Gold Farming Part II - How Much is a Sword +2 Worth?

From the NY Times.

As it stands, Blizzard’s revenue - the money players pay Blizzard to play its games - is counted as part of the GNP.

But the work players do, though - killing monsters, completing quests, finding items - does not.

Julian Dibbell writes that the in-game assets of EverQuest represent real wealth - the castles, armor, magic rings, and all the rest of it.

Should questing and leveling be counted as part of the US GNP?

If you’re a WoW player, should you include level 70 wizard among your assets, when you’re calculating your net worth? When you’re applying for a loan? Or calculating what you need for retirement?

Only if, when pro basketball players engage in a pick-up game, we count their effort as part of the GNP as well, or if when I bake a cheesecake that could retail for $60 we count that as part of the GNP.

I think it’s very silly to monetize things that will never be exchanged for money.


I’m not sure how to read this…so I’m going to read it the way I’m thinking and let the chips fall as they may. I agree (with what I THINK you are saying :)), in that there shouldn’t be any monetary value put on something until money exchanges hands.

Some for-instances: I’m currently not playing WoW anymore. However, I started playing WoW when the game was still in Alpha under the FaF program (I have several friends that used to work at the company). At any rate, when the game came out I was able to level up rapidly on one of the first servers out there (Stormrage). When I quit I had two accounts with level 60-70 characters, thousands of gold and decent equipment for several of my characters won in various raids (one of them equipped with the highest level PvP gear).

So, my accounts have real world value. I haven’t checked lately but I’m guessing they are each worth at least $400-$500 each…maybe more. The gold and mounts alone are probably worth that much, let alone the other gear. However, the accounts are currently de-activated and I have no plans to sell at this time.

So, while its true that the accounts COULD be worth something…they may not be actually converted into money at any time. As long as they aren’t…then its all pretty much theoretical and nothing should be done.

Not unless things get to the point where these accounts are worth a lot more money…IMHO anyway. After all, its all theoretical until actual money exchanges hands…and in the on-line world things become abundant (or not) at the whim of the developer. A case in point: Gold. At one point, gold was relatively hard to get in WoW. Accumulating gold was difficult (for some), and so the prices of un-bound items (in gold) were relatively high at the auction houses. With the introduction of the expansion however gold was literally dirt cheap. This had a ripple effect…it drove down the prices for the old gear people were attempting to sell AND drove down the prices of gold for those unscrupulous enough to BUY their gold with cash in one of the online sites that cater to that kind of thing.

The real world effect, if you actually were trying to do as you seem to be suggesting, is that overnight your assets would have gone down quite a bit…and all at the whim of the developer (who, if this kind of thing ever becomes real, might DELIBERATELY attempt to skew things to make even more money).

Finally, we are talking about relatively small ammounts of money here. I don’t know about the average WoW player, but even assuming I could get $500 for both of my accounts, adding $1000 in (somewhat slippery and unstable) assets wouldn’t really do much to help me secure a loan or toward retirement. :slight_smile:


This is why MMO companies must fight gold farmers tooth and nail.

If in-game resources are treated as real resources, then that opens up a whole new world of legal entanglements.

For example, when Blizzard released it’s expansion to World of Warcraft, it completely overturned the economy. The new areas handed out gold like it was candy, creating massive inflation. You could watch the price of gold offered by farmers plummet. In addition, there was a new crafting skill that everyone wanted to try out, so the price of the materials needed for that kill suddenly skyrocketed (and later crashed, when the number of people doing it normalized). And to allow players with newly minted level 60’s catch up with characters that have had time to explore the highest raid material, they also handed out comparable equipment right away. This made stuff that characters had to work very hard for almost immediately obsolete.

If gold and equipment was widely recognized as having real-world cash values, someone would have taken a bath, and would arguably have had grounds to sue.

On IGE, a “Lvl 60 Human Male Priest,” with “Kindling staff, mount, and more!!” goes for $593.98.

A Lvl 70 Night Elf will set you back $743.38.

You can buy 11,000 gold for $914.19.

I don’t know how many elves or priests IGE has in its inventory, or how much gold, but surely IGE’s inventory has a monetary value, doesn’t it?

