A World Bank report says gold farming, power-leveling and other such services generated roughly $3 billion for poor nations in 2009 and could actually prove to be very beneficial to local and developing economies.
Nobody likes gold farmers but according to the World Bank report "Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy," a lot of people out there are sure making use of them. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. The report says that an estimated 100,000 people in countries like China and Vietnam make their living in the "third-party gaming services industry," grinding games for people in wealthier nations who like to play but don't have the time and/or patience to do the dirty work themselves. But more significant is that unlike other industries, most of the money earned stays in the country that provides the service.
"The gross revenues of the third-party gaming services industry were approximately $3.0 billion in 2009, most of which was captured in the developing countries where these services were produced. In comparison, the global coffee market, on which many developing countries are highly dependent, was worth over $70 billion - but only $5.5 billion was captured by the developing countries that produced the coffee beans," the report says.
"This suggests that the virtual economy can have a significant impact on local economies despite its modest size," it continues. "It can also support the organic development of local ICT [Information and Communications Technology] infrastructure by providing revenue models that maintain existing deployments and justify new private investments."
The report acknowledges that these services can throw a monkey wrench into artificial economies which sometimes results in a negative "net social value" - back to the whole "nobody likes gold farmers" thing - and that's a bit problematic, as the focus of development efforts should ideally focus on activities with a positive net social contribution. Yet some players in the business recognize the widespread dislike for their activities and have apparently begun promoting "ethical" services, such as refraining from in-game advertising and farming resources manually rather than employing bots or theft.
The World Bank research makes it clear that while gold farming is generally viewed as a problem, the issue isn't quite so black-and-white, nor is it likely to go away anytime soon. It's an unusual but very interesting perspective, and also a surprisingly engaging read. The full report is available in PDF format from infoDev.org.
via: Boing Boing