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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Use your voice at Eye On MOGS

A few months back I moved the Eye On MOGS news to this Blog. I decided this because I basically felt there was too much to say to fit in the space left on the Eye On MOGS site for news.

But the Eye On MOGS Blog is not just about me telling you stuff, it's about everyone being able to have their say.

If you look at the top right of the Blog you'll see that we want to hear your views on all things MOG. Obviously with Eye On MOGS servicing the secondary market RMT and Virtual Economies are on our hit-list of must have topics, but we want Eye On MOGS to feel like a community.

So even if you just want to share a fun, or frustrating experience you've had in-game, your review of a provider we list or ways we can improve and develop Eye On MOGS then send us an email. We'll consider everything we receive for publication in the Blog. Remember it can't be any worse than the stuff Mike currently posts ['Hey!' - Mike]

We look forward to hearing from you all and sincerely hope your thoughts will help dilute Mikes' (mostly) inane jabber.

Happy gaming.

Monday, May 29, 2006

MMORPG Subscription Research

Just before I sign off tonight there's time for me to quickly note that MMORPG CHART has released another long anticipated update bringing their data to version 20.0!

For thsoe of you who do not know Bruce Woodcock has been tracking subscription levels of many, many MMORPGs for years now and releases his own analysis of these figures periodically. It's an interesting look if MMORPGs and their steady climb into public conciousness if of interest to you. You'll also find Bruce's own personal look at E3 2006 and what 2006/2007 has in store for MMORPGs.

Good work Bruce - Glad to see you're still trucking at this!


Anyone else notice this?

When you work on something, day in and day out, it kind of becomes you obsession. You get so involved that you begin to find things about it fascinating, even when you know that most of your friends will simply stare at you with blank eyes as you explain the point to them.

We're all guilty of it, but those of us with a Blog get to share our thoughts with complete strangers as well as friends :)

Let me get to the point. My work at Eye On MOGS entails spending long hours thinking about the secondary market surrounding MMORPGs, talking with people who work in the industry on various levels and staring at pricing information as it comes streaming in. I know, I know - it's a fascinating job. Hehe.

So what have I noticed that is so compelling that I felt the need to share? Well, I couldn't help but notice that there has been a fundemental shift in the real-virtual exchange rates between US and EU World of Warcraft servers.

Check out the image below, which shows more graphically what I'm painfully explaining:

You might want to click the image to get a better look! What we can see here is a graph showing the average dollar value per Gold on the US and EU Aggrammar servers from 1st Feb to 30th May 2006.

What you will notice is that come the end of April all of a sudden the two lines switch over. For whatever reason at that point it became cheaper to buy gold on an EU server - the opposite to the general trend prior to that date.

I've run through a number of EU and US servers and they all show a similar trend. It's also interesting to see in this graph that over time the exchange rates from gold to dollar fluctuate up and down.

The trend is downward, but I think it's important to note that this does not necessarilly say anything about the relationship between RMT and a games economy. My understanding of economic theory may not be great but I believe that, basically, a currency will continue to devalue (as will anything) when there is an overabundence of it. What's so great about having a Porsche if everyone has one? The only way around this is to have sinks for the money to fall into, and those sinks have to keep changing, like DVD replacing VCR - it forces you to spend your money on something new. In a game you don't spend the cash, you spend your time. Perhaps if it was the other way round the economies would be more stable?

The drop in exchange rate is due to the relative ease of getting gold in the game, probably largely due to people hitting higher levels and finding niches to sell in - the connection to RMT is... well, unresearched and speculative.

Taking Another look at Real Money Trade (RMT) Practices

At Eye On MOGS we have a good working relationship with 'gold sellers' and have regular communication with companies and groups of all sizes in the RMT business.

There has been a surprising amount of mainstream press coverage on Real Money Trade, Gold Farming and MOGs in general since 2004. With this press coverage in mind and making use of my industry contacts I decided to take my own look at the world of Real Money Trade. [Download article as a PDF]

Real Money and the Virtual Economy

In the world of Azeroth, life can be cheap but saving up for that much desired epic mount can take months of labour. Welcome to the World of Warcraft, currently the world’s largest MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). In the World of Warcraft, the auction house presents the avid window shopper with a cornucopia of wonders, from fabulous swords to armour guaranteed to make you the hardest elf in your neck of the woods. To purchase such wonders, the player needs gold, something that requires quite literally hours, days or weeks of in-game labour. However visit Ebay or Eye on MOGs, a price comparison engine for virtual commodities, and you have the opportunity to convert real life earnings into virtual gold, platinum, ISK or Credits, depending on the virtual world that you alter ego(s) inhabits.

