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WoW to allow players to buy play time with in-game currency

Token system similar to Eve Online's Plex hopes to counter gold-selling

Blizzard's World of Warcraft will be allowing its players to buy and sell subscription time with in-game currency, in much the same way as Eve Online's Plex system does.

Still the world's biggest subscriber MMO, WoW nonetheless needs to keep reinventing itself to remain relevant after 11 years online. For Blizzrd, this step could well be a way to increase appeal for audiences in developing markets such as China, where there are larger numbers of players who have plenty of time to play but less money to pay for subscriptions, whilst taking direct revenues from players in cash-rich territories.

Players will buy the Tokens from an online shop with real money, then sell them to others via the game's Auction House in exchange for in-game currency. Blizzard hopes that this will allow cash-rich and time-poor players to engage with the game without grinding, by essentially buying gold without having to resort to out-of-system gold farming outfits, and allow players with plenty of time but little cash to stay as subscribers.

Each token will allow 30 days of subscription, with the in-game currency value determined dynamically via supply and demand. Once sold via the Auction House, the tokens will be locked to players, so they can't be sold again.

"We've heard feedback from players that they'd be interested in a secure, legitimate way to acquire gold that doesn't involve the use of unauthorized third-party gold-selling services-one of the primary sources of account compromises," an official Blizzard blog post reads. "We also know players who've amassed large amounts of gold through regular play would be interested in the ability to trade some to other players in exchange for game time, helping cover their subscription costs.

"The WoW Token feature gives players on both sides of the equation a secure and straightforward way to make that exchange. It opens up a new kind of payment option for World of Warcraft players, and we hope that it will also help lead to fewer account compromises and a better game experience overall."

The game's struggle against gold farming has been a long one, involving legal prosecutions, account hijacking and ransoming and, ultimately, a great deal of missed revenue for Blizzard. By tacitly condoning gold farming as a legitimate way to keep playing, whilst simultaneously undermining it as a way to extract real world money from the system, Blizzard could well staunch two significant leaks to WoW's player economy. Even though gold-selling is very much against Blizzards terms of use, a simple Google search will tell you just how prevalent it still is. Whilst the introduction of an above-the-board alternative is unlikely to kill that market entirely, it could at least be adjusted to undercut it considerably.

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