Is Gold Farming Really Banned? Confusion Over China’s New Virtual Currency Rules

Earlier this week GamePolitics covered a story by Information Week which reported that new Chinese regulations on virtual currency would outlaw gold farming.

But there appears to be confusion about whether the practice of gathering in-game MMO currency and then re-selling it for real cash will be affected by the new regulations.

incgamers disputes the report, citing the University of Manchester’s Prof. Richard Heeks:

This [new Chinese law] therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image.  And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency.  And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items.  And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars. Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

In any case, Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat writes, a ban on gold farming may be difficult for Chinese authorities to enforce:

The practice of trading virtual goods for real money is easy to make illegal, but hard to enforce. The gold farmers may not be affected… because of a technicality. Most of China’s gold farmers, who operate in sweatshops with dozens of fellow farmers, operate on servers on foreign soil. The government can only control what goes on with domestic servers…

The New York Times, which did not challenge the notion that the rules would impact gold farming, quoted Indiana University Prof. Edward Castronova, an authority on MMOs. In lauding the Chinese government action, Castonova offered what, to some, may seem like an alarmist view of in-game currency:

This action shows that at least one government is concerned about the way virtual worlds challenge its control of society. As virtual currencies take over more and more purchasing power, control over the effective money supply shifts from the central bank to the game developers.

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