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Legality of MMORPG Item/account selling

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I'm not sure how I think about this. My initial reaction is that this is crappy. It doesn't hurt companies at all. Here's the article since you have to be logged in to see it through the link: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=4688 Blizzard, a company notable for going after online cheaters and pirates in its blockbuster PC titles Diablo II and Warcraft 3, is tackling another sore point for Internet-focused games developers: offline trading of items for real-world money. An email sent out to users of PC MMO World of Warcraft now states: "The World of Warcraft Terms of Use clearly state that all of the content in World of Warcraft is the property of Blizzard, and Blizzard does not allow 'in game' items to be sold for real money. Accordingly, Blizzard Entertainment will take any and all actions necessary to stop this behavior." Although not unprecedented (other MMOs, including EverQuest, have cracked down on item/money reselling in the past), "any and all actions" involves some fairly strict penalties: both the characters and accounts of offending sellers will be deleted, and Blizzard may go so far as to take legal action against the vendors. Buyers get off with a lighter sentence but still not unscathed: the items they purchased will be deleted, and there's the possibility that their accounts will be suspended as well. Offline retailers of MMO items and accounts have gone to surprising lengths before to make their profits, including hiring a team of unskilled Mexican laborers in Tijuana to grind levels all day. In light of such unsavory practices offline, it's perhaps understandable why Blizzard is pursuing offline item retailers as vigorously as they are, although many users maintain that they should be able to resell items they gained through hard virtual work.

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Maybe Blizzard is just upset that there's a market in items they create but that they can't profit on.

I consider this kind of metagame market one of the appeals of the personal-property-oriented games. I guess they disagree.

-David

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It partly arises from a desire to avoid liability. If virtual items have a monetary value (which it inherently would if trading were to be allowed), the company could be sued (it has happened already) for items that get stolen, lost in a crash, etc. It also opens opportunities for money laundering. And if virtual items have a real-world value, I'm sure real-world governments would love to tax them somehow...

Huge can of worms.

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Quote:
Original post by Fruny
If virtual items have a monetary value (which it inherently would if trading were to be allowed), the company could be sued (it has happened already) for items that get stolen, lost in a crash, etc.


Source please ?

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It occurs to me that Blizzard, among other online gaming distribuitors, wish for the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' within the game not be defined by anything outside of the game. Even if you're a paraplegiac homeless blind man, (despite the fact that you probably WOULDN'T own a computer, let alonw WoW...) you should still have as much chance of success within the online environment as anybody else.

Buying outside of the game also defeats the very purpose of the game... being Role Playing. If you are playing a role within the game, it would be impossible for that character to go and purchase an item off of the internet... their economy is based within their environment, not yours.

I'm totally against cheaters and offline traders, and fully support Blizzard in any way they wish to deter these offenses. If they state in their EULA that all property within the game is theirs, that's the way it is. Your opinion that it's unfair isn't worth a damn; you agreed to abide by all rules set forth by the EULA (whether you read it or not, since you are always supposed to) before you started the game, and have no right to complain.

Try playing the game to get what you want...

As ever,
***Cosmic***

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Well, it is screwing with the MMORPG's virtual economy. Selling some uber-good items for real-world money is like giving it for free in the game. It unbalances the economy and the game as well.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Fruny
I'm sure real-world governments would love to tax them somehow...

Huge can of worms.


No can of worms at all: US (and UK - and even some Europeans IIRC) tax law automatically covers this. If it's got monetary value, it's *automatically* covered by tax: most things transferred these days are not "real", so the whole "virtual" nature counts for nothing.

Of course, this tax law was largely inventd to stop people getting around the old tax laws by more complex forms of:

"I give you 1 million pieces of paper and then you sell them at a loss" (if you buy a million pieces of paper, give them to someone, then they sell them at a loss of 10%, it's still cheaper than paying 40% tax...)

...only it was being done with virtual stuff, so that you didn't actually have to sell the paper yoruself, and I didn't even really have to buy it. So...I just gave you money and you didn't pay tax. Ha.

The only surprising thing is that the govt's haven't started demanding cash yet. In particular, sales tax...I imagine they just haven't quite got around to it yet.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Cosmic One
Buying outside of the game also defeats the very purpose of the game... being Role Playing. If you are playing a role within the game, it would be impossible for that character to go and purchase an item off of the internet...


