Redbedlam's founder says that the mistake a lot of MMOs are making is that they are fighting gold farmers instead of embracing them.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Kerry Fraser-Robinson, founder of virtual worlds developer RedBedlam, has said that given the presence of gold farmers (people who sell online credits for real money) in any virtual economy is inevitable, the wisest course of action is to tailor the game's economic structure to compensate for them.
"It's going to happen whether you like it or not," he said. "People will always find the path of least resistance, if you stop them buying your gold then they'll buy that gold from somebody else who is gold farming."
Many MMOs, like Everquest or World of Warcraft, are active in their purging of accounts that are found to be hoarding vast amounts of in game currency or camping rare spawns in the hope of acquiring a powerful in-game item. Fraser-Robinson believes such methods of policing gold farmers are an exercise in futility, however.
"If you don't build that into your system then you're not going to be able to compete with the gold farmers and that will ruin your in-game economy, which will in turn ruin your game. At the very least having the recognition that virtual economics is a discipline and is a very important integral part to being a virtual world," he added.
Fraser-Robinson went on to say that MMO developers should take on board the advice of economists and that in the future this would be a necessary step.
"I think that's absolutely essential going forward... because wherever humans are in communities and whenever they are bartering there is a market and there is going to be a market place. If you let that go with no regulation and no recognition then very, very crazy things will happen," he said.