Developing countries benefit from online gold rush

Sep 15, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Impatient online computer gamers have sparked a new industry in developing countries – by paying fellow gamers real cash in return for financial help in the virtual world.

The practice – known as ‘gold-farming’ has been ongoing for a number of years.

But ground-breaking research by Prof Richard Heeks, from the University’s Institute for Development Policy and Management, has highlighted the scale of the practice for the first time.

‘Gold-farming’ is concentrated on online computer games – such as World of Warcraft and Runescape – that are set in complex virtual worlds.

These game worlds are so comprehensive, they include their own cities, populations, economies and even their own virtual currencies, known as ‘gold’.

Although most gamers earn their ‘gold’ by playing the game for many hours each week, some are taking a short-cut – by paying real money outside the game to buy their gold.

In doing so they seek the help of so-called ‘gold-farmers’, who work within the games' virtual worlds to build up a supply of the online currency and then sell this to players all over the world through the Paypal payment system.

Prof Heeks’ research suggests ‘gold-farming’ is now a ‘cyber-industry’ employing more than 400,000 people in Asia and generating trade in excess of $1billion (US).

“The workers in Asia undertake long shifts and earn about US$145 per month,” said Prof Heeks, who is based in the School of Environment and Development.

“However, the image of ‘virtual sweatshop’ seems inappropriate: most workers are young men who would otherwise be unemployed, and they report enjoying their work.

“This represents an intriguing new way in which the Internet is helping to create jobs and incomes in developing countries; one that is likely to grow over time.”

The impact of computer gaming in developing countries forms part of the research agenda for the new Centre for Development Informatics; a cross-university grouping that studies the role of digital technologies in international development.

Provided by University of Manchester

Explore further: Austrian computer visionary Zemanek dies aged 94

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Samsung looks on as profits migrate to online ecosystems

Jul 09, 2014

There used to be a time when the launch of a Galaxy handset, a Macbook, or a fancy game console could set investor hearts on fire and firms on a path to untold riches. These days, new devices no longer have ...

Biologists link sexual selection and placenta formation

Jul 09, 2014

Sexual selection refers to species' selection for traits that are attractive to the opposite sex. This special type of natural selection enhances opportunities to mate, the tail of male peacocks being an ...

Mathematical model illustrates our online 'copycat' behavior

Jul 07, 2014

Researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Limerick, and the Harvard School of Public Health have developed a mathematical model to examine online social networks, in particular the trade-off between copying ...

Recommended for you

Social Security spent $300M on 'IT boondoggle'

10 hours ago

(AP)—Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims.

Cheaper wireless plans cut into AT&T 2Q profit

10 hours ago

(AP)—AT&T posted lower net income for the latest quarter due to cheaper cellphone plans it introduced as a response to aggressive pricing from smaller competitor T-Mobile US.

Facebook shares profit growth story

10 hours ago

Facebook on Wednesday reported that is quarterly profit more than doubled amid big gains in ad revenues and a jump in users.

Six charged in global e-ticket hacking scheme

10 hours ago

Criminal charges were filed Wednesday against six people in what authorities said was a global cyber-crime ring that created fraudulent e-tickets for major concerts and sporting events.

User comments : 0