Inside World of Warcraft Gold Farm, Future of Work

82 Comments

If you want a glimpse of the future of work in the broadband age, you can find it, of all places, on MTV’s website. To my knowledge, their recent gaming news segment, “Is Mining Virtual Gold Exploitative?” features the first video footage shot inside Chinese gold farms, those gray market companies which collect and sell virtual gold (primarily from World of Warcraft) to wealthier gamers in the developed world. (The New York Times filed a story on the phenomenon last year, but company managers were considerably more leery to speak on record with that reporter.)

Drawing from an fascinating upcoming documentary by UC San Diego grad student Ge Jin (YouTube clip from his film here), the MTV segment features interviews with workers and managers of several gold farms, which resemble a cross between a 24 hour LAN party and a very shabby college dorm. By the segment’s estimate, an astounding half million Chinese now make a living – about $100 a month – from the acquisition and sale of WoW gold to US and EU gamers.
Why is this is the future of work online? Consider the numbers, youth, and low wages of the gold farmers, and the growing interest in outsourcing tasks online. Amazon recently launched a non-game application for this, known as the Amazon Mechanical Turk.

In Second Life, a Hollywood production company is outsourcing its Second Life projects to its Vietnamese branch, where highly-skilled workers can create professional 3D environments for a fraction of the cost, were it done here. It’s easy to see how the Chinese farmers of Warcraft might evolve into the blue collar workers of the 3D Internet.

MTV producer Matt Sunbulli put us in touch with Ge Jin, and we asked him about this phenomenon, and sought his own thoughts on its relation to the future of work online.

How did you locate these gold farms?

Ge Jin: I have a friend who had been operating a gold farms in Shanghai since 2003. So his gold farm is the first one I visited. My friend’s gold farm closed in 2005, so did most gold farms in Shanghai. Many of them migrated to smaller cities with lower housing and human resource costs.

So I contacted other gold farms through my friend’s old network… I was lucky enough to find several gold farms that were open to me in Jinhua, Nanjin, Lishui and Hangzhou. Again I was lucky to win their trust. It’s probably because I’m from the same background as many gaming workers (many gold farm owners were former gaming workers.)

Were gold farmers afraid the Chinese government would shut them down?

GJ: The ones that allowed me to film there were not afraid because they are located in cities where local goverments are tolerant of this industry. There is no national policy regulating this new industry yet, so it’s up to the local governments to judge.

Most local governments have no motive to shut down these gold farms, as they reduce unemployment and even reduce the crime rate by reducing unemployed male youth on the street. Some gold farms refused my visit because they don’t want to pay tax and choose to operate underground, or they are worried that their labor practice is problematic…

What does WoW gold farming suggest about the future of work?

GJ: I think these gold farms indicate that the game platform has the potential to engage more people in Internet-driven economy. The gaming workers in China don’t have skills like English, software or graphic design to participate in other forms of Internet-driven work, but they can communicate and navigate in a 3D game world whose tools and routines they are familiar with… So if more social and economic activities happen in an accessible 3D game world, people who don’t have access to other culture capital but gaming knowledge will be more likely to be included in global interaction.

82 Comments

Jonathan Rogue

Hmm that was quite interesting, trying to make a living off make a virtual living for others, if that makes sense lol.

wow auction house

It’s crazy that people are willing to risk accounts that they put thousands of hours into just to save a couple of hours farming… And it’s obviously a large enough percentage to keep several of these sweatshops competing with each other, too. Wild.

Kind of pitiful considering how easy it’s been to make gold since Cataclysm came out, and that’s not even taking into account the unending gold fountain of Northrend.

zombiepeach

If you’re looking to purchase virtual currency here’s a couple tips to help you find a reliable website.

I have worked in the RMT or Gold Farming industry for a few years and before that owned a Gaming Center. I have heard a ton of horror stories from customers over the years in reference to the dealings of sites they had been scammed by in the process of buying game currency & power leveling for online MMO games. The shady things the sites in this industry pull would fill a book so be very careful.

Here are 10 things you can do to protect yourself from being scammed:

  1. Most important of all use Paypal to pay for your transaction. Why? PayPal does not honor Virtual Goods Sales which enables you to open a dispute with PayPal at anytime you feel your being scammed and get your money back 100% of the time.
  2. Do not use Bizrate/Shopzilla as a method to decide if the site is safe to work with. The Chinese take advantage of the reporting methods they use and load up their ratings with fake feedback. Instead use sites like ripoffreport.com and alexa.com as these sites have not yet been exploited with fake feedback.
  3. Visit the site and see if anyone is actually manning the “live chat”. If no1 is working the site probably not safe to order from it. If you do get a worker in “live chat” talk to them for a bit and determine weather it is an actual person or an auto responder that just drops “canned” messages. If you find its a real operator that is a good sign site might be ok to order from.
  4. Phone Contact – If the site has a phone number listed that you can call them on or if they actually perform a “Voice Verification” phone call they are safer to go with.
  5. Look for a site that is selling more then just currency and power leveling. If a site sells tangible goods too then it’s a good sign. This can also offer a way to test them out… if they sell game time cards you can buy one (you’ll eventually need it anyway) and see how the transaction goes. If all goes well then you can be pretty sure they are legit and feel safer to order with them.
  6. Another way to find out if a site is safe if to ask friends and guild mates for recommendations if they have purchased mmo goods before. People you actually know are going to give the most unbiased feedback.
  7. Google the sites name and do some research that way. If a load of stuff comes up when you Google the site name add some negative words to the search. There is no point in adding positive words to a site look-up because all that typically shows you is the sites fake marketing and SEO work.
  8. Site Content is a sign of a legit site. If they have an “about us” page, blog or forum associated with the site then they are more likely to be legit. Most fly by night sites do not take the time to build in these social outlets.
  9. If you ever share you account info with a site (should only be necessary for power leveling orders), even a trusted one, be sure to change your password when your order is completed. You don’t want to risk your account getting pillaged by an ex-employee or the site itself should it ever hit hard times.
    1. If it is “to good to be true” stay away! Any site offering something for next to nothing should immediately be suspect.

