China moves to prevent goldfarmers. Maybe.

Via Lum from the BBC:

Cash earned in games in China can no longer be spent on real world goods.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce policy aims to limit the impact of game currencies on real-world markets.

In the future, any cash earned by Chinese gamers can only be spent to acquire items or equipment in that particular game.

The move is widely seen as a crackdown on so-called “gold farming” in which players amass virtual money and then sell it to other players for real cash.

Exact figures for virtual currency exchange are hard to come by, official estimates put the figure in China at “several billion yuan”. At current exchange rates 1bn yuan is equal to about £88m.

“The virtual currency, which is converted into real money at a certain exchange rate, will only be allowed to trade in virtual goods and services provided by its issuer, not real goods and services,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The move is also likely to affect the many Chinese people who are involved in gold farming. This involves being paid to play an online game, such as World of Warcraft, with the virtual currency winnings sold on to other players for cash.

Unless I’m missing something, I think this story may demonstrate how little Governments and mainstream journalists really understand what goes on in our virtual worlds. The problem they seem to be trying to solve is legitimate companies choosing to accept virtual currencies as payment for real goods. No doubt that does have implications for the real world currencies, and I’m not surprised its being nipped in the bud. However, I don’t think it has the slightest thing to do with MMO goldfarming

One of the most popular virtual currencies in China are “QQ coins” issued by Chinese net firm Tencent. The QQ coins can be used to pay for in-game items or elements that subscribers can add to their blog. Some stores and websites had been starting to accept QQ coins in payment for low-value items.

Chinese goldfarmers, goldfarmers anywhere, receive real money, electronically transferred, usually from another country, in return for transferring in-game cash between characters who are themselves within the game. That is not information that the Chinese Government is likely to be given access to. Also, if goldfarmers were all that interested in following rules, they wouldn’t exist in the first place. Nor, in truth, do I think China truly objects to the large amount of money that comes into their nation as a result. I do not know at what point World of Warcraft, and MMO goldfarming was injected into this story (I suspect at the journalist level), but I think someone has conflated two entirely different issues.

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