Suppose I wanted to get into the game, but didn’t want to do the work of building up a website from scratch. You all aren’t saying I should ignore the value of IGE’s inventory when calculating a bid, are you?

If you’re actually planning on selling it, then you should first call up Blizzard with your account number ready in order to facilitate the transaction ;).

But if we set that aside and figure you want advice on how to be a rotten dirty farmer, then of course you should consider IGE’s inventory. For that matter, the IRS should consider the inventory of IGE come April 15*.

The thing is, there’s a major difference between monetized goods (I may be using that word incorrectly–I mean goods whose owners have assigned a monetary value to them and plan on exchanging them for money) and other goods. I’m going to babysit my nephew for a few hours once a week for the next month; should my sister necessarily consider this as monetary gift to her, calculating the going rate for babysitting services and multiplying it by the number of hours? My boss gave me a ride back from the restaurant at lunch today; on my tax forms, should I report this as income in the form of chauffeur services?

I’m guessing that the majority of activity in our country is not counted as part of the GNP, for similar reasons. MMORPG should fit in this category. I think the only reason why people doubt that is because it’s a relatively new phenomenon, and people haven’t really wrapped their heads around it yet.

ANd a minor note: xtisme, that second quote you attributed to me wasn’t me. No worries, but I just wanted to clarify!


  • Please don’t correct me on how business taxes are paid :).

The answer is that a Sword +2 is worth practically nothing, since MMORPGS out monty-haul the monty-haulingest of monty-haul ftf rpgs.

You should have to defeat a pretty tough monster or do some serious research to find a Sword +2. Anything +3 or higher should have a definite legend behind it.

I was talking about the ‘game’ of retailing MMO items online.

So you agree that MMO items - at least when they’re in IGE’s inventory - have real value?

Well, regardless of whether she appreciates it or not, your offer to sit for her does have a real value - specifically, the amount of money it would have cost her to hire a sitter, but for your offer.

I’ll refrain from giving you tax advice. However, as I understand it, the IRS does not require you to pay taxes on gifts, but does expect you to pay taxes on goods or services exchanged ‘in kind.’

“Barter transactions can provide your company with important financial, sales, and marketing benefits. Like other transactions, however, barter sales are taxable, and your company must report them to the IRS. This is also true of credits you receive or spend through a barter exchange; regardless of how you use barter credits, they’re taxable as if they were cash.” Random Website

So you’d say that if players create characters, but don’t sell them, it shouldn’t be counted as part of the GNP, but if they do, then it should?


Is this value affected by the fact that my services aren’t available to anyone else, and that she might not have a babysitter for that occasion if I weren’t doing it for free? Why should the value be determined based on the hypothetical world in which my offer didn’t exist, instead of in the real world where my offer does exist?

Sure–just as if I make a sandwich but don’t sell it, it shouldn’t be considered part of the GNP, but if I do sell it, then it should.


This appears to be a question with an answer, not a real debate.

Given its particular venue, it probably belongs in Cafe Society, not General Questions.

Off you go.
[ /Moderating ]

Is my house counted into the GNP? How about the comic books I own? Someday, I may sell those items. I may sell them for a lot, or I may sell them for a little. If they don’t count towards the GNP, then why should a WoW account that hasn’t been sold count? Value of items owned isn’t counted into GNP anyway, is it?

Then comes the discussion of who actually owns an account. All of the End User Licenses that I’ve read specifically state that they account holder (me) doesn’t own diddly. I am paying for is the use of Blizzard’s resources. If I sell my account to someone else, I’m actually selling something I don’t own. Non-online equivalent. Say I rent a movie from Blockbuster. If instead of returning it to Blockbuster, I sell it on a street corner, does that get counted into GNP?

Finally. Suppose I really can sell an account. It takes me 200 hours and 4 months to get to the point where I can sell it. I get $500 for the account. So now I have spend 200 hours, $80 for the game and $15/month. I also have to own a computer and pay for internet connection. What is my actual profit? Isn’t it profit that is included in GNP?

No you should not. Because that level 70 wizard does not belong to you, it belongs to Blizzard. The EULA and Terms of Service are quite clear on that point.

ETA - I see that Tastes has already pointed this out. Sorry for the duplicate info.