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Real Money Trade

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"Don't even get me started on you gold farmers,
you gotta make a living, but I need that armor."
— Futuristic Sex Robotz, World of Warcraft

The purchase or sale of online game equipment, currency, or even powerleveling services for real money to a third party without the involvement of, and in the majority of cases against the wishes of, the game's publisher (which is the difference between this and Bribing Your Way to Victory). A common plague of MMORPGs, and the reason why good ways of making money in-game are often nerfed by the publisher after some time. Some game operators may offer a legitimate channel for players to buy and sell virtual items from each other in order to stem some of the more negative elements of restricting such trade to the black market such as spam, fraud and cheating by use of automated bot. A rare but growing few have built their worlds entirely around player-to-player RMT where the company makes money by taking a cut as a transaction fee, or even open content creation to players so aspiring artists and technicians can sell their work on the open market, thus producing a Player-Generated Economy.

Contrast Allegedly Free Game, which is when the game advertises itself as free but requires you to pay money to unlock content, and Microtransactions, the sanctioned equivalent.


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     References to RMT  

  • Referenced in Welcome to the NHK, as one of the protagonist's failed money-making schemes.
  • In .hack//Legend of the Twilight Bracelet, Hotaru doesn't have any gold, so she considers paying real money in return for medicine for the Team Pet. Shugo quickly talks her out of it. It turned out that the "gold farmer" she was speaking to was an admin in disguise, who was actually manipulating them into rejecting the offer and instead going to fight the ridiculously high-leveled monster in the field that had the medicine.
  • One episode of .hack//Roots is dedicated to a side character's efforts to shut down a group of Real Money Traders who are driving up in-game prices on even basic items.
  • A side character in the GU games has a hacked weapon that was bought via real money trading.
  • The Cory Doctorow short story "Anda's Game" is entirely dedicated to the titular character's interaction with a bunch of gold farmers in an imaginary MMORPG.
  • Also by Cory Doctorow, an attempt to unionize illegal gold farmers forms much of the plot of For the Win.
  • One character of Walter Jon Williams' This Is Not a Game makes most of his income by gold farming and ganking — while at his official phone support job.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del made a comic (and now a poster) describing "MMO Hell" with major offenders being punished The Divine Comedy-style. Gold farmers and gold buyers are lumped together in the 4th circle; farmers are punished by being submerged in putrid soil and have to dig for gold coins that always slip just a little bit deeper into the muck, while gold buyers are weighed down by countless thousands of gold coins and have to crawl to buy their salvation from a vendor that is always out of reach.
  • In the Noob multi-media franchise, one character got his former high-level avatar banned as a punishment for buying in-game stuff on a website called ("Chinese farmer").
  • Neal Stephenson's REAMDE centers around gold farming and RMT. The dominant MMORPG, T'Rain, got that way by legitimizing the practice, and thereby unseating World of Warcraft.
  • Real Life example: Julian Dibbell famously spent a year trying to make a living primarily as a Real Money Trader in World of Warcraft; he wrote a blog, and later a book, about the experience.
  • On Person of Interest recurring character Leon Tao decided to make money by using his experience as a crooked accountant to get into the RMT business. However, the segment of the RMT market he tried to corner was controlled by the Russian mob and they did not take kindly to interlopers. The Russians decide to kill him as a warning to others and only Reese's intervention saves Leon from death.
  • In The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor this is one of the main plot devices. The main character is trying to pay for his grandmother's hospital bills and his younger sister's college education through RMT. He was inspired after finding his account for an old Korean MMO sold for about $3million (as part of a company's marketing campaign). When loan sharks come to take most of this money, he finds himself with enough to pay all of his family's expenses for about two years, just enough to train in martial arts and study the new hit VRMMORPG Royal Road. (Currently in Korea, RMT is very common, to the point that it was just recently made an official taxable source of income.) The main character plans on becoming a professional in RMT.
  • In FoxTrot, Jason decides to spend one summer vacation being a gold farmer on World of Warcraft. It turns out not to be as easy as he thought it would be.
  • In Sword Art Online, Gun Gale Online, the primary setting of the Phantom Bullet arc, allows players to buy in-game currency with real-world money (and vice-versa), thus making it possible to buy equipment with real money, as well as sell it. Sinon, a student who has trouble making ends meet, can't use much of her own money, and has to admit that the prospect of selling Hecate (a powerful weapon and of great personal significance to her) is tempting. Meanwhile, it's revealed that the villain bought a thermoptic camouflage cloak with the real money trade.
  • While Command & Conquer: Generals never stated to any degree where the Chinese Hackers actually get money from, the creators of the Game Mod Rise of the Reds do state that, just like in Real Life, China employs Real Money Trade en masse to gain money and Hackers do this on the battlefield, among other things that are probably even less legal.
  • In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Ralph and Vanellope's initial plan to raise $27001 they need to pay for the Sugar Rush steering wheel is to earn money through LootFindr, a site that buys and sells video game items. Someone is willing to pay $40000 for Shank's car from the Fictional Video Game Slaughter Race. Ralph and Vanellope fail to get the car, but Vanellope becomes great friends with Shank and finds a new calling in life, since she had grown bored of Sugar Rush.
  • Folding Ideas' video "Line Goes Up" includes a chapter on play-to-earn games, particularly Axie Infinity, for which trading game assets for real currencies is the express purpose. The video goes into some depth exploring how this model makes for pretty lousy gaming… and just as lousy economics.

