stop people who don’t want to grind from wanting to not have to deal with the time consuming stuff. there is a market out there for people who simply want to pick up a geared and wealthy character, and just play end-game stuff.

    So in a business sense, there is a demand out there that Blizzard is not meeting, and so other people picked up the ball and ran with it.

    Other online games have already picked up on this and sell in-game merchandise for real life cash. My wife is an avid Facebook game player, and tells me there are things you can buy with cash that would take you a month to earn with the in-game methods. While some people find that grind satisfying, there’s plenty of others that do not.

    Now selling gold would increase the money supply, and drive up inflation substantially, as you guys have already noted elsewhere. I think it would be worth Blizzard’s time to consider the sale of in game items, sale of characters of whatever level they want, and maybe even faction if there’s a market for that too, with but one hitch: items obtained in this way should have a little “$” marker on them to denote that this was bought with cash.

    Plenty of people are going to care about that little “$”. Those who appreciate the grind will care, and they’ll mock the ones who have this. Those who buy this stuff will either care about it or they won’t, but the point of all this is that Blizzard will finally be taking advantage of this little niche market.

    After that, all Blizzard has to do is make sure they undercut these outside sellers on absolutely every single thing. POOF! Secondary market is now gone. How bout that?

  3. Blizzard could very simply get rid of gold spam by not letting all less than lvl20 characters to use trade channel, and use global in cities only a limited times/day.

    They don’t really care about goldselling as both the goldseller and the goldbuyer are subscribers.

    • croup

      I like your idea of restricting global chat to characters of level 20 and below. As far as I am concerned, global chat has been a problem since day 1 or Wow. The trade channel is a virtual black-market of illicit goods and spam, 75% of the time people that spam professions in trade are trying to rip off the player base or get over on paying auction fees (wow tax). All professions can skill up and sell their wares on the auction house so there is no reason for them to spam trade when they can make some if not all of their material investment back. I know some people will say that trade channel is a social necessity for interaction with other players, but that is not what it was designed for and the need of this channel is obsolete.

  4. @Aro
    By selling gold themselves,
    Blizzard may lose more than it makes.

    1. Grinding and trading means game time, and they need people to be hanging around in the server to encourage interaction
    2. The whole in harm economy of trading will be harm, “inflation”. If there are ways “effortless” to create gold in game
    3. The reputation of Blizzard will ruin, on selling item with real money. If Blizzard is selling gold to player, What’s the next step? epic gear? Super-human ability (suggested by others)?

    These may induce a lose of player base, which possibly lose more than just selling the gold.

  5. jederus

    @ Gargisar

    Agree that there are risks inherent in doing business with nefarious gold sellers. One of the concerns you mention is in our initial post on the reasons not to buy gold found here: https://wowenomics.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/three-reasons-to-never-buy-gold/

    @ Aro

    This is the so called ‘legalization’ argument that you present here. I see your point but wonder how this might affect the overall player base and popularity of WoW as many of the ‘hardcore’ already take issue with Blizzard’s policies. I like you’re idea of the ‘$’ tag, sort of like a Scarlet Letter for buyers. Here’s something interesting, did you know that in many Latin countries shame is a greater motivator for debt repayment than the credit system? I refer you to this article from Time magazine: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1889832,00.html
    I wonder if this same sense of shame, in this case by having a ‘$’ affixed to your character, would have a similar effect in the game. I can postulate, however, that you’d be hard pressed to get yourself into a higher-end PUG and perhaps even some guilds with such a tag.

    @ Gevlon

    I agree with you that so long as keeping both the buyer and seller accounts active remains profitable for Blizzard, they will continue to do so. I like your idea about < level 20 accounts being restricted from /trade chat in capital cities but I worry that, similar to other nefarious industries, the sellers will find ways to adapt their tactics that may be even more detrimental to the community at large.

    @ Zekta

    All good points regarding some of the risks inherent with legalization but I don’t know if they would actually lose more than gained. I do think it would lead to a massive shift in player base but I can’t say if it would be for better or worse but I suspect worse.

  6. Holy

    I actually think that the increased gold spam (which is an advertising expense to the gold sellers) is really a sign that the market has gotten more competitive, not that there is increased demand. There’s more gold than ever, but unlike players, the gold sellers can’t sit on their hands. They have to pay the bills, so they’re competing harder for fewer customers. And I’ve noticed the price of gold for sale has dropped dramatically since the WOTLK launch.

  7. Aro

    @Zekta Chan –
    1. Blizz could calculate how long it take the average player to grind 1k gold, and just do the math. If it take a player a month to grind 1k, they could sell 1k gold for $15 and come out even. I don’t think Blizz should sell gold though, just items, characters and faction.
    2. huh?
    3. Blizz would absolutely have to run this by current players in focus groups to see what they would tolerate, and make a command decision on what would be the best thing fiscally. the guys who created WoW care abou the reputation of the game, but the business behind it only cares as much as customer dollars care.

    ————————————-

    @jederus – focus groups would have to decide this, not the public forums. I’m gonna bet that most of the players in WoW are not active on the forums, and that there may not be as much of a stigma for this accross the board as it may seem. The simple fact is that there would not be a secondary market if there wasn’t a market for it.

    I’m thinking that shame would be a motivator to make people want to grind instead of buy. This is going to matter to the hardcore people, but regarding raids and pugs I think that most people are concerned more about your heals, your dps and your stats than whether or not stuff was bought. Gear is still gear, and the only concern I think raids might have is that since you bought it, maybe you’re actually a geared noob.

    ————————————-

    @Gevlon – I actually like that idea a lot! you’d undoubtedly see a decrease in trade channel spam, but I wonder what other avenues they might take?

  8. Gargisar

    @ gevlon
    one hitch… every person with a bank alt would break down and cry to blizzard

    inflation is already high without bliz selling gold.. ie. my server has 8g for wool (or more sometimes)
    @ holy.. since 3.1 there has been a sudden rise, which should worry us more than blizzard, as new content will be forced to a higher price >.<

    thanks for that link jederus.. i know how it feels to have it happen..
    and i heard about a mates gm getting hacked and the removal of 6 bank tabs worth of gear… just to fund others quick fixes

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