IGE Sued By World Of Warcraft Player
In a new twist on an old MMOG debate, gold-farming company IGE has been sued by a World of Warcraft player.
Instigated by long-time World of Warcraft player Antonio Hernandez, the class action suit filed against IGE claims that the company made a "calculated decision to reap substantial profits by knowingly interfering with and substantially impairing the intended use and enjoyment associated with consumer agreements between Blizzard Entertainment and subscribers to its virtual world called World of Warcraft."
At issue is IGE's practice of using low-wage labor in third-world countries to "farm" virtual property or currency within the game, which can then be sold for real currency on eBay or other industry-related websites. According to critics, these activities not only directly violate the World of Warcraft terms of service, but also diminish the enjoyment of legitimate MMOG players by interfering with their normal in-game activities. The practice of gold-farming greatly reduces the amount of resources available to legitimate players, it grossly devalues the in-game currency, and it puts players who do not partake of IGE's services at a significant in-game disadvantage to those who do.
Most MMOGs have outlawed the practice of gold farming, although IGE continues to operate in a number of high-profile games, including Anarchy Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, EVE Online, Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars Galaxies and, of course, World of Warcraft. While many members of the online gaming community are critical of IGE's practices, demand for the service has remained high, allowing the company to continue operating despite setbacks and an often hostile environment. Recently, in fact, Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer at Lord of the Rings Online developer Turbine, said that ongoing changes in the MMOG "secondary market" may force online gaming companies to adapt to new realities in which outfits like IGE are an unavoidable fact of life. "The 'secondary market' is a huge topic of conversation across the industry, and we're watching it really closely," he said. "We all know that something will happen in the next two to five years to business models in general, so we're paying attention to what's going on."
The ongoing infusion of gold in World of Warcraft by IGE, outside the normal parameters of the game's economy, means a constant devaluation of the in-game currency held by honest subscribers. Based on the cost of gold being sold on IGE's website, this devaluation is conservatively estimated to be in the millions of dollars. As a result, the lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing the company selling items and gold online, as well as court costs and unspecified damages to be determined at trial. Representatives from IGE have not issued a comment.
The full text of the suit is available here.
Curious but how does this player think he has any legal entitlement to money he was never actually defrauded out of? I can see Blizzard legitimately bringing forth such a lawsuit on the grounds listed because it's their service that's being violated. However from a player standpoint it doesn't hold up that any player should profit from IGE's ill-gotten gains. The assertions that gold-farming makes it harder for the average player to obtain materials has merit but materials do regenerate and anyone can farm them. That being the case more active players farming can also make it difficult for the casual player to find things. It's not just something that can be easily pointed toward farming companies.
The charges regarding gold value or the in-game economy are more or less moot arguments that constantly get pushed forth. People errantly assume that farming causes things at the in-game auction houses to have inflated prices but it's the players selling that set item cost. If a player sets a high cost on the item for whatever reason other players with the same item to sell will likely do the same thing. As long as people buy into a given price point sellers will hold their prices. Some will argue that it's all to the fault of gold sellers that some players can pay high prices for things and while that's true it also neglects that there are players who will farm just as much to have the gold on hand to purchase things... no IGE required.
World of Warcraft and really most any MMO is going to have the haves and have nots. There is no way around it and people will complain that others have an unfair advantage. Hardcore players have an advantage over casual players, those who aggressively farm for gold or other items have an advantage over those who cannot find the time to do so, players in a guild have an advantage over those who play the game solo, those players with a high level character have an advantage when it comes to starting a new character than a player just playing for the first time and the list goes on and on. If people spent as much time actually playing as they do whining about everything under the sun that they think is unfair and keeping them from becoming the uber-greatness ...they might improve and actually get their characters out of the suck zone.