The world of Real Money Trading has come a long way since its fledgling days when gamers departing from a virtual world would use websites like Ebay to convert their in-game assets into real world money. Today it is a multi-billion dollar industry, with industry insiders like Steve Sayler of IGE estimating that as much as $2.7 billion will change hands within this secondary market during the course of 2006. This lucrative industry is now catered for by companies like MMORPG SHOP, Mogmine and MOGS, which have entire infrastructures set up to ‘farm’ for in-game gold and valuable items. Not only can you purchase in-game spending power with real world money from such sites, but many are service driven, for example offering power levelling to fast-track your avatar to new heights of maturity, turn you into a master craftsman in days rather than months, or boost your reputation within the world you inhabit. Sites like Mogmine offer specialised services like fruit picking, specified item farming, or will take your character through that instance that’s been weighing so heavily on your mind.

What we are experiencing here is a whole new type of economy where the border between the real and virtual world is blurring. There are currently hundreds of companies catering to this phenomenon, with some virtual items being sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Virtual real estate is earning real world money, with people like 43-year-old Wonder Bread deliveryman John Dugger purchasing a virtual castle for $750, setting him back more than a week’s wages. According to Edward Castronova, an economics professor at Indiana University who has performed extensive research into online economies, Norrath, the world in which EverQuest takes place, would be the 77th richest nation on the planet if it existed in real space, with players enjoying an annual income better than that of the citizens of Bulgaria or India. A visit to GameUSD indicates the current state of virtual currencies against the US dollar, demonstrating that some virtual world currencies are currently performing better than real world currencies like the Iraqi Dinar.

Real Money Trading and gold farming are met with mixed feelings in the gaming world, with some gamers criticizing the fact that real world wealth can affect in-game prestige and capabilities. Critics of the secondary market believe that such activities within the virtual economies intrude on the fantasy and provide the more economically empowered with an unfair in-game advantage. However this ignores the real world fact that earning money and advancing one’s character within a virtual world takes a good deal of time, and some gamers have more money than time on their hands. The average age for gamers is 27, and approximately half of all gamers are in full time employment. For a group of friends playing together, it can thus be relatively easy for the cash rich to fall behind the time rich in terms of gameplay, as they are obliged to spend the lion’s share of their time working their real world jobs while friends are spending time levelling their characters. For such individuals, for whom time translates into money, a few dollars is a small price to pay to ensure virtual survival the next time they enter an instance with their high level friends.

Companies set up to farm virtual commodities are furthermore criticised as being little more than sweatshops, an attitude encouraged by the fact that many of these companies reside in low wage economies like China. However, pay and work conditions in such companies, where workers are paid to spend their days playing enjoyable, stimulating games, cannot compare to that of their compatriots who spend their days mindlessly producing the components that go into our computers, or the trainers that we wear while playing. Essentially the objection is a moral one, with many Westerners objecting to low wage economies catering to this type of leisure activity. Often workers are paid partly in kind, with food and accommodation included in remuneration packages, with the pay received thus presenting largely surplus. While pay may not equate to Western standards, this type of economic activity reminds us that we are living in a continually globalising economic environment where quality of life and spending power should be taken into account as much if not more so than say a straight dollar for yen exchange rate. Companies like Mogmine provide their staff with health benefits, holiday pay and share options, along with the chance for advancement within the organisation. Brian Lim, CEO of Mogmine, comments that ‘many mid- and high-level management started out as gamers and now they have equal or more pay than respectable managers in more conventional businesses.’ Within these lower wage economies, these thus represent desirable jobs.

Other complaints centre around the negative effect of such farming activities on in-game economies. At Mogmine, Brian Lim’s gamers play the game as it is meant to be played, but hone good techniques for gold generation along the way, thus ensuring that the work remains interesting to staff. Jonathan Driscoll comments that competition for resources has always been a feature of gameplay, and points out that his World of Warcraft farmers do their work within instances, and thus do not impact on others’ gaming experiences in the least. Complaints that farmers are responsible for in-game inflation smack of sour grapes when compared to common factors like players with high level characters acting as benefactors for their low-level alts, and thus facilitating the unrealistic in-game spending power of such low level characters. While some developers do not condone real money trade on their servers, others like MindArk, with their game Project Entropia, have included the secondary market as a part of their services. Even Sony Online Entertainment, who until recently stood staunchly against real money trade, have jumped on the band-wagon with the release of their Station Exchange service, actively facilitating Real Money Trading in Everquest 2. Other games, like the upcoming Roma Victor, embed the secondary market as part of their financial model rather than relying on the common subscription model, with players purchasing Sesterces to play and advance in the game.