     Examples of Legal RMT  

  • Dungeon Fighter Online does this indirectly through the real-money purchase and in-game sale of avatar packages, which contain cosmetics and usually also include exclusive equipment, such as titles and/or pets. The Chinese version of DFO takes this a step further by allowing players to itemize gift cards for in-game currency, allowing them to be traded in-game.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 more or less enables you to buy in-game currency with real money, since nearly anything you can acquire from the local Microtransactions-based gacha (with the oddball exception, like Attribute Enhancer +10%) can also be sold on the in-game Player Shop for Meseta, the Global Currencynote .
  • RuneScape introduce Bonds in 2013, an itemized form of membership that can be traded to other players. Bonds can alternatively be used on other Microtransactions, like RuneCoins or Treasure Hunter keys. The update notes regarding Bonds claim Bonds were necessary to shift the game's gold-selling business away from illegal RMT.
  • Steam is a huge example of this.
    • Everything started when Steam Trading came, allowing people to trade game items between them and not requiring the items to be from the same game. It also allowed people to trade games between them in the form of game gifts; if you buy the game as a gift, you can't play it, but you can gift or trade it to a friend, permanently adding it to their account.
    • Later came the Steam Community Market, allowing players to sell their items for credit money. Steam already had the option to add money to your account as credits that you can use later, but the market allowed everyone to sell their unwanted items for money they can spend on other items and on new games. People started financing their new games with money earned by playing games, getting items and selling them. On the games that support the Community Market, the most famous include Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Don't Starve Together and BattleBlock Theater.
    • A big hurdle to preventing Steam items from being too useful as a source of real income is that they can only be legally traded for Steam Wallet funds, which can only be used to buy games on Steam, and selling your account is illegal. But there is a way to indirectly and legally convert Steam Wallet funds into real money - Valve sells physical hardware such as VR headsets and the Steam Deck console through Steam, and you can use Wallet funds to buy these. Since they're physical items, once you receive them, you're free to resell them outside of Steam for real money.
    • Also, not all items from the games can be sold for money through the Market. However, it is still possible to directly trade between players using Steam Trading and traded by Marketable items. However, some items can't be traded either and are meant to be yours forever, especially if they are tied to certain achievements.
    • Another genius idea by Valve was the Steam Trading Cards. These were essentially virtual cards featuring images related to their respective games that you earn by buying games and playing them. If a game has these cards, someone who buys it earns the right to get a few cards just by playing the game, with the exact number based on how many different cards the game has. For instance, a game with 6 cards earns you 3, a game with 8 cards earns 4. Players can sell and trade these cards, allowing every game on Steam able to feature trading, even single player games and games with no inventory feature.
      • After players get all the free cards, they can earn Booster Packs at random. Booster Packs are packs with 3 random cards that the player can open or sell/trade. Booster Packs are also granted as other users spend the cards crafting badges.
      • If a player has all the cards in a set, he can craft them into a badge. The cards will disappear, and the player earns:
        - A medal visible on your profile for bragging rights.
        - XP points for your Steam level, which gives some advantages like being able to have more friends and customize your profile with showcases that can show achievements, your badges, you favorite games, and so forth.
        - A game-themed emoticon that you can use in chat and a wallpaper for your profile, both of which can be sold on the market. While it is a gamble, buying cards, crafting them and getting rare emotes and backgrounds to sell can be profitable.
        - And last, you can also get a coupon to buy games with a discount. Considering that Steam has discounts and sales all the time, coupons are kinda worthless and easy to get cheaply or even for free, but on events like the Summer or Holiday sale, the coupon is replaced with a trading card of the event.
      • There are also very rare Foil Cards with roughly a 1% chance of appearing in place of a normal card. Foil Badges can be crafted with these and you can only craft it once, but the prizes above are the same and are mainly for bragging rights. Foil Cards can be more expensive than some games or even the game it came from.
      • When the market started overflowing with emoticons and backgrounds that no one wanted and became too cheap, discouraging players to craft badges, Valve introduced gems. Unwanted cards, emotes and backgrounds can be converted into virtual gems, that can be used to create Booster Packs. This opened up the option to buy gems and craft booster packs for profit. When Valve introduced the gems, they also introduced an auction where players could bid on limited copies of games with them.

