In response to "Careful What You Wish For" from The Escapist Forum: To provide an alternative voice, let it be remembered that bought gold will eliminate the initial, capitalist's utopia-style equality of an MMO, insofar as it exists; The rich kids of reality become the rich kids in the game, and suddenly your boss at work is also your boss at home, online.
You think of your games as Escapism? You'll find yourself somewhere quite familiar if you aid the system that will equate the dollar, pound, euro, yen or otherwise to your 'gold', 'credits' or.. bottlecaps.
Oh, forgot to mention - I liked the article, well-written! =)
I agree with others that buying gold necessarily helps the gold sellers, who often obtain their goods through criminal activity. If they were actually kids in sweatshops, I'd feel somewhat better about it. My girlfriend had her account compromised, all of her stuff (and the rest of the guild's stuff) sold, and her characters deleted. Thankfully Blizzard was prompt in putting (almost) everything back, but it was still traumatic - she had played for months to get to that point.
I'm glad that Bill understood that fun isn't about having the best stuff, but about working together and socializing with friends. This is all that much clearer in an MMO, where the entire point of the game is to socialize (the major challenges in an MMO involve organizing a group of people to work together, at which point every mob and instance becomes trivial).
Unfortunately, I think it points out the biggest problem with MMOs in general - without a group of friends, the game itself consists of grind and gear. This is compounded by the fact that players have to be of similar levels in order to be able to see mutual benefit. This requires people to either grind their way up to where everyone else is (while they themselves continue to advance, only finally meeting up at the level cap) and to maintain similar paces while playing. This involves far too many variables to be kept synchronized. It seems many people are able to work around this, but it has always been an issue for my friends and me when we played WoW and has been even more serious as I have entered solitarily into new MMOs.
MMO makers could go a long way towards eliminating the gold/gear race by making it easier for people to group up and work together. This means not only making it easier to meet and greet other people, but to work together in spite of differences in level and experience. Warhammer has done a good job of that with their RvR by promoting low level players to higher levels equal with other combatants, allowing them to join and enjoy the fight no matter what level they are. I think games could go a step further by rewarding high-level players for helping low-level players, thus discouraging them from forging on ahead without their lower-level friends.