The innocence of old-school gaming has been lost. MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) are big business for game developers but have also proven to be fertile ground for scammers. New sites have sprung up, selling everything from virtual gold to power-leveling services. With scant reliable information on these sites and services, fraud has become rampant. To get an insider’s perspective on this issue, Sitejabber has interviewed MMO expert Cody Bye of ZAM.
Cody Bye & ZAM Networks — The Bleeding Edge of MMOs
Cody Bye is the Director of Content for ZAM Networks, a leading online gaming network devoted specifically to massively multiplayer online games and their communities. ZAM runs a series of free online resources and forums for the gaming community, including the hugely popular sites, zam.com, thottbot.com, wowhead.com and Allakhazam. Cody himself has personally been involved with the MMO movement for over a decade and has spent time in dozens of online games spanning Ultima Online to Runes of Magic. As the MMO industry continues to mature, Cody hopes to help enlighten consumers and developers on current gaming trends, draw attention to emerging markets, and promote entertaining and educational editorial practices.
An Interview with Cody
Sitejabber: Tell us a bit about your role at ZAM and how you became involved in the industry.
Cody Bye: I’m in charge of content on ZAM. I’ve been playing games for over 10 years and was initially involved on the EQ [EverQuest] forums. Then I became involved on a more voluntary basis and later it turned to a job.
On Sitejabber we’ve seen thousands of reports of frauds & scams associated with the selling of virtual gold, virtual characters, etc. (e.g., power-level.net) — how does your community deal with these issues?
At ZAM we never endorse gold-selling and try to make sure that our forums don’t have any malicious links by spammers that may hurt our community. It’s difficult to keep all of the spam off of the forum, but the moderators do their best to get rid of it all. We even take down advertisements sometimes when a community member warns us about a potential problem with a website or advertisement.
Why do you think there are so many websites selling virtual gold?
People want to buy gold because they want to get ahead in the game and be able to enjoy the end game content. There are often particular goals that a player is trying to achieve so buying the gold for an item is just one way of doing that. At ZAM we give players the resources such as guides and forums to be able to enjoy the game and reach a particular goal, all for free. They can use our guides, resources, and help from the community to reach their goals without having to resort to buying from shady gold sellers.
How do you think virtual gold-selling affects the MMO experience?
Blizzard and game companies have been very involved in banning accounts that may be involved in currency exchange. Whenever you have an MMO, there will be a gold exchange because gold is basically time played and time is valuable. The game companies do not want a real money currency exchange because this disrupts the “in-game” economy. The more gold there is being sold for real money, the more inflation there is within the game. One day your helmet costs 10 gold units and then later it costs 100 gold units because gold sellers have disrupted the in-game economy. Gold sellers create a viscous cycle where, because of the inflation, players feel more of a need to pay real money for gold because things cost so much more.
[We at Sitejabber also believe that if more gamers fully understood the negative consequences of buying virtual gold, they might choose not to support the websites that sell it.]
What other sorts of online services and products do you see your members using?
Add-ons are very popular with the WoW [World of Warcraft] community and at ZAM we have a site called Mmoui.com. Curse.com and Gamefaqs.com are also places where players can find information and add-ons.
What are some other MMO scams that you’ve seen?
In addition to the problem of gold-selling, there has been quite a few problems with email phishing and accounts being stolen. If someone is unsure if an email promotion is legit, they can go on to a ZAM forum and ask the community about it for more information.
Sitejabber would like thank Cody Bye and ZAM Networks for their words of wisdom. We encourage anyone interested in reading more to visit: https://www.zam.com/