eBay bans sale of in-game goods

eBay has moved to ban the sale of in-game items from its US and UK sites. The practice – dubbed ‘gold farming’ – occurs when gamers trade their hard-earned virtual resources for more tangible currency.

eBay bans sale of in-game goods

The ban includes the sale of game accounts, game characters, game currency, game points or any other similar game items. ‘eBay is committed to making the site a safe place to trade,’ said an eBay spokesperson. ‘Due to the legal complexity associated with these types of items, we believe that it is in the best interests of the marketplace to disallow the sale of virtual items at this time.’

The ‘legal complexity’ arises because the terms of service for online games often outlaw such sales. Sony, for example, has clamped down on sales in the past, only in order to set up its own exchange system for its EverQuest II game.

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft (pictured) has become the most popular online game – so called MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games – but other games have attracted their followers over the years, such as Sony’s EverQuest 2, Vivendi’s Middle-earth Online, Ubisoft’s The Matrix Online, EA’s Ultima X Odyssey and Project Entropia

Note, however, that Second Life is exempt from the eBay ban. It is not considered a game and such exchanges are a part of its function. The online virtual world enables you to buy property and set up businesses earning ‘Linden dollars’, and it has often generated headlines when speculators go on to make a real world killing.

While mainstream users of eBay will be unaffected by this latest ruling, online sales of in-game items have already become big business in Asia. Reportedly, groups of Chinese players – effectively, gaming sweat-shops – have deliberately harvested game resources for their sell-on value. Last year, for example, we reported on the culture clash this can cause between amateur and ‘pro’ gamers – Koreans slay Chinese for monster droppings – where Chinese gamers were not observing the Korean etiquette of letting a monster slayer gather the available resources from their prey. Korean gangs would lie in wait for Chinese players and slaughter them.

‘What are your thoughts on this form of online-offline trade? How much UK sterling would you be prepared to pay for, say, ‘Widow Maker’, a magically empowered two-handed broadsword, or Smertin’s ‘Cloak of invisibility’? Leave a comment below.

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