No, only a small minority of people who play MMORPG's want to roleplay. This is widely known and well documented (google for it).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
What really makes me laugh is that I recall a year or so ago blizzard staff proudly claiming that in their game the ebay-character-purchasing wasn't going to be a problem.

Yeah, well. THat sentiment didn't last long, did it?

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Being able to obtain ultra powerful items fo real money real is bad thing for the game play and the online economy of those people playing on them. I'm wondering why would someone be stupid enough to spend his hard earn money from his own job and use that money in the game which means he wasted time he did at his own real life job to use that money to buy virtual items instead of other more important commodity of life.

If they would have spent that same amount of time playing the game online they would have most probably been able to get the items or level they wanted without sacrificing their real money providing of course that they weren't stupid enough to drop their jobs or go part time to play more in order to get those items faster.

The only "viable" reason I see in those people buying items with real life money would be that they are not patient enough to start from scratch and build their own character. I don't agree with this at all though because when a person plays an MMORPG he knows that it needs patience to build up a good character and that's part of the game. You buy it from eBay or whatever and start playing you kill the fun plus you don't get as attached emotionnally to the character as you would if you were to start it up from scratch which makes the buyer really miss the point of an MMORPG in the first place but being attached is not that good if someone was to become totally addicted about his character leading to real-life disorders if that person was to lose his character like depression or something else similar. Being the kind of guy that enjoys building up different parties of Final Fantasy 1 characters to Level 99 just for fun I may be a bit extreme but I'd never buy an items online, i'd rather find it by myself and be satisfied with the results once I have it because that's what those games are all about.

It does get boring sometimes but we have to put up with it since the game was intended to be like that to make sure people play for long and pay the monthly fees for long. I wished those games could be more than the same game with a different graphical package though but that's another story and also another thread :)

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Quote:
Quote:
Quote:Original post by Cosmic One
Buying outside of the game also defeats the very purpose of the game... being Role Playing. If you are playing a role within the game, it would be impossible for that character to go and purchase an item off of the internet...



No, only a small minority of people who play MMORPG's want to roleplay. This is widely known and well documented (google for it).

Ah, how easy it is to pick apart my weaker arguments...

Sorry, I know most people don't actually role play, let me rephrase... I didn't mean to roleplay in the most hardcore sense, by putting on a different personality and talking in part, but, you are still 'playing a role'. Your interaction with it is strictly a 'put yourself in his shoes' issue. vNistelrooy was right, in the game, it IS getting it for free.

The legality issue is still where I stand firmest. Read the frigging EULA, if you don't like it, don't play it. Simple as that.

As ever,
**Cosmic**

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Quote:
Original post by Edward Ropple
I fail to see their problem with this. It does not affect their profits.


Then you don't have a good imagination. Blizzard's profits are directly tied to how happy people are. If people are unhappy with their playing experience, they stop playing. Since this is a subscription game, that means Blizzard loses money (much then making a disapointing single player game).

The idea of rich people being able to run circles around you (and due to PvP literally beat you up) just because they have lots of money to buy their way is a big turn off for many people (same with games that fall victim to massive hacking - like Diablo 1's online experience). Imagine if you where on a highschool basketball team, and you went to play some fancy prep school. At game time however you find that instead of playing guys like you, you found out that they just payed some big money to stack their team with 7ft players from the NBA. You really wouldn't feel like playing at all if you knew that no matter how skilled you where or how hard you trained, you only had a one in a million chance of beating some guy who spent 10 minutes buying a character online.

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In Eternal Lands we (owners) are also selling items for money, and I wouldn't object if our players would do the same. In fact, I would even feel honored to see some 1337 item of ours being sold on Ebay. Of course, our game is free and this is our only source of making some limited money.
If he game would be pay to play, we wouldn't sell items, but wouldn't mind others selling them either.

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Quote:
Original post by Raduprv
In Eternal Lands we (owners) are also selling items for money, and I wouldn't object if our players would do the same. In fact, I would even feel honored to see some 1337 item of ours being sold on Ebay. Of course, our game is free and this is our only source of making some limited money.
If he game would be pay to play, we wouldn't sell items, but wouldn't mind others selling them either.


I'd be carefull about this, you too could end up like Redmoon. Make sure you're EULA fully states that you ARE NOT cannot be held liable for loss of items (or anything else they can purchase for that matter).

