eBay has announced that they’re proactively removing listings from their auction site which aim to sell virtual items for massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, the EverQuest series and City of Heroes, according to Daniel Terdiman at cnet. The company has finally responded to calls from game publishers to remove the black market activity, a phenomenon which has caused a revolution in the virtual world thinking space.
Real-Money Trade for virtual properties, character accounts, currency, weaponry and other items rakes in phenomenal figures for individual and corporate sellers. If you need a run-down, check out Julian Dibbell‘s 2003 article from Wired Magazine, The Unreal Estate Boom, for a great overview. You can also check out the many articles profiling the phenomenon published in The Guardian here, (here, here, here, here, here, here and here)
It’s unlikely that eBay’s stance will affect the RMT economy; the trading will continue in other locations, and via other established sellers.
While there is no universally agreed-upon value for the RMT market, it is assumed to be worth somewhere between $250 million and $880 million a year, according to experts.
eBay’s move is “a boon for sites like IGE,” said Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job and Struck it Rich in Virtual Loot Farming. “They’re going to have the field pretty much to themselves.” But, Dibbell said, such a circumstance is “sad” because it restricts individuals from being direct participants in the markets themselves.
But destroying a relatively free economy isn’t much of a deterrent to eBay and to the game publishers. As the article rightly notes, the auction house’s move is probably a result of wishing to eradicate the time consuming task of chasing virtual trade fraudsters. It’s a lesson learned a few years ago by Sony, publisher of the EverQuest series and Star Wars Galaxy, who started an in-house market called Station Exchange.
Not surprisingly, the eBay ban doesn’t affect the sales of goods from the virtual world Second Life, where trade, barter and asset accumulation are the name of the game.