This article (own work) was originally published in the gaming magazine 2old2play. Read other articles

Massively multiplayer online role playing games, often referred to as MMORPGS are more popular than ever. In the past few years these have become more extravagant sources of income for more than the developers. The trading of virtual services, items and currency has evolved and is no longer restricted to the game with player’s now trading, selling and buying items and in game currency for real money.

It is now common on website's such as to see virtual currency and rare items listed for sale. World of Warcraft is a prime example of how virtual currency is sold for real money. Gold Farming is a term many World of Warcraft players will be familiar with. The farming of gold in World of Warcraft is where players collect in game currency for the sole purpose of selling it for real money often on auction website's like World of Warcraft Gold farm factories have become common in China, and at least 100,000 Chinese citizens, 0.3% of Chinas large gaming population works as a gold farmer in World of Warcraft. Some ‘farmers’ are working up to eighteen hours a day or more, for often less than 100 USD a month. So how does that affect your average gamer? The trading of virtual services, items and currency can both help and hinder gamers. Purchasing in game currency and items can help players which started playing at a later date, and can help them to advance further. It can help gamers who have not so much time to dedicate to World of Warcraft and gaming. Although the buying and selling of gold also severely disadvantages many genuine players, which sweat many hours hunched over the good old keyboard and mouse leveling up and earning gold the traditional way. Does buying gold in World of Warcraft increase or detract to the level of enjoyment? Yes and no, having gold allows for better items to be purchased, but is not as satisfying as if you had spent many an hour earning that gold. Obtaining gold or rare items by not earning it is deemed cheating and World of Warcraft does not allow in game virtual services, items or currencies to be traded (although this still occurs)   

Project Entropia is another perfect example of virtual cash and items being traded for real money. Project Entropia uses Project Entropia Dollars (PEDS), and one PED 10 PED's equates to 1 US dollar. A battle axe currently cost 4.55 PED's. In December, 2004 an exclusive virtual ‘Treasure Island’ was auctioned in Project Entropia for a record 265,000 PED's, with the buyer paying $26,500 USD for the exclusive island, which contained 60 blocks of land which could be sold, mining rights, and hunting rights. Then in October, 2005 a virtual space station being built in Project Entropia was auctioned and sold for a staggering 1,000,000 PED's, with the buyer paying $100,000 USD for the virtual space station. The space station was named ‘Club Neverdie’ after its owner and opened in April, 2006. So can these two sales in Project Entropia be considered investments? To an extent these can e considered high risk ventures, as there is no guarantee, you will gain nay revenue from your newly acquired asset, no guarantee the game will remain popular, and no guarantee you’ll ever be able to recoup your investment.

The trading of virtual services, items or currencies can be dated back to the likes of such games as Ultima Online (1997), although now has become much more popular. It’s bad enough cheating in a game such as World of Warcraft and farming gold, but to sell the farmed gold for real money is highway robbery and is against WOW terms of service. As for games which have a standardized conversion rate, like Project Entropia, virtual items, services or currency for real cash is taking it a bit too far in my opinion. In every means games are to be enjoyed, although I honestly enjoy a game more by earning rewards in the game and progressing on my own, than by buying a rare item or in game currency.

The buying and selling of virtual items for cash has surged in popularity over the past few years, with the only question being, will this trend continue to grow and ill online gaming be limited to those willing to splurge our on virtual items and currencies?

Project Entropia
The virtual island sold for 26,500 USD in Project Entropia in December, 2004.

This article (own work) was originally published in the gaming magazine 2old2play. Read other articles