Study Estimates Gold Farming 500K Business

Manchester University has released the results of a study on the Gold Farming industry that guesstimates its profits at $500,000 a year. According to the study, titled “Current Analysis and Future Research Agenda on ‘Gold Farming’: Real-World Production in Developing Countries for the Virtual Economies of Online Games,” the industry employs 400,000 people world wide who take home an average of $125 a month.

Manchester University’s Richard Heeks told BBC News that although the study is sound, the Gold Farming industry is “a digital underworld populated by scammers and hackers and pornographers” so it’s hard to nail down exact figures.

“It seems unlikely to be less than $200 million per year, and it could well be more than $1 billion per year,” he said.

At those figures, you’ve got to wonder why every time you log into Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft or any number of other MMOs you’re assaulted with offers as soon as you step inside civilization. Of course 80% of Gold Farmers are Chinese and their cost of living and standards of comfort can be quite different than those in the US.

Although the “services” Gold Farmers offer are annoying to most, they couldn’t exist without a demand. Steven Davis, chief of game security firm Secure Play agrees that it’s not likely this plague on MMOs will die out anytime soon.

“When you get people with more money than time and time than money the two will find a way to meet,” he said.

“You could get rid of it,” he said, “but you would get rid of one of the most fundamental parts of player-to-player interaction.”

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7 Comments on Study Estimates Gold Farming 500K Business


On August 25, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Half the number of WoW subscribers are gold farmers.


On August 25, 2008 at 1:41 pm


That means 5 Million subscribers are gold farmers? That picture creeps me out. Clone army!


On August 25, 2008 at 2:15 pm

If Blizzards WoW team would grow some and allow you to buy gold directly from them, they would be about 50x richer xD. (You really can’t stop the farmers)


On August 25, 2008 at 2:57 pm

I love how NO ONE has mentioned the fact that those are all shirtless boys in that photo. What the hell else goes on there, hmm? *shudder*

Maybe they’re playing it at Jeffrey Jones’ house :grin:


On August 25, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Not quite right that half WoW subscribers are gold farmers. Overall there are around 40m online gamers – so that would make around 1 in 100 players being a gold farmer if there are 400,000 gold farmers.


On August 25, 2008 at 8:03 pm

You kind of need to clarify what you mean when you say “gold farmer.”

I bot on WoW and used to sell gold (I just sell accounts now.) I didn’t farm gold like crazy, but I would sell 1k every day or two just for some extra cash. Does this make me part of the gold farming industry, or are the companies that have shirtless guys crowded into a room the only ones in the industry etc.


On August 26, 2008 at 10:33 am

Those companies – or something similar – seem to be the main part of gold farming.

However, Matt, you would count as a gold farmer: they aren’t all in developing countries.

Write in to the University of Manchester, and they will send you a framed certificate acknowledging your role.