Blizzard takes on gold farmers

World of Warcraft operator calls in the lawyers as part of its efforts to crack down on organisations that "farm" virtual objects and cash.

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After eBay announced it would be delisting all virtual massively multiplayer online game items from its Web site, "gold farmers" suffered another blow over the weekend--Vivendi subsidiary Blizzard is claiming to have sent in its legal eagles. In-game gold spamming--where gold farming organisations offer their goods and services to other players unsolicited--is a big problem in virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft's Azeroth, and the operating companies have been struggling to find a solution.

A Blizzard staffer, who goes by the username Eyonix, commented, "Blizzard has filed a federal lawsuit against the operators of Peons4hire, a popular gold-selling organization which many of you have no doubt seen advertised. As part of the lawsuit, the operators of Peons4hire have been asked to immediately cease all in-game spamming efforts by all entities and websites under their control." The statement added that if the group Peons4Hire continues to spam other users, further legal action will be taken.

Blizzard recently added a content patch to the popular World of Warcraft game that contained "technical counter measures" aimed at putting a stop to in-game spam from gold-farming organisations and individuals.

Gold farming is a practice whereby players of MMORPGs such as WOW exploit the game by undertaking repetitive actions to acquire valuable virtual items or currency, which are then sold to other players via sites like eBay for real-world cash. Sometimes bots or other unauthorised programs are used to automate and speed up the process.

In China and other Asian countries, the virtual farming trade is big business, and a number of companies exist that run gold-farming sweatshops as a professional business.

These companies are a big headache for online game operators, and various online worlds--including WOW, Ultima Online, and Final Fantasy XI--have banned accounts and/or removed farmed money from their virtual economies.

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