There have been a few bloggers mentioning botting and duping recently. From Jim's Strong Evidence of Rampant Item Duplication in WoW to Xsinthis' Of Bots, Dupes, and Ethics I've enjoyed reading what other folks have written about this sort of activity within the World of Warcraft.
Of the opinions folks have taken on the matter I agree largely with Xsinthis and I personally view bots as just another factor in the economy that adds an interesting twist. If it weren't for the rise of bots and the eventual (and hard to accurately predict) banwaves the economy would be a very boring place of constant prices and little change.
However, that's not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about something I've been ruminating on for quite some time and something I think we should all be a little worried over. Blizzard's stance on people who buy "illegitimate merchandise."
I'm talking specifically about things like epic gems, Crimson Deathchargers, and other items which exist in the game and are sold within the game, either via trade window or Auction House.
A Blizzard customer service representative stated the stance was:
[...] we're out to punish those that exploit WoW, not innocent players. Intent and context play a large part in our investigative process, and those that accidentally purchase ill-gotten items shouldn't fear recrimination.
A good stance to take; if a player spends their hard-earned gold on an item the last thing they want is for Blizzard to take that away. (And as someone who has had Blizzard take items away let me assure you they will almost never refund your gold.)
Unfortunately, despite what they've stated here, this isn't actually how the situations are treated. A player named Stonewolf is out 600,000g because Blizzard removed Queen's Garnets he purchased through Trade.
It's quite clear that what Blizzard says and what Blizzard does don't always align (surprise surprise) but never has it been so worrisome as it is in this issue. Check out these two blue posts, the second of which is a Blue quoting an MVP:
That said, if you suspect that a player is selling items of a dubious origin then steer clear. Only good can come of buying from legitimate sellers; you'll help protect your realm's economy and reduce the market demand for exploited goods. - Source
If you think that you've come into possession of some ill-gotten goods, feel free to report yourself and the player you purchased them from. Nobody here can tell you what's going to happen to those garnets. - Source
This is the unaddressed issue; the question no one seems to be asking that I think we all should be: What has become of this game when players cannot trust even the purchases they make via the Auction House?
One of the reasons that Trading Card Game mounts were made non-soulbound was so that people would quit getting ripped off; Blizzard has no way of policing your giving a random person gold and knowing whether or not they gave you a legitimate code. They just can't enforce anything there. The idea behind TCG mounts being able to be sold in-game was that you can trust that when you give them the gold you are getting the item, whether via trade window or the Auction House.
This was all well and good until players like Stonewolf began having items removed from their inventory, items they bought entirely in-game. Blizzard continues to say things along the lines of "If the price is too good to be true it probably is, don't buy it and report them."
Which is absolute bullshit. Since when is it a player's job to police the activities of other players? Why does it fall on my shoulders, as a legitimate player, to suspect everyone of being a hacker just to protect myself? Suddenly it is our job to second guess every transaction, transactions which should be entirely protected by Blizzard.
Duping happens. I get that. Hell, I even get the removal of items to try to keep the economy stable. But it is an unacceptable situation that Joe might spend all his hard earned gold on Widgets just to wake up one morning to empty bags and empty coffers because Blizzard was unable to protect their own in-game transactions.
One way or another duping will probably stick around, I don't doubt that. But the fact that a victim who buys duped items can then be victimized a second time by Blizzard because the player wasn't vigilant enough in being suspicious of other players . . . that's where you begin to have problems.
I'd love to buy a Crimson Deathcharger for my second account but now I can't even buy one of the more expensive ones because I don't trust it to be there when I wake up and that's a pretty serious issue, far more than the duping itself.