Gold buyers are cheaters. Nothing infuriates me more than seeing someone cheating to avoid work I’ve been doing. It gives me that feeling you get when someone blatantly cuts in line in real life.
When I tell people that I play the AH, I get incredulous stares and hear things like “Who needs gold?” and “I’d rather actually play the game than stare at the auction house”. That’s fine and dandy, and I’ve said similar things to people who collect achievement points and vanity items. When, however, these I’m-too-good-to-worry-about-trivialities people turn around and buy gold because they decide that a battered hilt is worth 30$ to them, they lose my respect. If you decide that the economy just doesn’t apply to you, and that rewards should just be given to you without you having to work for them in game, you’re cutting in line. You’re devaluing the work done by people who are trying to obtain the same things you are without cheating.
Gold sellers hack accounts and bot farm 24/7 to cater to these low-life cheaters. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that, at least in the US terms of service, while gold selling is expressly forbidden, buying is not mentioned?
Screw that! Blizzard should make buying expressly forbidden on US servers the same way they are on EU servers. Anything less makes no sense.
What they do now
Right now, Blizzard mass bans people for cheating at intervals. Unfortunately, this only seems to hit the sellers and people who facilitate selling. It works moderately well, however as long as there’s people with cash in their pockets and drool on their chins who are willing to buy gold, the hydra will keep spawning new heads. The only way to reduce the amount of gold selling done by hackers and farmers is to reduce their market: work at reducing the amount of money available to them.
What they could do
One thing that would work, of course, is simply banning everyone that buys gold. Buying gold leaves a clear trace that, believe me, Blizzard is capable of following. Problem is that this costs Blizzard money- these people are paying customers, however misguided their cheatin’ ways are. In my mind, that leaves one option: set examples and use them as deterrents.
If every time you logged in (or every Tuesday after maintenance) your realm message of the day included something like the following, people would buy less gold:
“Soandso from <suchandsuch> guild was caught buying gold, and consequently had [epic boe] and [awesome pet] removed. Remember, hackers wouldn’t install viruses on your PC to steal your battle.net password if they had nobody to sell your gold to!”
Nothing is perfect
Of course, whether they ban or humiliate someone, there’s always the possibility that people would use this process to try and hurt innocent players. Anyone with a couple of dollars to spend could hire a gold seller to mail in game gold to some innocent character, who would be at risk of being labeled a gold buyer. This is terrible, of course, but no more terrible than all the existing false positives they have already. All they would have to do is put up a notice (maybe on the same message of the day, or on the splash screen when you log in) reminding people never to accept money from people they don’t know, or they risk being labeled a gold buyer.
Also, innocents get banned all the time- all they have to do is get caught by whatever the newest algorithm Blizzard had made to catch the real cheaters. That article I linked to is old, and my opinions have since shifted. While I’d love for Blizzard to have time to coddle every banned account just in case it was a false positive, I acknowledge that having a process like this would add a serious strain on their ability to ban cheaters. The system they have now for protecting the falsely accused seems to work well enough.