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China Licenses Gold Farming Business

| 10 Dec 2008 14:49
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A "game grinding company" in China has been issued a business license, apparently making it the first such operation to receive an official thumbs-up.

The Wuhan Administration of Industry and Commerce issued the license to Wuhan Hanyang District Li Yang Network Technology Service Center, according to a 17173.com report (via JLM Pacific Epoch.) The company has ten-plus employees, and farms and sells "virtual coins, tools and game levels" from various MMOGs, which weren't named.

I don't read Chinese so it's tricky to elaborate beyond that, but according to MMOsite.com, the license was actually issued on an "exploratory basis," presumably as an early step toward deciding whether to regulate or crack down on the power-leveling industry. Further, in fact, it claims that a Beijing-based lawyer said the granting of the license should not be interpreted as legal recognition of the business.

It sounds pretty much like business as usual in China, where for the moment at least commerce trumps all. It's a lucrative business: At MMOGCart.com, World of Warcraft gold can be purchased in amounts ranging from 500 to 50,000 pieces (and costing $7.73 to $681.25); characters, meanwhile, are available for as low as $45.99 for a basic level 55 with a level 30 mount, up to over $300.00 for a level 80 "Super Package." It's no great surprise that the Chinese government would move to protect its authority over the emerging industry first and foremost, and worry about legalities and other such niceties later. There is no law in China specifically forbidding the gold farming industry, and without that the authorities are far more likely to look for ways to profit from it than shut it down.

None of which is going to make many gamers happy. There's obviously a demand for this kind of service or else it wouldn't exist, but to most MMOG players and companies, gold farming is a very sensitive issue. Gold farmers themselves are often subject to torrents of in-game abuse, and in 2006 former PC Gamer Editor-In-Chief Greg Vederman famously called such operations "despicable" and announced that the magazine would no longer accept advertising from them. "Screw them," he added.

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