World Bank Estimates 100k Gold Farmers
A report over on the BBC website highlights research done by the World Bank on virtual economies. The report, which can be found here (PDF link, and full of other stuff about the virtual economy), suggests that gold and item farming in MMOs was worth $3bn in 2009, and employs up to 100,000 people in China and Vietnam. That's a lot of virtual shoulder pads, eh?
It's interesting that this stuff actually generally supports Western players' predelictions to spend on virtual items (the report claiming that a quarter of MMO players spend money on virtual goods, although it's not clear whether than includes free-to-play stuff as well as farmed stuff, I assumed it does) and whether the move to free-to-play will cause Chinese gold-farming to disappear again, as their activities become less profitable.