Such trading of virtual goods for real world money is potentially just the tip of the iceberg for the development of virtual economies where people come together within virtual worlds to promote and trade real world products. Games like The Matrix Online already sell advertising space to real world companies to promote their products to gamers who spend their leisure time within the world.

We are thus embarking on an entirely new type of economic activity, where real and virtual worlds are meeting within an economic sphere. As a fledgling economy, it is difficult to chart where this phenomenon may take us, but the sheer weight of currency being spent and earned within these economies and the development of services to monitor real to virtual exchange rates and market prices indicates that they are here to stay.

Resources referenced

Castranova, Edward. ‘Virtual Worlds: A first-hand account of market and society on the cyberian frontier’ [December 2001]

C NET – Real money in a virtual world []

The Daedalus Project, revealing the psychology of MMORPGS []

GameUSD, a virtual world versus USD currency tracker []

WIRED – The Unreal Estate Boom []


We would like to thank Jonathan Driscoll from MMORPG SHOP, Brian Lim from Mogmine and Hayden from MOGS for their insider’s view of the secondary market, which proved invaluable in writing this article.

Co-authored by Rachelle Benson of Benson Cairns

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June is a Month of Change

June is going to be a month of change at Eye On MOGS. But don't worry all these changes are good!

I guess the two changes you guys are going to notice most will be these two:

a) A FREE Raffle every month, and
b) A review of all the games we list, their servers, factions and idioms

Sound good? We certainly hope so. We're very concious of providing the best service we can to you guys and hope that the steps we take in June will help us keep Eye On MOGS even more fresh and accurate, as well as give you the chance to win some prizes along the way!

Keep your eyes peeled for these, and more, changes over the course of June 2006!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Burning Crusade Alliance Race Revealed!

The new Alliance race in the Burning Crusade will be the Draenai.

A New York Times article and Q&A with head game designer Jeff Kaplan haved confirmed this today after E3 2006 opened.

Well, at least now we know. I'm a little disappointed neither Blood Elves nor Draenai will have a rogue class (I like rogues), but there you go :)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Listings Return

There we go. The listings are back to a healthier 24,000 odd.

Was probably just a lack of stock last update. Has everyone been filling their money bags?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Big Drop in Eye On MOGS Listings

The listings on Eye On MOGS have taken a dive after the last update (circa 9pm GMT). It's still a healthy 16,000+, but this may mean that searches offer fewer comparisons.

Sometimes the availability of goods just drops off, sometimes a providers site goes down and sometimes a our spider gets confused and drops loads of listings. I'm not sure which is the culprit right now.

Hopefully when the next update comes around things will return to normal. If not rest assured I will get on the case!

Happy gaming all.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Burning Crusade: October 2006

If and EBGames are correct then the long wait for World of Warcrafts first expansion pack, The Burning Crusade, will be over in October this year.

Amazon has the release date as the 15th October 2006, EBGames sooner on the 2nd.

Looks like you can pre-order now!

Interesting to have a release date before Blizzard have told us what the new Alliance race is going to be.

WoW Diary: 2rue Blue

It's been a long time coming but finally today I found something worth buying on the auction house for my level 60 rogue.

Luckily for me I've been grinding cash in Azshara for the last month so I had a few hundered Gold on me when a Scarlet Kris popped up. Not something you see everyday, so I waded in there and accepted the 'buyout' price. It's much nicer than the 30 odd DPS dagger I had before and comes with +10 Sta and +10 Agi, which is great on a weapon for a rogue.

I was quite chuffed with that. But today seems to have been a good day...

After I had put a whole load of items on the auction house I headed back to Azshara (I like farming the Legashi Satyrs there) and started hacking my way through them, with a certain sense of satisfaction with my now much improved DPS.

There's a few chests that spawn around the Legashi Encampment, and usually I'm lucky to find a decent amount of silver in them, let alone an item of any value. Today seems to have been my lucky day then as I popped open a chest to find a shiny blue Hanzo Sword inside.

For a casual gamer like me two blues on the same day is great. The Hanzo sword and the few greens/fel cloth I got during my rounds today will have covered the price of my shiny new Scarlet Kris.

