The RMT Industry – What I’ve Learnt

Last year I briefly worked as a designer and developer for a Norwegian company that built and sold power plant management software. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the industry (I’m sure most of you follow it with deep fascination), when the majority of power companies were privatised in the 1980s, a whole new sub-industry was inadvertently created. Instead of the state owning, running and maintaining a power plant, now they were available for sale to the highest bidder. What this also created was effectively a stock market of power. Power can now be bought and sold back and forth into the national grid at different rates by different companies and (this will annoy any Eco-Warriors out there) so can a plant’s surplus Kyoto Protocol quota.

Anyway, the reason for that boring (yet educational! just imagine yourself retelling that interesting bit of information to your folks during Christmas dinner) intro was because it has a lot of similarities to the gold selling industry in MMORPGs. Like those companies or not, you have to admit that it’s pretty fascinating how an entire sub-industry has crept out of the shadow of another. Although I don’t really think I have the heart of a capitalist, I think this sort of thing is pretty intriguing, especially when you imagine how many jobs that have been created as an extension of the MMO industry.

The feedback I received on my article about the comparison between Victorian sex and RMT and the poll I put up asking directly if anyone has ever bought gold has been both tremendous and incredibly insightful. Although my poll is very minor, the results were interesting and showed that approximately 35% of everyone who answered had, at some point, purchased gold. That’s a pretty big number and obviously explains the demand for it. Now, as I said, it’s just a tiny poll so honestly it’s hard to draw any accurate conclusions but I’d love to see a site like Massively run one (hint, hint) and see what sort of response they got.

So what else have I learnt? Well, for one, buying gold happens and it happens a fair bit. Poll aside, plenty of the comments I received were incredibly candid and honestly spoke about personal experiences of buying gold. It’s obviously not a minor occurrence and not something that MMORPG companies can keep quiet about and ignore.

I also learnt that the majority of people who bought gold did it because they wanted to circumvent a particular type of gameplay they didn’t like, the grind. Players didn’t want to grind the gold required to equip their characters to make them competitive in PvP or the vast amounts of money needed to buy epic mounts.

At the end of the day, I don’t think the RMT industry will go away by banning accounts or invoking harsh penalties but rather, personally, I believe it will be solved through game design and game design alone. Gold selling exists because there is a market place for it and that market place exists due to the necessity of invention. It’s a way of players bypassing the grinding and arduous tasks in a MMORPG and only once those chores are eliminated will the RMT market decline.

P.S. If you’re looking for some articles about the gold selling industry, check out this great article about PLEX in Eve Online over at The Ancient Gaming Noob and another one about the dark side of RMT by Scott Jennings on mmorpg.com. Top reads.

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6 Comments

  1. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    I agree, as long as there is a demand for gold/credits/isk I don’t ever see it going away.

  2. Fortuente says:

    >At the end of the day, I don’t think the RMT industry will go away by banning accounts or invoking harsh penalties but rather, personally, I believe it will be solved through game design and game design alone.

    I agree with this assessment. It’s a bit of the Peter Senge fan in me coming out, but I have long seen illicit RMT as a function of poor design much more than player “greed.” That is, the fault lies with the system not the individual within the system.

  3. Tesh says:

    Dblade has a good article up on the same thing; it’s the game design (and business model by close association) that is at fault. Sure, players should take responsibility for playing fair, but if we look at RMT as a disease, it is wholly and only solvable in the game design side of things. Trying to solve the “problem” by banning players and inoculating servers is like putting a bandaid on varicose veins.

    RMT Thoughts

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