     Examples of Illegal RMT  

Some examples in games where Real World Trading is not allowed (through laws, or in game user licenses):

  • In World of Warcraft, RMT has grown in leaps and bounds along with the player base. In the classic game, the majority of illicit gold was supplied by bots that endlessly farmed rare items and sold them on the Auction House, and was advertised via in-game chat. As Blizzard's anti-bot technology grew more sophisticated, buying fully upgraded expansion accounts grew more expensive, and restrictions added to eliminate chat spam, the majority of trade is now in gold stolen from compromised accounts of legitimate players and advertised via the web. Further, it's rumored that major segments of this multi-million dollar business are controlled by organized crime. (Dollars to donuts is that the banner ad on this page, right now, is for a WoW gold-seller. Do not click on it.) Eventually Blizzard decided to combat the endless flow of gold-farming bots by simply letting players buy gold (indirectly; it's through buying a token that can be redeemed for gold at the auction house), causing the number of illegal real-money traders to plummet. They're still around, but they're a dying breed.
  • City of Heroes had been dealing with these, starting with the introduction of craftable Invention Enhancements. They usually advertised by creating throwaway characters with random strings of letters for names to send out tells and the otherwise barely-used in-game e-mail system. The makers of the game tried to combat them with the /ignore_spammer command to streamline the process of reporting them, and by not allowing characters under level 10 to use the e-mail system.
  • In 2005, a man was stabbed to death in China after he sold a sword someone had lent him in The Legend of Mir 3. Source.
  • Final Fantasy XI has its share of this problem, and Square Enix is very much against it. RMTs tell-spam with impunity using disposable free trial characters, and just about every ad you find on any FFXI-related site is for gilsellers. RMT frequently abuse the fishing system with "fishbots" (turning fishing into a simple minigame didn't deter them for long; in fact, it opened up a new exploit that expedited the system), use cheats to complete quests more quickly than should be possible, exploit high NPC resale prices, and monopolize Notorious Monsters with salable goods. To combat them, SE created the Special Task Force, which has successfully reduced the severity of the problem. However, SE is also so paranoid on the matter that probably the best way an unscrupulous person could eliminate someone they don't like from the game would be to devise a plausible way to accuse them of RMT... especially as one is not allowed to defend one's own casenote . It's also gotten to the point that the RMT are actually hijacking player accounts in order to get the gil to sell, usually destroying years of work. It happened before the anti-RMT levels became so dramatic, but it's incredibly common now.
    • RMT is also a big problem for Square's second Final Fantasy online game, Final Fantasy XIV. RMTs will usually spam shouts with links leading to their sites for people to buy gil. When players started to turn off the shout feature, RMTs then started to spam people through tells (private messages) and the even more aggressive RMT may send friend requests to unsuspecting players so that anyone who blindly accepts the request will have their inbox flooded with spam. Square did try to combat the situation by adding filters to screw up an RMT's ability to advertise, but RMTs fought back by just altering their spam messages that composed of what looks like a computer trying to learn how to be human. While RMT is still a big problem, Square attempted to RMT-proof future content by making it where RMT can't get an advantage, such as Triple Triad cards not being tradeable with players. Eventually, Square implemented a feature that lets players right click a bot's/RMT's name and instantly report them to a Game Master rather than having to go through the clunky interface to fill out a report. This worked for a while, but botters eventually worked around it by sending random players party invites with character names clearly showcasing the RMT's URL address so that people would be forced to see it no matter what.
