The World Bank Proposes Fair Trade Gold Farming

The World Bank Proposes Fair Trade Gold Farming

An analysis by a World Bank initiative recommends that gold farming – you read that right – is a substantial growth opportunity for developing nations’ economies, and that NGOs – bureaucrat speak for do-gooder agencies – begin connecting the rural poor in these nations to gold farming enterprises under a fair-trade modelling.

That shit-you-not-proposition is not the only interesting thing about infoDev’s report on virtual economies. Ars Technica, which first noticed the report among the gaming press, notes that it contains a ton of original research, interviews of informants, and an analysis that counteracts a lot of conventional wisdom of what the gold farming market looks like and how it functions.

The fair-trade model proposed by infoDev postulates a system where, say, a gamer places an order for $US100 worth of in-game gold. Going down the chain, PayPal takes its $US2 transaction fee; a large company in China gets $US30, a gold-farming studio contracted to that company gets $US45 (wages excluded), resulting in $US23 back to the individual worker. “Gold farming” in this case would cover gold buys as well as power-leveling, though gold was the example used in the fair-trade model.

For those conversant in economics, Ars Technica’s breakdown of the report provides a solid gaming context to what the think tank has uncovered. The report itself is available here. For the lay readership, while the report confirms the stereotype of the Chinese gold farmer supplying the Western gamer with commodities he’s too lazy to acquire, the report seems to suggest this is as much an opportunity for NGOs as actual farming programs and, appropriately managed, less exploitive. But it leaves open an obvious question:

What would Blizzard have to say about this?

WoW players could one day buy “Fair Trade” gold from Chinese farms [Ars Technica]


  • Isn’t gold farming / power leveling against the TOS of most MMOs? I know that selling in-game currency is a ban-worthy offence in WoW and EVE (not sure about others).

    • It is not against the ToS for EVE… to be so would be the biggest joke of all. How do you think that players of the biggest cartels in EVE don’t have to work? They sell their products to real world consumers.

      As for other games, I am not sure whether many really enforce such a rule as it as P2P games make profit from said players being online.

      • It actually is against the ToS of eve…..
        You can pseudo buy currency if you buy plex to sell in the in game market. However, this is much different than purchasing things off a gold farmer for a few reasons. A) it keeps money in CCPs pocket, and B) the only item it puts in allows other players to extend their play time by an amount equal to the money spent by the original seller, thus maintaining a zero sum outcome of the transaction. Eternal and internal funds remain unaffected.

        Yes, there are farmers in Eve, of course, but it is against the tos.

      • Lol. Just lol. lets all get our Tinfoil hats on and talk about how Molle and Mittens are really BFFs while we’re at it.

    • Yes; the terms of service/end-user licence agreement. That is not a law. The worst case is a closed account or having to buy a new copy of the game or licence/CD-key. What sort of deterrent is that? (It isn’t one!)

  • “…NGOs – bureaucrat speak for do-gooder agencies…”

    Was ‘do-gooder’ really necessary, Owen?
    Such a horrible, Fox News-esque phrase.

    ‘Non-profit’ or ‘charitable’ would be better. (Even ‘..bureaucrat speak for groups like Oxfam..’ if you wanted to give an example.)

  • Sure, go for it – then laugh when the companies get sued for unauthorised access, profit from stolen property(since the gold, etc is still owned by the developers). The companies would then throw this back to the workers themselves, I’m sure.

    Now, if the tos was updated to include a mandatory fine for third-party access, and both the players and the farmers involved were chased, I think we’ve got a great bunch of new meme content coming.

  • So let me get this straight it’s a good thing to fund people who hack into other peoples accounts to steal things and than sell them back to the person they robbed?

    Gold Farmers are responsible for sending out E-Mails pretending to be from Blizzard, claiming to have won a free thing, and just go to this fake site and enter all your details. Theft of virtual stuff is still theft.

    I believe some of the gold is farmed but most is stolen.

  • I used to play MMOs, rage about gold farmers, block and report them, froth spittle in the general chat about those “filthy chinese bastards” ruining the game.

    Then I read For The Win by Corey Doctorow (sometimes published as FTW). I still can’t believe how few people have read it, even though it’s FREE on Stanza or iBooks or most anywhere on the internet.

    I strongly recommend anyone with even a passing interest in MMOs, online gaming, the monetisation of virtual assets, or the concentric economies of demand these games create give this a read.

    Did I mention it was free?

    • OK so I went and tracked down the story, you are aware it’s a work of fiction which portrays Gold Farming as a positive thing.

      It leaves out spamming thousands of E-Mails to trick people out of their virtual money, ninjaing loot in a Pick up Group, hacking accounts and generally portrays Gold farmers as these awesome uber players who out class everyone and are just misunderstood. Also for the record it’s a work of fiction not an account of real people.

      Maybe I’m too jaded and cynical, but I don’t care that the person who stole my car had a bad life, I care that he steals cars and one of them was mine.

  • One major flaw in that financial breakdown. More gold farming = more gold = lower market value. I’d expect the prices to fall through he floor.. starving people will continue to starve.

    Also, the world has gone nuts. Generation of virtual currency as a viable industry.. because people are too lazy to play games??!? Wasting energy so that other people can waste more energy. It’s all sorts of wrong. Post-modern spiral into grey.

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