Selling MMORPG character or items... is it legal?

Is it legal to buy an mmorpg game (such as Everquest or Star Wars Galaxies), play the game, develop the ingame character, be rich, and sell the game along with the account ID and password at higher price? The developer of the game usually says that it is against the EULA, however after reading this article that I found from another thread:First sale doctrine,I think it might be legal after all. According to the article:

Furthermore, the seller usually put a disclaimer that says that all character, items, ingame money, etc are intellectual properties of the game developer and will still be theirs even after the transaction. The transaction was merely for the game along with the account id and password and all the time that the seller had spent to develop the ingame character.

An example of such transaction can be found a lot on EBay: link

So is this legal or not?

I think that the doctrine of first sale means that you could, for instance, sell the software for EQ (I don’t play the game myself, but I understand that it comes on CD-ROMs). I don’t think that you can legally sell the characters you’ve developed using that software, though, if the game agreement forbids it. However, I am not a lawyer.

I have no idea what happens if someone is caught doing this sort of thing. I’m PRETTY sure that the game I play, Gemstone IV, will terminate the account(s) involved, if they catch people at it. Frankly, I don’t see the appeal of this. The point of a game is usually to play the game, and paying someone else to play it for you sort of defeats the whole purpose.

Just wondering, for when an IP lawyer wanders by,
what if, rather than buying a character, I bought the game myself, started a character, and then hired someone to play it for me for a while?

Technically, it’s against the EULA to buy and sell characters in Everquest. Practically, people do it all the time. See

I don’t think that it’s illegal, just like it’s not illegal to set up a sock on this message board. Like setting up a sock on this message board, selling a character is a violation of the terms of service. The sock/character will be deleted but the Courts and police will never get involved.


Well (to give one example) suppose I have several friends who have been playing EQ for years and who want me to play with them. I can buy EQ and install it but now I’m 1st level but all of them are 40th. Not much opportunity to play together.

Or, I can buy an account from someone who has already reached 40th level and so be able to play with my friends.

Another example would be someone who hates “grinding” levels and feels the game only gets interesting at (say) 20th level or above. So, they buy a 20th level account and so get immediately to the part of the game they consider “fun”.

There are also people who buy and sell items or money in the game.

There is a game coming out soon (forgot the name) which is actually embracing this concept. The game has no monthly fee but the game economy will be based on real-world dollars. You pay money into your game account and it appears in your character’s account in-game. Money there is used to buy things from both other players and NPCs.

The really unique thing here is that you can transfer money out of the game as well, meaning some players will actually be able to make a profit by playing the game.

One thing I see going wrong with that, is what legal ramifications are there for stealing in game items or what happens when a trade does not go thru? If I lotto with players in my group for “Uber power sword worth 300 real dollars” and I win, yet some other player runs off with it, can I sue and who can I sue?

I’m not even sure if “legal” comes into it (other than possible intellectual property issues). However, for most games I believe that item/character sale (for real-world money) is against the “Terms of Service” players have to accept before every play session. So maybe you can’t be charged for criminal activity, but you could be temporarily banned, have your account permanently revoked, or (possible but unlikely) have civil charges brought against you for breach of contract.

IANAL, but if you want I can comb through the ToS for SWG when I get home tonight to see if I can find any relevant sections.

And tanstaafl, I think you’re talking about There. I saw some stuff for it while it was in beta, and I’m pretty sure I remember hearing about “ThereBucks”.

I played Asheron’s Call for years, still do now and then. AC is famous amongst the MMRPGs for the developers (Turbine/MS) having a very look-the-other-way policy toward selling items/accts and cheating at large. This combined with a policy that gave the original owner/subscriber power to recall an account (hacking/stealing accts was an issue) lead to all sorts of scams. A few months ago Turbine took over complete control from MS, and while they have made some improvements, much remains the same. These days (officially), they will ban your account if they find out you sold it. To my knowledge, selling in-game items and services is still legit. Back in the day, I sold enough virtual treasure to easily pay for the gamebox and 2+ years subscription to the game and ISP. I knew people who played as their full-time job, and managed to scrape by IRL on it. Either by finding certain items, or by developing accounts to high levels and selling them. By now though, the use of third party apps has become so pervasive that you can literally run a program that will play the game and develop your characters for you. Go figure. A program is written for people to play for fun, then people write a program to play it for them. It’s a mad mad mad virtual world.

Look around some of the MMRPG boards (vault network boards is a big one) and you’ll find some debates about in-game stealing vs. real life crime … the conclusion mostly seems to be: “It’s a game jackass!” I hope most EULA’s would pretty explicitly not leave the players rights to sue each other over virtual disputes. I can’t say I have such faith that the legal system wouldn’t ride with it. Lord knows lawyers would trouble our court system to let a mouse sue a cat so long as they got their cut.

My advice … pick a game with PvP required. Then if someone crosses you … kill 'em.

Just in case you’re interested, you might want to look at this article from the July edition of “The Walrus” about the economics of MMORPGs. It discusses buying and selling characters, among other things.

But the thing is this: each box of game comes with a CD-Key and each CD-Key only entitles you to a single account. Which means, if you want to sell those games, you have to sell it along with the account associated with the CD-Key which contains all the characters and items. So selling just the game (cd+manuals+box) will be meaningless as you will not be able to play anything.

Considering this, do you guys still think that the transaction will be against Term of Serice (which indeed most EULA and ToS prohibit this kind of transaction)? If the First Sale Doctrins can override EULA for selling softwares, does it apply to this case of selling the game along with the characters and items in it too?

another game where quite a bit of real world $ changes hands is Neveron

whats up fellow darktidian? :cool:

You can sell the software for EQ, but it won’t be of any use to the other person unless you transfer the account in it’s entirety. This is because there are PINs on the software discs/packaging, which are only valid with one registration. This was Sony’s way to try and prevent the secondary sales of the software discs, and the EULA specifically forbids selling your characters, items or account. I play Everquest myself, this is how I know this. Any EQ discs you find in a pawn shop are likely invalid in other words.

Also, they are now putting out their expansions electronically, with fewer disc copies out for sale. You sign up for the expansion, and it downloads with the patcher automatically every so often. You have to run the patch program in order to be able log in to the game. We are currently downloading the Omens of War expansion in this manner whenever they put out installments.

I do not know about other MMORPGs though.

I’m going to add, you can access your Everquest account, and change the credit card you use to pay for it, using the patch program. You may also transfer a character you own from one account, to another account you own, or merely transfer a character from one server to another, paying extra to retain gear, all for various fees. This is permitted.

Transferring ownership of an Everquest account, items, or characters from one person to another is not permitted. They even allow you to re-upload expansions you purchased via the “Download” option if your computer has to be re-formatted. We had to do this recently due to our hard drive failing.