Wednesday 16 February 2011

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is I do not know which half

One of the first things I tend to do in a MMOG is shift general/shout chat channels off onto their own tab, labelled (depending on mood) something like “General”, “Chatter”, “Spam”, “Bozos” or “Why WoW Is Better And/Or Worse Than This Game” (or in the case of World of Warcraft itself, “Why WoW Was Better And/Or Worse Than WoW Is Now”). It’s not entirely being unsociable, I like to have the tab there in case I want to reach out and connect with humanity (or find out why WoW is better and/or worse than this game), but those channels can easily swamp slightly more important guild/party chat or game messages, especially if a nefarious gold spammer is hawking their bargain in-game currency every few seconds.

Every Monday night the Hipster Battalion sallies forth to liberate another cafĂ© in Warhammer Online (see, or indeed hear, the “What We’re Playing” episodes of the Van Hemlock Podcast for the continuing adventures), a game for which “polish” isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind with the odd bug you encounter, such as whenever you man a piece of siege equipment, regardless of your chat window settings, the General channel starts showing up again. It’s made all the more obvious because every week, without fail, there’s a gold spammer there, glowing orange promises of fast delivery scrolling with distracting regularity as you swing a battering ram at a keep door or lob rocks at a besieging army.

I’m slightly baffled, as I can’t think who would being buying gold in WAR. So far I’ve mostly been wearing PvP armour sets, bought with medallions that drop when you kill enemy players, accessorised with the odd quest reward or item from a public quest loot bag, with any gaps being filled in by vendors in the capital city who sell cheap items so long as you meet the renown rank requirement. The vast majority of the tokens, medallions and bits of armour themselves are bound to the player, so there isn’t an awful lot that can be listed for sale on the auction house; I’ll have a bit of a browse now and again, but in the last few months all I’ve bought is a couple of shields and an axe that were cheap enough to make the slight upgrade worth it, and a small pile of the cheapest helmets I could find just to try on for cosmetic purposes. Nothing I’ve seen suggests the end game is much different, though I could be mistaken. Of all the MMOGs I’ve dabbled in, the only example of in-game currency being less important that springs to mind is the early days of City of Heroes, when just about ever high level character had piles of “influence” and nothing to spend it on, apart from costume changes (in which respect there are some similarities with WAR, you can spend far more on dyeing armour sets into this season’s colours than on the armour itself.)

Maybe there is a thriving market after all that makes it worthwhile for the spammers to keep going; maybe it’s Mythic themselves, not actually selling currency but pretending to do so to give players the chance to use the /ignore function to work up to The Exiler achievement for having 100 players on your ignore list. I prefer to think, though, that there’s a monolithic gold selling corporation that shut down their Warhammer Online gold harvesting and supply business a while ago, but thanks to an oversight or a typo in a database someone still gets on a train each day, arrives in Basingstoke (I know China is more traditional base for gold selling, but go with it) eleven minutes late, hangs up their bowler hat and umbrella, and settles down to it… “Good evening, Miss Jones, any word from CJ on a change in the overall strategy? No? Still targeting the WAR-market? Right you are, off we go… ‘FAST RELIABLE GOLD DELIVERY AT…'”

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