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Who's Out Of Sight?

But our retellings so far of the gold farming narrative have left out two crucial players from the picture. The first are the gold buyers.

In my opinion, while I don't support gold farming, from what I understand... it's some job they've been hired to do. I can't blame them for taking a job that exists. I have more problems with people who BUY the gold, and basically support the 'industry.' And I am pretty sure the people who purchase gold or more likely Caucasian Americans, not Chinese. People should be complaining about the buyers, who keep the market going! [WoW, F, 36]

Like the historical parallel, what we really have is a service industry of immigrant Chinese workers being driven by a market composed almost entirely of Westerners. The secondary market cannot function without demand. And as the above player correctly points out, it is Westerners who drive the demand in the market. As one poster on a Final Fantasy XI forum mentions:

We could get rid of the problem if people would simply stop buying gil. We only have ourselves to blame.

Another group of Western players left out of the picture are the middlemen who buy gold from the gold farming operations and then resell it at a significant profit. Typically, it is on one of these portals where actual virtual currency is bought. As one forum poster put it bluntly:

IMO, China-based and other offshore gilsellers are small potatoes, the real scum suckers are IGE and that bastard whose made himself a millionaire doing this sh*t not just on FFXI but on just about every MMORPG anywhere.

The actual gold farmers are the losers in this market in several regards. These workers are harassed as they try to accumulate gold and then are fleeced by the middlemen. IGE makes publicly available their buy and sell rates. To give you a sense of where most of the profits go, on WoW's Suramar server, they will buy 1000 gold for 25 USD. They sell that same 1000 gold for 66 USD. So for every dollar spent on buying virtual gold, only 37 cents of it goes to the actual gold farmers. The gold farming industry is not only driven by Western demand, but most of its profits in fact also go to Westerners.

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Posted on January 2, 2006 | Comments (119) | TrackBack (0)

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