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China Bans Gold Farming: Notoriously Controlling, Yet Forward Thinking?

By on June 30, 2009


The Chinese Ministries of Culture and Commerce announced on Monday that the trading of virtual currency for real world cash is to be banned outright, in the name of reducing illegal gambling and money laundering. From the press release:

“The virtual currency, which is converted into real money at a certain exchange rate, will only be allowed to trade in virtual goods and services provided by its issuer, not real goods and services.”

There’s a million different takes on this story, most of which I can empathise with. For one, the capitalist in me says if people want to sell legal possessions to one another they should be allowed to. While some games (WoW for example) actively try to prevent gold farming, others actively encourage it (eg Second Life), and the latter can only suffer for losing China’s 300 million potential customers. What’s more, with an estimated $300+ million being generated in revenue in China alone, is this really a dangerous trade the country should be looking to abolish?

On the flip side, gold farmers can ruin a game’s economy and encourage sweatshop-type labour. With some sources claiming more than 80% of gold farming originates in China, this move could have a sweeping effect on MMOs in general.

But for me the real point here is that the Chinese government actually understands what gold farming is. In the UK, the decision to go with PEGI as opposed to the BBFC for official age ratings was surprisingly insightful – ask your average MP what virtual currency is, or why it’s dangerous, and I think he might struggle somewhat more.

About Tom Jubert

Tom Jubert is a freelance games writer / narrative designer, best known for his work on the Penumbra series, for which he was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award. His upcoming releases include Lost Horizon and Driver: San Francisco. He was previously the Managing Editor at, and has also spent time in production.