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"Don't even get me started on you gold farmers,

you gotta make a living, but I need that armor."
—Futuristic Sex Robotz, World of Warcraft

The purchase or sale of online game equipment, currency, or even powerleveling services for real money to a third party without the involvement of, and in the majority of cases against the wishes of, the game's publisher (which is the difference between this and Bribing Your Way to Victory). A common plague of MMORPGs, and the reason why good ways of making money in-game are often nerfed by the publisher after some time.

Contrast Allegedly Free Game, which is when the game advertises itself as free but requires you to pay money to unlock content.

Examples of Real Money Trade include:

References to RMT

  • Referenced in Welcome to The NHK, as one of the protagonist's failed money-making schemes.
  • In .hack//Legend of the Twilight Bracelet, Hotaru doesn't have any gold, so she considers paying real money in return for medicine for the Team Pet. Shugo quickly talks her out of it. It turned out that the "gold farmer" she was speaking to was an admin in disguise, who was actually manipulating them into rejecting the offer and instead going to fight the ridiculously high-leveled monster in the field that had the medicine.
  • One episode of .hack//Roots is dedicated to a side character's efforts to shut down a group of Real Money Traders.
  • A side charcter in the GU games has a hacked weapon that was bought via real money tradeing.
  • The Cory Doctorow short story "Anda's Game" is entirely dedicated to the titular character's interaction with a bunch of gold farmers in an imaginary MMORPG.
  • Also by Cory Doctorow, an attempt to unionize illegal gold farmers forms much of the plot of For the Win.
  • One character of Walter Jon Williams' This Is Not a Game makes most of his income by gold farming and ganking — while at his official phone support job.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del made a comic (and now a poster) describing "MMO Hell" with major offenders being punished Divine Comedy style. Gold farmers and gold buyers are lumped together in the 4th circle; farmers are punished by being submerged in putrid soil and have to dig for gold coins that always slip just a little bit deeper into the muck, while gold buyers are weighed down by countless thousands of gold coins and have to crawl to buy their salvation from a vendor that is always out of reach.
  • In the Live Action TV series Noob, one character has been bumped down to level 1 as a punishment for buying in-game stuff on a website called ("Chinese farmer").
  • Neal Stephenson's Reamde centers around gold farming and RMT. The dominant MMORPG, T'Rain, got that way by legitimizing the practice, and thereby unseating World of Warcraft.
  • Real Life example: Julian Dibbell famously spent a year trying to make a living primarily as a Real Money Trader in World of Warcraft; he wrote a blog, and later a book, about the experience.

Examples of Illegal RMT

Some examples in games where Real World Trading is not allowed (through laws, or in game user licenses):

