Surely the easiest way for a MMO to make money out of a cash shop would be to get a gaming licence and open an in-game casino? Why not take a page out of the book of games that were actually designed around players spending real life money as part of the game?
RMT in WoW
Suzina raised a storm on Kill Ten Rats with her account of gold buying in WoW. She started a new character, got to level 40, wanted dual spec and got sticker shock at the cost. But instead of deciding to defer dual spec until she could afford it, she chose to break the rules.
So when I realized that obtaining 1000 gold by level 40 was unrealistic, I made the decision to purchase gold. I bought about 1000 gold for about ten dollars from the Microsoft of gold-farmers. You know, that company that owns Allakhazam, THOTTBOT, WOWhead and a bunch of other fan sites? They got my ten dollars.
As an aside, I think she’s very unaware of what the gold sinks actually are in LOTRO. As a lifetime player, with plenty of time to amass gold, she might not know how punishing the repair bills can be if you’re raiding or instancing regularly. Or how expensive it is to level a crafting skill. Or how expensive those second age weapons on the auction house look to a new player who could use them while levelling. I could easily imagine a new player in LOTRO facing similar temptations if they were in a hurry to do any of those things.
In any case, I wasn’t intending to discuss her choice (which I disagree with). But rather to note that WoW does offer legitimate RMT. If you buy a pet from the virtual store, you can trade it in game (or at least trade the item code). The barriers to doing this are to do with trust between players, and the fact that not everyone with lots of gold actually wants another virtual pet.
The second factor could easily be overcome using a scheme like EVEs where CCP sell time cards (for cash) with codes that can also be traded in game. Every player in a subscription game will use a month’s sub so there’s a constant demand. And players who have amassed lots of virtual gold might find it attractive to be able to trade some for game time.
So it would be possible to make legitimate gold buying part of the game. However, it will never be possible to take the illegitimate source completely out of the picture. Never. If a game card sells for £10 and is currently trading for 1000g in game, the black market only has to sell 1000g for £9.50 to make themselves more appealing to any player who doesn’t care where the money goes and just wants their gold.
This is why I’m all for the gambling licence. The genius thing about gambling games is that they make the RMT (or the bidding in other words) an actual part of the game.