MMORPG players buying and selling virtual money for real money is, we all know, very naughty indeed. Folks who want to skip the grind end up driving up auction house prices for everyone, making the grind even grindier for those without cash to flash. MMOs tend to ban users buying gold (or credz, shillings, cybershillings...), but a few have introduced roundabout official ways to do it.
World of Warcraft has become the latest MMORPG selling subscription time cards for real money which players can then sell in-game for virtual money. Or, the other way round, if you have time to grind for virtual pennies, you can keep all your real pennies and not pay subscription fees.
The WoW Token is now available on the Americas servers, granting 30 days of game time for $20 - $5 more than the regular monthly subscription fee. You can then sell that Token on the auction house for however much in-game gold other players are willing to pay.
Blizzard set high starting prices for the tokens - 30,000 gold - but they seem to be falling now, headed down towards the amounts one can get from a naughty gold seller. Ars Technica have got stuck into the numbers, noting that giving $20 to a gold seller will usually only get you between 10,000 and 15,000 gold. WoW Tokens mean players needn't worry about getting caught buying gold and punished, though, so I imagine they'll always sell for a higher price than illicit gold.
If you're an efficient gold farmer, hey, you can pay for a WoW subscription with time instead of money. I've known a few EVE Online players who would power through boring but profitable in-game tasks so they could afford EVE's equivalent, the PLEX time card, and spend the rest of that month as they jolly well pleased.
It's a curious indirect admission from Blizzard that grinding for gold is a bit bum, a recognition that it's rubbo enough that people will pay real pennies to skip it. They're not rethinking the grind, though, merely adding a way for folks with money to skip it. It's a tricky situation for Blizzard, as the constant striving to earn fancier items is part of what keeps many players playing - and paying - month after month. They're reliant on grind to keep some players, but it'll alienate others. Perhaps WoW Tokens will strike a balance between the two.
WoW Tokens are available on the North American, Latin American, Australian, and New Zealandarian servers now, coming to Europe soon.