  • In World of Warcraft, RMT has grown in leaps and bounds along with the player base. In the classic game, the majority of illicit gold was supplied by bots that endlessly farmed rare items and sold them on the Auction House, and was advertised via in-game chat. As Blizzard's anti-bot technology grew more sophisticated, buying fully upgraded expansion accounts grew more expensive, and restrictions added to eliminate chat spam, the majority of trade is now in gold stolen from compromised accounts of legitimate players and advertised via the web. Further, it's rumored that major segments of this multi-million dollar business are controlled by organized crime. (Dollars to donuts is that the banner ad on this page, right now, is for a WoW gold-seller. Do not click on it.)
    • In an interesting twist on Germany's rather draconic video game laws, when Blizzard shut down accounts for participating in RMT, German law stated that this was illegal and demanded Blizzard to undo it on German accounts. If the case is solved by now is unknown, however.
  • City of Heroes has been dealing with these, starting with the introduction of craftable Invention Enhancements. They usually advertise by creating throwaway characters with random strings of letters for names to send out tells and the otherwise barely-used in-game e-mail system. The makers of the game have tried to combat them with the /ignore_spammer command to streamline the process of reporting them, and by not allowing characters under level 10 to use the e-mail system, yet it seems to only get worse with time.
    • Now that players can turn off the e-mail system altogether, or only allow e-mails from friends/Super Group members, even if the spam isn't decreasing, it can be given the appearance of having disappeared.
  • In 2005, a man was stabbed to death in China after he sold a sword someone had lent him in The Legend of Mir 3. Source.
  • Final Fantasy XI has its share of this problem, and Square Enix is very much against it. RM Ts tell-spam with impunity using disposable free trial characters, and just about every ad you find on any FFXI-related site is for gilsellers. RMT frequently abuse the fishing system with "fishbots" (turning fishing into a simple minigame didn't deter them for long; in fact, it opened up a new exploit that expedited the system), use cheats to complete quests more quickly than should be possible, exploit high NPC resale prices, and monopolize Notorious Monsters with saleable goods. To combat them, SE created the Special Task Force Unit, which has successfully reduced the severity of the problem. However, SE is also so paranoid on the matter that probably the best way an unscrupulous person could eliminate someone they don't like from the game would be to devise a plausible way to accuse them of RMT... especially as one is not allowed to defend one's own case. It's also gotten to the point that the RMT are actually hijacking player accounts in order to get the gil to sell, usually destroying years of work. It happened before the anti-RMT levels became so dramatic, but it's incredibly common now.
    • The problem was abated somewhat when Square Enix put out a Security Token that generates one-time numeric passwords based off of an algorithm. Sadly, the Security Token came with an in-game item called a "Mog Satchel", an additional inventory system that can be accessed anywhere- people bought the Security Token for the additional inventory, then deactivated it afterward making themselves no more protected from RMT hi-jacking than they were before.
  • RuneScape had this problem during 2007 where it has become an obvious issue to the folks at Jagex. They tried to combat it with Trade Limits, death drops and making it so it will be difficult for gold farmers to use types of gold selling which require a heavy deal of trust. However, the crowd was rather angry to learn of this after. This was removed in February 2011.
  • Reselling Valve accounts online will result in legal action if the country has a DMCA type law.
  • Habbo Hotel property is frequently sold online usually as "a joke", but the company itself shuts down online sales pretty quickly.
  • eBay banned virtual property sales under pressure from such companies, and eventually banned all digital deliveries because of the amount of fraud. Consider that the reason why you can't sell virtual property is because there is nothing preventing the person selling it to you from stealing it back from you by claiming they were hacked, or even using the lost-password feature.
  • In Ace Online, the GMs have warned against, and banned, people who sell cash-shop credits and player accounts (or characters).
  • Ragnarok Online, being the aging MMO that it is, obviously has real problems with these people .. albeit less so now due to a somewhat unusual tactic. The game now has three servers besides the test server. The first two, Chaos and Loki, have a 25% increase in experience income and item drop rates, along with a few other advantages. They are also only accessible to subscribing players. By comparison, the Valkyrie server is free, and does not require an active subscription to get in, thus acting as the game's free trial and making its money though premium items. The catch? Valkyrie is effectively a glorified RMT trap, since the premium servers require a working credit card and payment for access.

Examples of Legitimate or Encouraged RMT (usually Bribing Your Way to Victory)

