Friday, May 7, 2010

A Quick Solution To WoW Goldselling?

Random thought of the afternoon:

What portion of WoW gold selling would be eliminated if Blizzard changed the character transfer service to strip your character of everything but the clothes on their back, and returned the balance of your inventory after 24-48 hours? Gold sellers depend on server transfers to move goods from compromised accounts to servers where potential customers are waiting. Most accounts that are worth stealing are worth it because they log in often enough that a character transfer would be noticed within a day or so.

Obviously, not having cash or consumables would be an inconvenience for players who legitimately want to transfer their characters to a new home (though really, routine questing does not require consumables, and I guess you could provide a 100G stipend for repairs and reagents). Then again, if you're moving to join friends or a new guild, someone can probably loan you the stuff you'll need for a day or two until your stuff arrives. Moreover, how many players would this really affect? How does that number of players compare to the number that are affected by the illicit gold trade? To the numbers who have had their guild banks looted, or had to wait for weeks for character restorations?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that the gold selling problem can be solved entirely by impeding the transfer of assets. In this particular case, though, I'm wondering if the effect on legitimate players isn't so minimal that there is no real downside. Can someone point out the stupid detail I'm missing that argues why Blizzard shouldn't do this tomorrow?


Yogi said...

Honestly I had no clue character transfers were even part of the Gold Sellers tactics. Ive never heard of someone having an account hacked and toon transferred. In the case of using their own toons to transfer gold around from server to server, I dont see much incentive from blizzards side as they are getting a nice 25$ cut from all those transfers. To make this limitation would stop server to server gold selling transfers. However Blizzard has probably weighed the cost/effect of such an action and deemed that in the long run, damage from these types of sale is inferior to the profit they make from them.

Just my random quick thought on the issue.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

The main argument I can think of against your suggestion is a business one: would the cost of lost server transfers be less than the cost of dealing with gold sellers hacking accounts? I suspect not. I imagine enough people would be cranky about not having their stuff immediately that they wouldn't pay for server transfers.

Plus, I imagine that gold sellers would still hack accounts and strip them. When my account was compromised, they just grabbed the stuff off my character without transferring it. I assume they just paid someone right on that server. Gold sellers would probably just compromise accounts then wait until they had a buyer on a server with compromised accounts, then strip the account at that point.

Not saying it definitely wouldn't work, but there are my reasons off the top of my head why it might not.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

I wrote about gold-selling after reading this article, and one from last week from Gevlon.

It was too big to be a reply in my opinion so here's the link.

Green Armadillo said...

A bit of additional general context here, Blizzard has stated that account restorations for owners of compromised accounts is far and away their largest customer service expense. That's the number that Blizzard would be trying to bring down in tackling this issue.

@Yogi: The hackers don't pay for transfers legitimately; they use either keylogged credit card info or info entered as payment by their own unsuspecting customers. Blizzard doesn't get to keep any of the above when the cardholder discovers it.

I'm not sure how sellers get away with the cash, but they do somehow; bear in mind that, because this is an illicit trade, there is no way to prove delivery, so even a gold seller that does not lie in any way has to be prepared for the possibility of a customer falsely telling their credit card company that the charges were unauthorized or the goods were never delivered.

@Psychochild: My understanding is that accounts get stripped very quickly - sometimes immediately, with people who realize they've been phished still arriving too late. In one story, the phishers prompted for an authenticator code on a fake site and IMMEDIATELY entered it on the real one within the 60 seconds they had before it expired. The problem with waiting is that you'd have to log in to each account once to see what your victim owned, then sit on it, hoping that they didn't realize they'd been phished etc until you got an order, and THEN move their stuff. You'd need inventory on 400+ server/factions in order to fill all possible orders.

As to lost transfer purchases by legitimate customers, the question is what motivates people to use that service, and what portion of that market would be deterred by a one day partial (or even complete) lock-out. Blizzard has not shared this data.

My personal guess is that someone who has decided that they want off the server badly enough to pay the transfer fee once per character is not doing this on a whim; perhaps they want to move a character over to play with their friends. Perhaps they want to join a server with a better raiding scene. If you're at that decision point, I doubt that a one-day wait is a dealkiller for you. Who else is there? Ninjas who want a clear name? With the auto-LFG, you can't ninja 5-mans, puggable raid content generally doesn't include that much worth stealing anymore, and any raid guild you apply to as a fresh transfer is going to closely watch your looting rights to anything worthwhile.

Is there really a crowd that says "hey, there aren't any PUG raids today, maybe I'll pay to try another server and then transfer back for my guild's run on Friday"? I remember there was a practice of whole guilds transferring to ninja server first raid titles (which may or may not have been ended?), but they could still have pulled that off with a day's wait.