Monday, April 21, 2008

Gold Seller Interview: New wave of RMT business - positive attitude and commitment to customers

This week's interview with the seller is the owner of MMOVP and also a blogger himself.

Can you give us some background, what you do and how the company got started? How would you describe a typical owner of a gold farming or
selling business?

As a group of veteran online game players, we've enjoyed a lot of great games, from Diablo to Ultima Online to WoW. However, we found that these online games take a lot of players valuable time.

In 2004 we started as an in-game currency farming studio focusing mostly on Star Wars Galaxies, UO, and Shadowbane. At that time, we sold all of our stock to China based companies that then resold it to Western customers.

In 2005 we began selling our own stock, as well as buying from other gaming workshops and reselling it to the final consumer via e-Bay. We hired more veteran players and let them play the games they liked.

In 2006 we registered the domain name and began diversifying our activities to a greater extent. We created a game testing department which collected valuable farming efficiency information from several MMOs and shared it with independent gaming workshops, who then sold their stock to us. We also began focusing heavily on listening to our customers and implementing their suggestions. In addition, we hired an American RMT expert (and his wife) who has been in the industry since 1998.

Since 2007, we have worked to further expand our operations. We now have a solid sales office and two gaming workshops. We produce our own stock and buy from several workshops that we deal with closely to assure quality products. We are also always looking for new suppliers to work with.

We have served over 9000 customers. We listen to our customer’s voice and develop new products and services according to their needs. We hope to become a leading virtual currency provider during 2008.

Description of a typical owner:
In this specific company, there are 8 owners, myself included. We each work hard to ensure the company is running smoothly. Our ages range from 22 to 30 years old. We are all honest, hardworking people. We love the games we sell currency for. Once a week we get together and have competitive tournaments against each other. We are all gamers first, businesspeople second. (Except Chen, our Vice President. He is terrible at games).

Please give us an idea of the size of your operations. Do you employ your own farmers or do you only act as a distributor or broker?

We employ about 80 people. Sixteen sales office/support staff, several game testers (who also handle powerleveling), several web designers and administrators, and currently 50 “farmers”.

What are your thoughts on news reports about "chinese gold farmer sweatshops" and does it have any effect on how the customers perceive your business?

We are a bit dismayed concerning the way in which all the reports converge together to paint a picture of sweatshop labor and immoral practices being the only way in which businesses in the in-game currency selling industry operate. The articles and documentaries focus on a small minority of the poorer or less ethical gaming workshops and sales offices, and even then show no or weak evidence of actual abuse.

Most game workshops do indeed break the EULA or TOS of the games they operate in, and many game workshops are based in China. But no real world laws are being broken by any of this, and all the game workshops that we know of personally are operated under conditions suitable to employees.

We wish to help abolish the stereotype that insists all game workshops and sells offices are run by immoral and unethical people who use shady tactics to break the law and treat their employees poorly. In the next few months, we will be pushing that front especially vigorously.

For more information about “game sweatshops,” please visit our blog here.

As another Chinese operated currency seller, how would you like to
describe your company and what sets it apart from others?

We are focused entirely on providing players with exactly what they want, without negatively effecting their game environment. The second part of that is what sets us apart from all other virtual currency related companies. We call ourselves a “Player Friendly” company. We go out of our way to insure we are not destroying the virtual economy or look and feel of the game.

Because we offer services which allow players to skip the boring grind stages of games, we are effectively selling time. This allows players to only play the fun parts of the game that they enjoy, so they have more time to do what is most important to them out of game, like go to college or get a girlfriend (well, maybe not the last one). The most valuable commodity on Earth is time, and we are happy to help people make the best use of it.

More gamers are complaining about in-game spam from gold selling
companies. Do you think there are other ways to promote and advertise?
How do you get customers to your sites?

Spam is definitely one of the things that helps create a negative view of this entire industry. In our early days, we used to spam as well. But we tried to keep our spam in-character. For example, we whispered to a player in a fantasy game, “Hail traveler! If you wish to discover a source of untold wealth, search the google-realm for these letters: MMOVP!” (A bit on the geeky side, we know.) While spamming is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to attract customers, it is too big of an annoyance to those not interested. No matter how you disguise it, spam is still spam, therefore we stopped in 2006.

We are making game-related movies to attract attention on Youtube. In addition, we use search engines like Google to spread the word. We also are offering a free trip to China to whoever can give us the best ideas to improve our company. See for more information. Occasionally we pay to have banner ads placed on high traffic sites. The best method, however, is word of mouth. There is no better way to grow a business than by providing consistent, high quality service while keeping prices low.

Have you seen the recent in-game advertisement by one of the sellers,
the falling gnomes from the sky? This kind of creative advertisement got a lot of attention and even gamers against gold farming enjoyed it. Do you see this kind of advertisement coming out from gold farming business? Will you have one?

We did indeed see and enjoy watching the gnomes falling from the sky advertisements. In our experience, normally virtual currency sellers are not quite so creative as that. One does have to be careful when advertising in-game, however. Even if you manage to pull it off in a way that amuses and entertains a lot of players, some may still view it as spam. We recommend using creative marketing, but keeping it out of game.

We have a few marketing ideas ourselves of that creative magnitude which we will defiantly put into motion soon.

How would you describe your relationship with game operators? Can you
share your worst experience with a game company?

Game workshops and game companies should complement each other, but instead we are each others adversaries. Game companies try to stop players reasonable needs by implementing one sided rules (EULA). Banning paying customers will not solve any problems. The gaming environment now is worse than two years ago, with desperate sellers spamming and using game exploits, dupes, and even hacking accounts.

Solution: Gaming companies should regulate RMT instead of trying to stop it. Gaming companies should implement safe currency trading features into the game so no one can be scammed. Then the gaming companies and the honest farmers can work together to combat the people who do things that are harmful to the game. Once that happens, we will have a win-win situation.

As far as specific experiences with game companies, we have none of note. A few bannings here and there, and once we were issued a frivolous DMCA request, but nothing serious or exciting.

We are proud to report that as long as customers follow the security advice we give them, none of them have ever been banned or penalized by game developers for buying from us. That is a major accomplishment for us.

Gold deliveries seem to be more difficult and customers often found
their gold missing. What has changed for you over the last two years given the increased reports about counter-measures deployed by companies like Blizzard?

Now we offer in-game face to face delivery and encourage our customers to choose that method. If they insist on mail delivery, however, we will mail the gold to them at their own risk. We wish there was a better way, but given the current situation we have no additional options.

What is your outlook for the future of RMT? What will we get to see in the next few years?

Although we find it very difficult to produce a significant profit, we have a positive attitude concerning this industry. There is a huge demand for gold and other related services. If governments and game companies study this industry and regulate it correctly, much good will come of it. More jobs will be created and the gaming world will be more enjoyable. If the authorities do not adopt a system of regulation, the gaming world will only become worse as more and more people use underhanded methods to get what they want. When a demand this enormous exists, making it illegal to provide support only causes problems.

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