We’re long past the boom days of in-game money-making, but could it be possible that it’s making a comeback? The much anticipated Diablo 3 has a new–and to my knowledge, unique–system of turning in-game items into real-world money. Since the game’s launch on May 15th, PC World has reported that prices haven’t quite found an equilibrium yet, but it begs the question. Is gaming the next new way to make money on the side?
After all, you’re already spending hours playing your favorite games. If you can make a profit, so much the better. But it’s not like in the old days, when you could post items and in-game currency on eBay to make a few bucks, or in this forum poster’s experience, a couple grand. EBay now blocks the sale of virtual inventory, with the exception of Second Life items.
In World of Warcraft (WoW), the biggest MMORPG in the world if you believe their user numbers (10.2 million according to Activision Blizzard’s quarterly report), when eBay use went out the window, all kinds of auctions and gold purchasing sites sprung into existence. In my experience as a player, there aren’t all that many great items that you can buy, but you can sell a whole character on one of these auction sites. Getting up to the level that would make any significant money would take hundreds of hours for even the most experienced gamer, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get anywhere near the record of 7,000 euros in 2007 for a WoW character. Selling gold is a little different. It’s against Blizzard rules, so you can’t advertise in public chats or forums. There are a couple of sites you can use as well, but currency prices fluctuate depending on demand. eHow has a good articlewith a great tip: sell to levels you know will need the currency. In my opinion, it’s much better to buy directly from another character than to buy from an anonymous site. People in China and other developing nations have set up gold farming businesses, and the environment for the workers/players is basically a sweatshop.
Of all the games that you can make some money on, there are a few where people have hit the big bucks. A player on Entropia reportedly sold virtual real estate for $635,000. This was possible largely because Entropia has a fixed, real-cash economy, so money can be exchanged from real to virtual and vice versa within their system. Second Life is similar–you can create objects and have professions within the system, and game currency exchanges simply with real dollars. Others like IMVU and EVE Online have potential too.
Diablo 3 operates more like Entropia and Second Life than WoW, strangely enough (both Diablo 3 and WoW are created by Blizzard). The rules of WoW created a black market, whereas Diablo 3 has a sanctioned market that makes transactions safe and easy. No one appears to mind that the Diablo 3 auction house takes a cut of every transaction. It makes me wonder if eventually they might change WoW over to a similar system.
The thing to keep in mind with any of these games is that it requires skill and a lot of time. But if you’re a dungeon master already, there’s potential to make a few bucks.