All in all I'm pleased.

PS Forgive the attempted 'play on words' (of sorts) in the title. It's supposed to read 'True Blue'.

Real Money Trade (RMT) that Pleases Everyone?

From the post I made just a few days ago, Epics for the Casual Gamer, it seems clear to me that Blizzards World of Warcraft could do with a few extra options for those of us at the end game. The really good gear seems to be reserved not for those hardcore gamers who are willing to work for it, but for a subset of these gamers who have large chunks of free time. Currently then, those of us at 60 who still play the game regularly but in only small blocks, or at odd times, are being left out in the cold. Just what are we paying $15 a month for?

My minds been racing over the last few days, and I finally woke up at 5am this morning with an idea that I had to get down on paper (or disc as the case may be). I figured there must be an RMT model that could work as part of a MMORPG.

Now, we all know that MMORPGs and RMT work together, if they didn’t World of Warcraft wouldn’t be so popular, Project Entropia wouldn’t work at all (related post: Your Project Entropia Withdrawl Limit is...) and Sony wouldn’t have relented on their strict ‘no RMT’ policy to bring out Station Exchange in 2005.

Essentially the whole thing centers around a moral argument between players. There are those who feel that RMT in MMORPGs is:

a) cheating and
b) detracts from the fantasy of the game.

These are not unfair points, however they does miss the point that we don’t all have large enough chunks of time to invest in high level dungeon runs, but we are willing to work hard for better gear. It also misses the point that any number of people you play with in World of Warcraft (or many other games) could have had their characters power levelled, rankings levelled, instance runs completed by a service provider or just be jacked full of bought cash.

And unless they told you, you would never know.

Lets put aside the fact that you can earn gear by doing battlegrounds in World of Warcraft. Why? Because this gear is predominately geared up to PvP combat. I want to address the issue of getting PvE gear (as I’m not a big PvPer).

As I mentioned in my previous post it seems to me developers could introduce more quests like that for getting the Darkmoon Faire Amulet, and introduce complete articles as faction rewards rather than patterns for them. But that’s another posting, lets look at how I think RMT could be squeezed into World of Warcraft without pissing off people too much and unbalancing the game.

RMT in WoW

I think a good starting point would be to take a tip from Sony and start up RMT enabled servers. Within this environment at least you would know what you were getting and could stay away if you chose to. Of course normal trading would still be possible in this realm, but RMT would also be an option.

Auctioning for Real Cash

I think you could also introduce RMT as an option in normal realms. As an extra option when putting up items on the auction house why not add a ‘Make Purchase’ button available which would allow players to buy the item with real cash (the price of which would be a reflection of the Gold price, converetd into real dollars at present exchange rates). You could, and probably should, restrict this action to higher level items which have reached a certain threshold in terms of their in-game price. For those with pots of gold buying power remains unaffected, just buy it with your gold. For those with pots of cash but no gold this gives you the chance to buy something nice!

Let’s not forget those of you with lots of free time and items to auction would also be able to make real money off us lowly time short people. Surely no-one would object to that?

Buying High End - End Game Gear

Now let’s look at epics and other gear that you should really only be able to get from instances like Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and Zul Gurub. In my model these items would be purchasable with real cash from certain vendors, the prices reflecting the amount of gold similar items are fetching on the auction house. To make certain that this opportunity was not just taken advantage of, detracting from the pull of high level instance runs (I doubt this would be the case given the split among players on RMT), there should be a penalty for making this purchase. One which comes to mind would be a time penalty.

If you had gone into Molten Core looking for Bloodfang Pants (or something) then you would have had to invest quite a bit of time to get this. If you buy the gear then your account should get a time penalty on it of say 8 hours in which you can not play. That won’t match the amount of time you might otherwise have to put in to get Bloodfang Pants, but let’s not forget by buying this item you’re already effectively monetarily fined.

You could also slap a durability fine on bought gear as this would be heavily damaged during a raid.

RMT Class of Gear

Another possibility would be to introduce RMT gear, World of Warcraft already has PvP and PvE gear. Rather than being able to buy the best gear in the game you would be able to buy something comparable, but with some sort of limitation.


Personally I think that if people are willing to pay their real hard earned cash for better items then they should be allowed to do so. One way or another we all pay for the virtual assets we own (ownership of virtual assests is a whole other kettle of fish!), whether you pay in virtual cash, real cash or your time.

Your thoughts?