  • RuneScape had this problem during 2007 where it has become an obvious issue to the folks at Jagex. They tried to combat it with Trade Limits, death drops and making it so it will be difficult for gold farmers to use types of gold selling which require a heavy deal of trust. However, the crowd was rather angry to learn of this after. This was removed in February 2011.
    • As of September 2013, Jagex has responded to RMT in a much more permanent fashion by cornering the RMT market themselves.
    • The decade of 2010 went by, and Venezuela's economy tanked so hard — literally only Weimar Germany has so far fared worse than Venezuela — that Venezuelans had to take up farming Runescape gold and selling it online in order to not starve to death. The Venezuelan crisis eventually got to the point where one single unit of Runescape gold was literally worth several bolĂ­vares. This in turn led to one of the few defeats in the entire history of the Reign of Terror clan, in 2019, when they attempted to crack down on Venezuelan gold farmers; with their only source of food income being threatened, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fought back, and ended up completely defeating ROT and positioning themselves as the new kings of Runescape.
  • Reselling Steam accounts online will result in legal action if the country has a DMCA type law.
  • Habbo Hotel property is frequently sold online usually as "a joke", but the company itself shuts down online sales pretty quickly.
  • eBay banned virtual property sales under pressure from such companies, and eventually banned all digital deliveries because of the amount of fraud. Consider that the reason why you can't sell virtual property is because there is nothing preventing the person selling it to you from stealing it back from you by claiming they were hacked, or even using the lost-password feature.
  • In Ace Online, the GMs have warned against, and banned, people who sell cash-shop credits and player accounts (or characters).
  • Ragnarok Online, being the aging MMO that it is, obviously has real problems with these people ... albeit less so now due to a somewhat unusual tactic. The game now has three servers besides the test server. The first two, Chaos and Loki, have a 25% increase in experience income and item drop rates, along with a few other advantages. They are also only accessible to subscribing players. By comparison, the Valkyrie server is free, and does not require an active subscription to get in, thus acting as the game's free trial and making its money though premium items. The catch? Valkyrie is effectively a glorified RMT trap, since the premium servers require a working credit card and payment for access.
  • League of Legends champions are bought with BE (earned in-game) or RP (Bribing Your Way to Victory). In addition, in order to play ranked matches, you must have played about 50 normal matches. Since many players view this as a money grubbing tactic from Riot Games, many resort to purchasing champions or levelled accounts from clandestine websites. The way this affects the game is by bringing AFK BE farming bots — player characters that are even more useless than the beginner bots, controlled by macros or by a simple program, whose characteristic behaviors include standing under towers and dying, standing in front of enemy champions and dying, and punching minions as you are horribly murdered nearby.

Alternative Title(s): Gold Farming