The issues of game currencies and their trade outside the particular game runs deep in the gaming community. Some would like to see all such practices banned, while others see nothing wrong with them and even say that can be very beneficial to both players and developers.
To form an informed opinion about this issue, it’s first necessary to consider how various game currencies are used in online games. It wasn’t too long ago that game currencies served only as an integral part of core gameplay mechanics and didn’t add anything beyond that. In classic RPGs, gold (or some equivalent of gold) allowed players to buy better equipment, healing and mana potions, or use the built-in fast travel system. The gold was obtained by playing the game and completing quests or killing monsters. As such, it was equally accessible to all, and the only difference was how committed individual players were. Some had no problems spending hours and hours playing the game and getting insanely rich, while others rushed from the main objective to the main objective and survived mostly on what they found along the way.
The Internet and social gaming changed everything, and developers suddenly started to add extra items that had nothing to with the core gameplay, but which had everything to do with game currencies. Many of these items changed the appearance of characters or added some minor bonus that was of no significance for the game balance. This gave players a new reason why they would want to purchase game currencies, besides just wanting to get their hands on better equipment.
A costume may cost just a few dollars, but it can make a player fall in love with his or her character and enjoy the game even more than before. Developers can create such an item, essentially, in their spare time, thus having a new way how to generate a great revenue that could fuel further game development and ultimately give new content to all players of the game. This form of game boosting is almost never recharged as cheating because it doesn’t cause any form of imbalance and merely changes certain visual aspects.
However, some buy game currencies to purchase items that actually do make a difference. A player who can afford to get the best equipment right from the start can have a tremendous advantage over others without his own contribution. It’s important to realize that gameplay mechanics themselves allow for this. Buying high-level equipment is much more difficult for someone who plays a game that restricts armor and weapons according to players’ level. Players of such game could possibly get their hands on things they would otherwise have to go without, but the difference isn’t nearly as noticeable.
Despite the shady nature of this type of currency boosting, it can be profitable for developers. Whatever keeps players engaged with the game can bring in revenue and increase the active player base.