Major MMO gold selling firm IGE has been targeted by a Florida class action lawsuit claiming that the company has impaired users of World Of Warcraft
by its in-game gold farming, adding to a recent Blizzard lawsuit against gold-farmers Peons4Hire.
Specifically, the independently filed suit
, which is not associated with World Of Warcraft
creator Blizzard, claims that IGE is "...reaping substantial profits by knowingly interfering with and substantially impairing the intended use and enjoyment associated with consumer agreements between Blizzard and subscribers to its virtual world called World Of Warcraft
Some of the specific effects that the suit is claiming to individual World Of Warcraft
subscribers include those of time ("IGE gold farmers strip old scarce and limited virtual world resources and materials") and devaluation of currency, while also pointing out destroying of "the subscriber experience" through chat spamming, junk mail, and "honest subscribers [being] competitively disadvantaged."
The suit is particularly targeting Florida's Deceptive And Unfair Trade Practices Act, as well as consumer protection statutes and various other claimed contraventions, and is seeking a jury trial.
Gamasutra looked for commentary on this suit from Dr. S. Gregory Boyd, an associate with Kenyon & Kenyon in the New York office, and author and editor of the textbook 'A Business & Legal Primer for Game Development'. Boyd commented: "This case is in such an early stage, it is difficult to talk about what might develop", but went on to note:
"MMO’s, particularly in the last generation, were designed to be played for fun and not profit. Even 4-5 years ago, I do not think there was a wide awareness of how large these problems could grow or how much damage this type of activity could cause. Consider that a modern MMO takes 40-75 million dollars to create, employing teams dozens of people over 3 to 6 years.
The game designers and publishers do their best to make those games to stand the test of time and keep the economies in balance. When people play the game in an unsanctioned way, for profit, it threatens to send the game economies out of balance and diminishes the experience of all the players in the world. People like Dr. Edward Castranova have shown how the practices such as unsanctioned gold farming gradually destroy these valuable game assets and diminish player experiences.
Traditionally, the players have been harmed by this type of activity and not really had a voice against the people ruining the economies and diminishing the game play experience. Hopefully, this type of legal action will give them that voice."
However, Boyd also cautioned: "It is also important to contrast what this case is about with "sanctioned" real money trade. Some games like EverQuest II
and others have designed the games from the beginning to support limited forms of real money exchange.
When playing these games, the exchange is part of the rules and is expected by the players and game designers. The games were designed to withstand that type of play. In these instances, the games do not suffer the same negative effects."
In fact, this suit joins another, less well-documented one recently filed by Blizzard itself
, as a Blizzard company employee posted the following on the official forums on May 26th:
"As many of you know, the latest content patch, along with many great new content additions, contains technical counter-measures designed to combat in-game gold spamming. Our efforts to reduce in-game abuse and create a fun, safe environment for everyone are never-ending.
With that said, we felt that it was important to share with the community just how serious we are in our efforts to combat this type of abuse. Blizzard has filed a federal lawsuit against the operators of Peons4hire, a popular gold-selling organization which many of you have no doubt seen advertised. As part of the lawsuit, the operators of Peons4hire have been asked to immediately cease all in-game spamming efforts by all entities and websites under their control.
If this organization refuses to act accordingly, further legal action will be taken. We'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of this topic."