The Gaming Black Market

by HSG on Aug 05, 2012 in Articles from Software Fans

When you think about the black market, I’m sure the majority of you will think of prohibition days.  When alcohol was made illegal, it did two things: It made the bad guys more money, and it put the average joe in a dangerous position while trying to acquire it.  Bring in the 21stcentury. Sure, there still is a black market… but come on, who is afraid of mobsters anymore? Today, we have a gaming black market. It has been around for years, but will it survive? With more and more games moving towards auction houses, could game companies “tame” the gaming black market?

In the old days of gaming on the internet, we spent most of our online time playing hearts, spades… whatever we could do while connected to the internet. As the years went by, better and better games came about. Then, suddenly, interactive multiplayer games came into the picture. These interactive games, mainly MMORPGS, allowed for characters to pick up and keep randomly generated objects known as “loot”. This evolution of gaming created the black market.

In the eyes of the software companies, the game is only being leased/rented by the end user. You don’t actually have any rights to the game. This is where the market becomes black.  The software companies don’t want you making money of “virtual” goods that are housed on the software or servers of the game you are playing on.  The software companies, at this point, started to get smarter.

Where there is a demand…

There is always someone out there that is willing to spend money. Some are willing to spend more than others.  As long as there is a demand, people will continue to sell these “virtual” goods. For instance, Asheron’s Call, one of the first MMORPG’s, gained a lot of its popularity on the types of items you could find in game, and how rare they were. There were days that eBay was littered with items from the game. Some items sold for $1000 or more. Turbine, the software developer, took notice of the black market and moved their future releases to free play, and allowed gamers to buy equipment in the game. Although this was a great idea, players didn’t want the software company setting prices and making money off the “virtual” goods. This idea snowballed downhill… to where we are today.

Blizzard, the makers of Diablo 3, may have done it right.  Blizzard has created an auction house, where users get to set their own prices based on market demand, and allows them to transfer money made in the transactions to their PayPal account. This gaming model is the future, so hold on for the ride!

Can money be made like before?

Money is tight, but the gaming industry hasn’t suffered much from the poor worldwide economy. People are spending more and more on games, systems, and accessories. There is a *huge* market for “virtual” goods. It is all about being in the right place at the right time. Like any investment, the people that get on the ground floor first are the ones that usually strike it rich. These players invest their time into the game as if it were a career, sometimes playing for 10-20 hours a day. Yes, people can make money selling virtual items. Honest players can make a lot… dishonest players can make even more.  With exploits, cheats and hacks, the black market isn’t a very safe place to make transactions.   We have yet to see where our gaming future leads us, but at this point, I will guess that Diablo 3’s auction house has us stepping in the right direction. With secure transactions, options to purchase items with in-game currency or real cash, and a single place to search for the items, Diablo 3 has it all.

What do you want to buy today?

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