A report on the BBC website shows the quite staggering impact that virtual world gold farming is having on the economies of developing countries like China, where the cost of living is still low. It’s estimated that the farming industry for games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, while strictly against the terms of play for the majority of games, employes nearly half a million people with over three quarters of these based in China.
Games developers have tried to crack down on the practice, because they claim it is an unfair method for some gamers to get a heads up on other players. Some games do initially seem to encourage it; Second Life for instance has a fervent economy with its own exchange and marketplace which certainly attracts farmers.
The average gold farmer only earns about £75 per month with similar fees being paid to power levellers (people that take control of an account and then level it up at an extraordinary rate – another practice that is, strictly speaking, against the terms and conditions). While it’s believed that developers are putting in some effort to curb the trend it would be nearly impossible to eradicate it entirely.