Gold Farming Now a $3 Billion Industry

Posted on April 17, 2011

It takes a great deal of time and effort to build up characters in online role playing games, such as World of Warcraft. To save time people are often willing to pay to buy virtual gold or virtual items needed to excel in online games.

People may also buy virtual characters that someone else has spent the time developing and advancing, a concept known as powerleveling. A huge market has developed for virtual gold and virtual items as a result of this need. An industry, known as gold farming, has developed in the third world to supply this demand.

In 2005, there were reports of people working grueling 12-hour shifts in gold farming factories in China. The gold farming industry has continued to expand year after year. A new report from World Bank Group's infoDev program says the gold farming industry in countries in China and India now employ over 100,000 people in very low paying jobs. It is now a $3 billion industry.

Jobs in the virtual economy include micro-tasks like categorizing products in online shops, moderating content posted to social media sites, or even playing online games on behalf of wealthier players who are too busy to tend to their characters themselves. The study estimates that the market for such gaming-for-hire services was worth $3 billion in 2009, and it suggests that with suitable mobile technologies even the least-developed countries could benefit from this emerging virtual economy.
The Wall Street Journal reports that some gamers spend more than $350 a year on virtual goods purchased from gold farms. The game publishers tend to frown on the third-party market for virtual goods and powerleveling because it can make it difficult for regular non-cheating players to excel in the games.

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