Well I hope this help to insure a safer purchase of virtual goods for anyone who bothered reading all of this :)

I am working on a new project we will be starting one of the only American owned and operated RMT sites. We will specialize in using “Player Sellers” for stock verses going to the Chinese gold farmers.

Thanks,
Joe
Site Manager

Found it at http://www.afkloot.com/blog

WoWguideHq

This is quite the interesting read. Blizzard will never be fully able to stop gold farming. They might be able to slow it down a little but as long as there is always a demand for gold there will be someone that will sell it illegally.

Bane WoWDojo Webmaster

“It seems feasible to me that half a million starving Chinese people are busting there ass to make gold to sell for hardly nothing by our standards, while the leader/owner of such operation is making an ass load of money off of it. It seams that hungry people will do just about anything to make money to feed themselves and their families.

So please the next time you post please engage what little bit of brain matter you have before typing.”

You sir, are an idiot.

lol

“We regularly track the source of the gold these companies sell, and find that an alarmingly high amount comes from hacked accounts. These are the friends, relatives, and guildmates you may know who have gone through the experience of having characters, gold, and items stripped from them after visiting a website or opening a file containing a trojan virus. Our teams work to educate players and assist them in avoiding account compromise, but the fact remains that the players themselves are often these companies’ largest target as a source for gold, which the companies then turn around and sell to other players.”

Source: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/basics/antigold.html

No mention of gold farming or “half million Chinese now make a living – about $100 a month” which would be $50,000,000 a month. You’d think they’d notice that much gold moving around lol. Maybe next time quote Blizzard instead of MTV.

Marc

It’s a shame how every time-consuming job needs to be exported over seas. Even something as simple as a game becomes a black market, people are always trying to exploit everything. I really hope that these people are working for them selves for the most part. Taking a look at the bright side, at least they are making money off World of Warcraft, if they didn’t have that, who knows what they would be doing.
Nways, I never paid for gold and never will, it’s just stupid depending on others to make gold. I rather pay to learn how to get a lot of gold myself. Which is exactly what I did, to help others out. Here’s a website that has plenty of advice on how to make a lot of gold in World of Warcraft http://www.wowgoldbook.com this website has a lot of useful tips for new and experienced players. Like I said I never needed to buy gold with real money, no one has to.

jaren

personally i have found an amazing site that has links to all of the best professional gold and leveling guides!

psion13245.blogspot.com

i highly reccomend checking it out

it has helped me a bunch

WoW Gold Guide

I’ve worked with some people that own the “chinese gold farming companies” and I have to admit they are shrewd business men and they know what they are doing.. On the other hand I still think it’s craaazzzyyy that people spend so much money on gold. But that’s just my opinion, because I find it very easy to farm.

Tony

Over 10 million pay to play. So why is it hard to believe that half a million play to get paid? Personally, I’m annoyed by their existence but I understand where they’re coming from so I cut them some slack(a little). They get food on the table and your gaming experience is slightly impeded upon.

alliorlistat

Even if you buy wow gold, the risk still remains.
I’ve bought some gold before but in small amounts, nothing big.
Blizzard is rather curious, especially on the big trade transfers.

So watch out

———————————–
Signum meum:
How many Alli do you get if you divide an Ally to Alli? You get G. Bush on a shhtick :P

Deshawn J. Rickard

Hey man nice post, I’ve added you to my RSS reader :) I have a blog about making world of warcraft gold, you can check it out if you want :)

jke

Just to let you all now world of warcraft is not allowing gold farmers to make the game experience crapy just so you guys can get some money.
(please stop buying gold) Also if worldofwarcraft admins (me) find people being powerleveled, gold farming, and item farming. You will be temporaley banded and if we catch you agian your account will be deactiveated.

Thomas

I don’t give 2 shits about that, but they need to get a better job than staying 24/7 on a computer.
That and the fact that they keep spamming all the chanels whit they’re shit. I honestly hope this “gold selling market” Will be dealt whit, It not only ruins the economy but at the same time you lose intrest to play, not only that you will run out of gold soon, and you will depend on these chinese no lifers( seriously, from what i’ve seen, thats what they are, and it’s very sad)

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