The Increasing Impact of Botting and RMT in Classic WoW
Last month, we highlighted
the increasingly dire situation
regarding real money transactions (RMT), botting, and advertisements in the Chinese version of
World of Warcraft
. Yesterday, redditor
detailed how botting and RMT are flooding other regions of Classic WoW.
In February, NetEase decided to release WoW Token on all Chinese classic realms. This action caused Chinese gold price to plummeting to an abysmal level. With gold price plummeting, many gold farmers decide to migrate to U.S. and E.U. servers. They targeted all high population realms like Herod, Faerlina and Whitemane. I once had a conversation with a gold seller. He told me that Chinese gold price is around 0.05 RMB (roughly 0.007 USD) while U.S. gold price is around 0.40 RMB (roughly 0.056 USD). So, he is making 7 times more than he makes on Chinese realms.
Some commenters expressed indifference to the last post, calling it a "Chinese problem" or a "Retail problem" caused by lazy people seeking easy achievements and rewards, but this has been a growing problem over the last two decades, as WoW merely inherited it from Everquest and Runescape. Others thought Classic would be safe from the problem, reveling in the nostalgia of a simpler time, seemingly forgetting that bots and level boosting services were just as common during Vanilla as well. Whatever the mental gymnastics, it should be becoming clear that this is a problem which affects everyone.
How GDKP Normalized a Multi-million Dollar Industry
Classic WoW is a game where you spend days in preparation and hours in actual raiding. Daily grinding quickly becomes chore like daily quests on retail, and people want to skip right into the action. Therefore, many would buy gold so they can buy boosts, preBiS gears, consumables or even Edgemasters. This same mentality applies to both Classic and Retail. Mythic+ carry is no different from a Maraudon one pull.
GDKP group contributes to the largest part of the RMT scene. It is this exact reason why Chinese server is being destroyed by gold farmers because GDKP runs rampant on Chinese servers. Often, these GDKP groups are ran by gold farmer companies to create a demand for gold selling. At the same time, GDKP group provides a safe money laundering method for trading gold. If they are banned in a GDKP group, they just send a petition to Blizzard and post on reddit to get unbanned even though they participated in shady trade.
GDKP refers to a variation of
Dragon Kill Points
, assigning loot by spending points accrued through attendance, thereby allowing the players to prioritize point usage based on how much they want a particular item. As pick-up groups became more accessible in
Wrath of the Lich King
, using gold in place of arbitrary points became a popular way to distribute gear in pick-up groups; players would pay for an item and the gold would be distributed among the rest of the raid. This way, everyone wins - even if you didn't get an item, you ended up making some money for participating in the raid.
Sounds neat, but this equal-redistribution of wealth version of GDKP doesn't exist anymore. As anything in life where money is involved, people quickly discovered ways of making it even
profitable - why sell every item for a flat amount when you can start a bidding war? Why share the proceeds with a bunch of pugs when you can farm the same raid and sell the same items with your heavily geared guild group in half the time? Selling runs didn't start with GDKP, particularly at the highest levels of World First competitive raiding, but the general popularity of those pug runs paved the way for it to become socially acceptable to trade gold for items. Today, we see the results of that refinement, with gigantic sales Discord servers trading millions and nearly every guild in the top 50+ routinely selling their own raid spots, offering achievements, mounts, gear, battle pets, titles, and more. Guilds routinely rake in thousands of dollars worth of gold each tier, which is in turn used to buy BoEs or WoW Tokens to pay for gametime and services; at $30 USD for a faction change and $25 for a realm change, it costs roughly $1,650 for a guild to change servers and transfer 30 characters from Alliance to Horde, as the vast majority of high end raiding guilds have done over the last few years - nearly all of that is paid for with gold.
Think that's a lot? Method claimed to have spent
gold preparing for the Race to World First
Battle of Dazar'alor
. Limit spent
10-15 million gold
faction changing their entire roster
to get an extra piece of War Mode PvP gear on each character. Who knows how much was spent buying Corrupted BoE's during Ny'alotha, but you can be certain it was quite a bit more, as prices inflated beyond all reason due to the early power spike from Corruptions; even mid-tier guilds have Auction House flippers searching small servers for relatively cheap BoEs to buy, server transfer, and resell for 2-5x the price.
So what does this have to do with botting and RMT in Classic WoW? Because Classic isn't Vanilla. Guilds aren't jealously guarding raid strategies anymore, pugs are common, players know which items are worth pursuing now better than they did before, and there are a lot more avenues of communication now than just the official realm forums. The sales tactics and infrastructure used to trade gold may have been refined after Vanilla, but it's in full force now and Classic is just another avenue of profitable business. Even the guilds who explicitly refuse to participate in RMT are still affected by it, as much of the gold they take in payment originates from some bot or seller. Of course it
isn't just restricted to WoW
, but that's a whole other story.