  • Second Life's core gameplay is based around obtaining in-game currency which can be freely converted to real world currency. The exchange rate is adjustable, according to a supply-demand index called the "Lindex", after the currency, Linden Dollars, which is in turn named for the developer, Linden Labs.
    • Similar but far less successful is Entropia Universe, with the difference being that there are (extremely tedious) ways of getting the virtual money without paying anything in Real Life.
      • The difference must be the 'extremely tedious' part. Second Life has ways of getting Lindens without real currency, ranging from the tedious (camping) to the fun (hosting, DJ'ing, selling creations.)
  • Recently proposals have been made to tax "virtual assets".
    • To be precise, a proposal has been made to the IRS to tax playing a MMO as if it was making $3.something per hour. Because everyone farms as quickly as gold farmers, and then sells their assets. Also, this would explicitly apply even to games where RMT is completely forbidden (such as World of Warcraft, which was used as the example MMO in the proposal).
  • It was previously illegal in Eve Online, but the developers have made a backdoor way to buy in-game currency with real money, using Game Time Cards. A recent expansion adds the functionality to buy and sell units of game time on the in-game market. Getting ISK this way is explicitly encouraged, Going the other way (selling) or buying ISK from third parties is still illegal and banable. Though that keeps the trade above board, there's still risk given the game openly allows you to steal from people.
    • You can lose the ISK once you have it, but the actual sale is safe. Scams involving real-life money (including PLEX items and time codes) are strictly forbidden (although they're the only type that is).
  • Three Rings Design's games have a separate currency is used for all the things players would normally have to buy a subscription for. Naturally, this currency is bought with real money, but can be traded afterwards.
  • Iron Realms Entertainment games use "credits", which can be bought with real money but not sold for it (similarly to EVE, IRE games have theft as a prominent feature). Credits are traded for gold and items in-game at a varying exchange rate, but the credits-to-real-money rate remains constant.
  • Battlefield Heroes is a game in the Battlefield series which has been announced to be free to play, and is made to be easy to play and include RPG Elements via character customization. It has been also said there will be character clothing available to all players, but some must be bought. However, the developers have stated the clothing will not have an effect on gameplay, and that they will be entirely ok with players not ever spending a penny on the game.
  • Kingdom of Loathing doesn't allow RMT between players, but there is an accessory you receive by donating $10 to the game. It is generally valued at about the amount of meat (in-game currency) that a reasonably well-equipped character could expect to make in a month's worth of farming for it. Because it is very easy to sell the accessory at the current market price, said price works as a very practical real-money-to-meat exchange rate, albeit a one-way one (the accessory's price also serves as a key indicator of the in-game economy.)
    • The accessory is also used to purchase Bribing Your Way to Victory items, which can lead to canny investors making a meat profit via the market when the next Item of the Month is out and the old one becomes a limited commodity. This is also perfectly acceptable, as there's still no way to trade meat for cash.
  • Check the banners on this particular page. Right there.
  • Maple Story on occasion sells Money Sacks, which is exactly what it says on the tin. The downside? The illegal market for such things is at a better rate.
  • Although Magic: The Gathering Online encourages one to use their in-game trading and auction sites, they don't come down heavy on players who sell Online cards through outside sources, mainly because in-game trading and auctions don't give real money back (rather, they use game tickets, which are used to enter tournaments). In effect, using Ebay to sell MTGO cards is pretty much exactly like using Ebay to sell real Magic cards.
  • Valve preempted this by including the Mann Co. store in Team Fortress 2 alongside trading. The in game store has just about every item in the game, all of which can be obtained through the random drop system. There is still a small market in Unusual hats, something of a status symbol amongst players.
    • The Unusual Hats created an inverse of RMT, specifically in that several in-game items were given pricings similar to real world dollars. A Mann.Co Key is worth 2.50 dollars in real life, and could be traded for 2.5 refined metal in-game. Therefore many players considered 1 refined metal to be the same as a dollar, resulting in wild prices based around the refined metal and it's lesser forms. Entire spreadsheets, auctions and guides are made on "how to trade" in-game, which has leaked into other Steam-related games after the advent of the gift system and Steam Trading (you can even buy other games with Team Fortress 2 Metals).
  • In a decision which has proved quite... divisive so far, Blizzard, the makers of the above-mentioned World of Warcraft, have announced that the in-game auction house in Diablo III will allow players to buy and sell items in real-world money as well as in in-game gold. How this will play out is yet to be seen.
    • This could have been an attempt to gain control of the black market RMT that was somewhat prevalent in the online communities of the first two games, especially in Asia.