I’m always interested to hear what other people think on these kinds of matters (and my rambling posts). How do you see things developing, is there a middle ground? Is RMT here to stay? Why do we feeel the need to twink our virtual alter egos?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Your Project Entropia Withdrawl Limit is...

From TerraNova - I think this is fascinating!

By now, everyone has probably read the gushing news stories: Project Entropia’s developer, MindArk, has introduced a bank card that allows cardholders to treat their “virtual currency” from Project Entropia “just like real money” and withdraw it from a cash machine. The BBC, the New York Times, ABC News, and any number of other mainstream media sources have run stories on this. They boggle at this miracle and explain how,

[t]he new cash card blurs the boundary between the virtual and physical world even

This is the kind of story that we love here at Terra Nova, since it involves nifty issues about virtual worlds, the social fiction of money, and all sorts of other interesting questions. But I don’t love this story. I think it’s basically bogus. In fact it’s worse than that. This story has finally convinced me that MindArk is fantastic at generating public relations stories that credulous media sources pick up without questioning, but which, if investigated for even a moment, make you shake your head in wonder.

Continue reading "Project Entropia"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Epics for the Casual Gamer

Forgive my pre-occupation with World of Warcraft in this Blog. It just happens to be the MOG I play at the moment.

Something else which crossed my mind today while idling away a little time in WoW, check my auctions, was that I have been level 60 for some months now and I still don't have a single Epic peice of equipment. In fact most of my gear is green.

The problem is simple - I'm a casual gamer. Not through choice, but through the demands on my time through work and home life. I simply don't have the time to spend eight hours crawling through Molten Core to kill a single boss, or spend several hours each evening to explore the wonders of Blackwing Lair. For that matter I don't really have the time to play for more than an hour or so at a time.

One thing I do often do when I do play is farm Plague Bats in the Eastern Plaguelands. Why? Because I know that if I get enough of their juciy eyes (400 in total I think), that I can trade them in at the Darkmoon Faire. My reward? A nice shiny Epic Necklace: Amulet of the Darkmoon

Now to get all these eyes is going to take me a long time, but at least I can get a few each time I login for an hour, and I know that I am slowly making my way to my goal.

What I thought was that World of Warcraft could do with more of these kinds of opportunity to get epics. As I said above I'm never personally going to get one from one of the high-level instances as I don't have big enough blocks of free time. But I can farm creatures for months on end.

How many epics to you guys have? How long have you been 60? And how did you get your epics?


This post got picked up at WoW Break and I felt compelled to post a comment in my defense. I'm still left with the same question as above: How do you get Epics in WoW? Especially if you don't have the time to do Molten Core and the like?

Well I do know one way. Using a service like that provided by MOGMine, who will run your character through a high level instance for you. That $30 is beginning to sound a pretty reasonable deal.

Finally some signs of weather in Azeroth

After Blizzard released the 1.10 patch for World of Warcraft I was looking forward, amongst other things, to the introduction of Weather Effects to certain regions of the game world.

I'll grant that this addition doesn't really affect gameplay, but I thought it was another factor that would add to the level of immersion the game offered. I imagined wandering through Elwynn Forest as the rain lashed down unable to see through the fog that I had wandered into a Defias camp until they were on top of me.

Of course at level 60 I wouldnt have been in trouble :) But I still liked the idea.

Imagine my dismay then when I spent the following weeks trying to track down this weather that had been added! I went to every zone that had weather 'switched on', different times of the day, different days. Nothing.

Until, finally, today on a ride back to Stormwind through Elwynn Forest I was engulfed in rain!

My only qualm, having finally seen these effects in acton, was that once I passed into Stormwind it was all of a sudden a gloriously sunny day again. I can appreciate Elwynn Forest and Stormwind must be different map, but personally I think it would make sense that the weather in Elwynn and Stormwind would be the same.

What are your thoughts on WoWs Weather? Was I just hopelessly unlucky not to come across any for so long?

On a wider topic, what developments do you think would bring more immersion to MOGs?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

China Predicting 61 Million MMO Gamers by 2010

And you thought Blizzard had population problems? According to this report at, citing reports from Instat, China, already one of the largest bastions of online gaming in the world, will see more than 60 million of its citizens hop on board the MMO train by 2010, with a market value estimated at 2.1 billion dollars. That's a lot of microwave burritos & Mountain Dew...

Then again, they probably won't have the same problems that Blizzard has with their customer base; those communists tend to keep things running pretty long as you don't petition a GM; that could be considered treason.