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Gold Farming: Real-World Production in Developing Countries for the Virtual Economies of Online Games. Richard Heeks Centre for Development Informatics, IDPM University of Manchester, UK http://www.manchester.ac.uk/cdi. Centre for Development Informatics. Background to Gold Farming.

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Gold Farming:Real-World Production in Developing Countries for the Virtual Economies of Online Games

Richard Heeks

Centre for Development Informatics, IDPM

University of Manchester, UK

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/cdi

Centre for Development Informatics

background to gold farming

Background to Gold Farming

Production for real-world trade of virtual goods and services within online games

MMORPGs: massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (World of Warcraft, Runescape, Eve Online, Lineage)

understanding gold farming

Understanding Gold Farming

Gold farming: making and selling virtual currency

Power-levelling: playing avatar from low to high level

the development of gold farming phase 1

The Development of Gold Farming: Phase 1

Subsistence Production: from late 1970s

Barter: from early 1980s – commoditisation of virtual items with both use value and exchange value

Monetisation: from late 1980s – sale of items for real money; specialisation in “gold market gardening”

the development of gold farming phase 2

The Development of Gold Farming: Phase 2

Three events of 1997: Ultima Online; eBay; Asian currency crisis

From petty to capitalist commodity production: wage labour

Globalisation and offshoring: from 2002

why study gold farming

Why Study Gold Farming?

50m players; 50% growth per year; US$50bn market

World of Warcraft as a financial and cultural phenomenon; 11m subscribers

Real-money trading market size: baseline 20m x US$10 = US$200m BUT excludes Asia and F2P gaming

Employment estimate: 0.5m x US$150 x 12 x 2 = US$1.8bn

Most-recent estimates: 1m jobs; US$5bn trade

why china competitive advantage analysis

Chance

Firm Strategy, Structure and Rivalry

Factor Conditions

Demand Conditions

Related and Supporting Industries

Government

Why China: Competitive Advantage Analysis

- Korea’s Proximity

- Post-1992 Enterprise Growth

- Low Concentration, High Competition

- ICT Infrastructure

- Low Cost Skills

- Global Demand Growth

- Local Game Players

- Cybercafes

- Local Games Industry

- Infrastructure

- Laissez Faire

gold farming the external value chain

Gold Farmer

Governments and Other Local and Global Institutions

Gold Farmer

Other Inter-mediaries

Gold Farmer

Gold Farming Firm

Player-Buyers

Game Company

Exchanges

Local ICT Suppliers

Brokers

Gold Farmer

Fansites

Other Players

Services / Virtual Items

Money

Power Chart

Producers

Intermediaries

Consumers

Others

Gold Farming: The External Value Chain

anti gold farming actions

Anti-Gold Farming Actions

Account banning: hundreds per week

Patching: including nerfing

Game redesign: e.g. Jagex and Runescape

IP banning

Channel blocking

Legal action

developmental impact of gold farming

Developmental Impact of Gold Farming

Economic: job creation; foreign exchange inflow; poverty reduction

Social: jobs for a “problem” social group

The “virtual sweatshop” label:

c.US$150 per month; 10-/12-hours x 7 days per week; no holiday/sick pay; basic food and accommodation included

Views of the gold farmers

the future gold farming research agenda

The Future Gold-Farming Research Agenda

Fieldwork on the basics

Further research e.g. livelihoods analysis; enterprise strategies

Illustrative of:

Cybersourcing

Liminal ICT work

Key questions: current status; future growth; development impact and strategies

gold farming research report

Gold-Farming Research Report

Paper no. 32 in IDPM Development Informatics working paper series:

http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/idpm/research/publications/wp/di/index.htm