The real devil that allowed RMT to go rampant is GDKP groups. In one of the GDKP group on Faerlina, a Choker of the Fire Lord was sold for 14,000g and a DFT is sold for 24,000g. They are both fresh accounts that just hit 60, and we sure wonder where and how they got their gold. The answer is obvious. It’s RMT.
A Victim of its Own Success
There's no easy solution to this problem. Blizzard has cracked down significantly on RMT, with frequent ban waves targeting those who buy and sell gold, but WoW is a victim of it's own success - these gigantic RMT and botting enterprises wouldn't exist if the game weren't popular, and there's no reason to stop while there's profit to be made. As
relates, the speed with which botters can create, level, and farm on new accounts outpaces efforts to stop them. Conventional methods of
credit card holds
, and even
have proved staggeringly ineffective.
There are two kinds of gold on the market. One is denoted as handcraft gold, while the other is scripted gold. Handcraft gold is farmed by selling boosts/carry while scripted gold is from, oh well, botting.
With Classic WoW having no gold sink, gold price becomes cheaper by each day.
Gold is no longer worth the labor cost, and thus botting becomes rampant.
My guild once recruited a mage who doesn’t speak nor participate in any guild activities. He stays in Maraudon 24X7. One time, out of curiosity, I went to Maraudon dungeon portal and waited for him to show up. What I saw horrified me to this day. It’s him boosting his legion mage alts. With this method, he can have multiple mage ready to farm every week (that’s how quick they can get from 1-60) and Blizzard will never catch him since he just boost new accounts and keep botting. This is why a ban is never gonna work against the botters.
More and more gold farmers company have resorted to this method to cut down labor cost. And this is the exact reason why you are seeing more and more bots in the wild.
The bolded emphasis presents an interesting conundrum. With no gold sink, botting becomes more rampant, but the more gold sinks there are, the more inclined people will be to buy gold. The only difference is how much of that gold is going into players hands or in-game sinks. Clearly the lack of gold sinks isn't stopping massive amounts of gold from trading hands; the money will eventually circulate through the economy regardless, inflating other costs as a result. That's fine for people making money via sales, but ends up making it harder for those who don't to participate in sales to keep up with the rapidly inflating costs.
Naysayers are quick to bemoan Blizzard (or Activision, depending on who they want to vilify) for either creating or tacitly endorsing RMT through the advent of the WoW Token, though it's important to remember that these problems existed well before the token was ever introduced to the game. Ironically, Classic WoW has been hit
harder by RMT and botting due to not having Tokens, as there's no other way to generate gold leading those companies to refocus their efforts on western servers after NetEase released them on Chinese realms.
Token is not a magic solution, but it is a needed one. If gold farmers cannot make money on Chinese realm due to they having token there, they just come to NA/EU and make money here. The situation requires a solution that combines many different approaches, including token and more strict moderation.
Most these gold sellers have two accounts. One mage for selling boosts during peak hours. One hunter to solo DMN during off-peak hours. They can roughly make 5000g to 8000g a week depends on their luck. Then they sell these gold for a few hundred bucks each week. During march, the demand for gold was so high that you have to preorder to buy gold from these gold farmers.
Adding the WoW Token to other regions may serve as a short term solution, although it comes at a cost, as it would cause the Classic and Retail economies to overlap and influence one another... something which could end up doing more harm than good. Even split into "Classic" and "Retail" versions with their own gold price points, they still hinge on the real life monetary value, which means buying and selling on one game version would impact the other, irreparably linking the two markets. It's important to note that we can look to retail to help measure this impact, and although retail RMT isn't as bad as it is in China, it's still not an insubstantial issue.
We should cut down our demand for gold, which means we should not participate in any RMT. More importantly, don’t participate in GDKP groups, since it creates a huge demand for gold buy.
Blizzard should consider adding more gold sinks to classic to combat inflation. Maybe allow people to spend a hefty amount of gold to buy World Buffs like Ony/Nef Head from NPC. Furthermore, they should consider allowing WoW token on classic servers to eliminate market from the gold farmers.
It'd be nice to band together as a community to reject RMT, botting, the gold trade, and everything involved, but it's just not that simple. Aside from the fact that no group of players this large will ever universally agree on anything, the personal advantages to selling are too compelling for competitive players to give up. Buying buffs or any other kind of sink only reinforces the need for gold in the first place, but even without those elements, basic human greed drives players to accumulate more gold than they'll ever need to spend regardless.
It's also hard to deny that there isn't some good in allowing well-meaning players to engage in the game in different ways - it's not really a bad thing that players can spend their hard earned gold on items or achievements they couldn't get otherwise; it's only bad when they resort to botting or RMT in order to do so. The real problem is you can't have both; you can't let players trade any form of currency and not end up with
amount of botting or RMT. The hope is simply that it doesn't become rampant enough to negatively impact the game. Unfortunately it has; RMT, botting, and the gold trade have become increasingly paramount problems which need to be addressed.
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