Be VERY VERY carefull! You might find it hard to believe your dedicated players might do this to you, but when someone loses money they want it back.

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I know, we have a clause in the license that they can't sue us in case shit happens.
But if something happens (they get hax0red, etc.) we are willing to help anyway, it's bad PR not to help those who pay.

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If you think about it, how would you feel if someone was making a profit off of a product you've poured your heart and soul into and you weren't recieving a 'royality' for it. It's an interesting aspect of a game, but how many games out there actually want/designed for that kind of 'trade'?

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The first couple of MMORPGS/games wouldnt have. But since then every MMORPG certainly should, its become a part of the genre.

[Edited by - kooktroop on December 15, 2004 10:24:58 PM]

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My objection to the whole reseller mentality starts with the concept of player ownership.

Do you own anything when you play an MMO? Maybe because I look at it more as a designer than a gamer, but when I play an MMO I feel I'm leasing/renting usage. Yes I pay a box fee as a one-time "door charge", but my monthly fee is leasing the use of my characters and their items. What do I really "own"?

So yes, as a developer I do argue against players reseller items and characters - although I am in favor of a developer putting mechanisms in place to control sales of these things through the game itself.

Speaking from a legal standpoint: the developer and the player have entered into a lease agreement. The player pays X amount of money to "rent" a character and space in the game environment.

If the player then sells their account, I - as the developer - am under no obligation to honor that agreement anymore. Our agreement didn't include an option for you to sublet, or transfer the obligations of the agreement to another person. I entered into a contract with you - not with the other person.

I think if, as a developer, you don't want people reselling characters or goods you have an obligation to very clearly indicate to the player base that they do not own anything in your game, except the "key" (box software) to enter the game server. Everything else is leased, not owned.

Otherwise don't complain when you see items in your game being auctioned on eBay :shrug:

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I'm not sure how many of you here have played/play an MMO before, but coming from FFXI, this shit just destroys the game's economy. Inflation is completely out of control in this game because of gil-sellers (people who play just to get in-game money and sell to companies like ige). I have actually just quit the game because the economy was so bad, there was no way for me to make enough money in a decent amount of time.

Blizzard has been watching other MMOs for a long time, noting the successes and problems of others, learning how to make the best MMO around. Frankly, I think they've succeeded, but it will take a very active stance on Blizz's part to keep the economy stable even though many measures have been implemented to prevent such ebaying and money-selling.

I, for one, greatly applaud Blizzard for this post. They know what's going on and how to stop it.

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If you tell the users that they don't own their items, but they just lease them from you, expect them to hate you and not play your game (unless it's the best game there). I know, many MMORPGs do have that clause in their license, but if the developers would actually enforce it, everyone would leave.
A lot of players are power players, and they are very possesive about their items and skills.
And there is nothing wrong with selling your items for RL money. You work for them, so what's wrong with selling them? If that ruins the economy, well, though luck, that's why the big MMORPGs get so much money, so they can hire smart people and design an economy/gameplay that doesn't suffer from this problem.

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FWIW: GameDev.net is not a licenced practitioner of law. It cannot give legal advice, and neither can its members. Thus, asking about the legality or not of a specific situation shouldn't really be done here -- if you really need to know, talk to a lawyer licensed in your state and skilled in the particular area of law you're interested in.

SOME companies actually embrace exchange between real money and virtual money. Project Entropia, There, and Second Life come to mind.

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It is certainly legal to allow the selling of virtual items. The only issue is how wise is it for a developer/publisher to give the practice legal status within their game.

As has been pointed out, if the game allows it then that grants certain property rights to the players and as a result they can sue the publisher/developer for loss of that property. However, if the developer/publisher refuses then players may be annoyed and not play the game. Certainly the most sensible route would be to ban the practice (so that you are not liable) but not actually take drastic action to enforce it - so the practice can go on outside of the game BUT only if you actually want such players in your game.

This of course ignores the other problem - that of playability. The practice damages the economy of the game and makes it unplayable for many. The developer/publisher must balance the needs of those who want to play the game as it was designed against those who want to profit from the game. Frankly I would choose the former every time and do everything I could to prevent the practice. MMOG are games, they aren't a source of income for players and developers should not be expected to allow them to be treated as such.

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