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GAMEPAL - Buy or Sell WOW Accounts, World of Warcraft Account, FFXI Accounts, Final Fantasy XI


Wired.com Article Two Wired Articles On World of Warcraft Accounts And Other Features

Be a Gaming God for Dollars a Day
Daniel Terdiman

Want to play massively multiplayer online games, but don't want to spend time building up your character's stats? A new service launched Tuesday gives anyone the ability to bypass the countless hours it can take to advance deep into online games like World of Warcraft by renting the use of such characters by the month.

For years, despite a ban on such behavior by most publishers, people have been able to buy fully developed accounts to play online games. But the new subscription model from GamePal of Belmont, Michigan, takes lack of commitment to these games into virgin territory.

GamePal customers pay a $300 deposit, $150 for the first month and $130 for each subsequent month for access to their choice of 50 accounts (available initially) for 14 popular MMOs, including EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes and Ultima Online.

Newcomers to these games who aren't sure where they want to devote their time are in luck: GamePal allows them to try out what they want.

"For all 14 games, they can choose any (available) account they want," said GamePal co-founder Eric Smith. "It's up to them what game they want to play."

Renters get their deposit back if they don't do anything to "damage" an account -- getting demoted to lower levels, ditching in-game possessions or violating the games' terms of service, Smith said.

Among hard-core MMO players and the game companies themselves, the buying and selling of accounts -- through places like eBay or the secondary market IGE -- has long been a point of contention. Many feel one of the chief elements that makes such games worthwhile is the sense of community that grows among players over hundreds of hours of shared quests and battles with monsters.

That sentiment is certain to be even stronger when it comes to players who have rented their accounts and likely won't stick around for the long haul.

"That would seriously diminish the experience for me," said Ron Meiners, an expert on MMOs and a rabid World of Warcraft player. "It would be harder to connect with them (and) I think a lot of why people play MMOs is to share that experience.... So someone who had no investment, or only a small one, wouldn't be part of that experience."

Smith acknowledges that some people will complain about the idea of renters in their beloved games, but said he believes it won't be a problem over time.

"It shouldn't be any different from people buying accounts," he said. "If they do cause problems, it's going to be pretty rare."

Still, Smith said GamePal instructs renters to familiarize themselves with the games and the mores of their often close-knit communities before diving in. The idea, he said, is to avoid creating conflict by not being an obvious interloper

And while many people object to the notion of a rental market for avatars, not everyone thinks it's a bad idea.

Ian Bogost, an assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, likens it to renting cars to try out vehicles you might want to buy.

"I think it's interesting, the idea of virtual world tourism and trying a world out," said Bogost, "whether you want to be committed to 100 hours or what it would be like (to try out) different stages of the game."

But some MMO developers think the notion of renters populating their games is sure to be a problem, and for many reasons.

"It sounds like that's pretty much a violation of our terms of service," said Chris Kramer, director of public relations for Sony Online Entertainment, publisher of EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies, among others. "Part of having an ... account is that you're not supposed to share your information with other players."

Other game company executives said they felt the issue had more to do with degradation of community.

"We wouldn't want people to do that," said Philip Rosedale, CEO of Linden Lab, which publishes Second Life. Even though that MMO's developers support a free market for the game's virtual goods -- a stance that is rare -- they question this new model of gameplay. "Identity is the thing we want people to preserve.... If everybody's on short time, you could almost look at the community being lost. It would be a tragedy of the commons."

Smith understands why people like Rosedale would object, but said GamePal is sensitive to such concerns and will instruct its renters about how to behave.

"You can't just play a game and interfere with the people there," Smith said. "If somebody just comes and yells at people and does things that hurts other players, we're going to talk to (them) about it."

But for gamers like Meiners, that isn't likely to be enough. He's afraid that, GamePal instructions on conduct notwithstanding, renters won't care enough about the games to worry about the consequences of their actions.

"The main check on poor online behavior is persistent identity," Meiners said. "It just seems like it really upsets a lot of the social dynamics that make (MMOs) work."

Nate Combs, a writer for Terra Nova, the influential website about virtual worlds, agreed. He likens the situation to that of the MMO Eve Online, which got a lot of attention last year for quick growth fueled by many players with multiple accounts. And he worries that initiatives like GamePal's will lead to the dilution of the kind of social environments that have been built up in many MMOs.

"It will be interesting to see how far one can push (big publishers' MMOs) with these external devices in this direction," he said, "without at some point having to change the design and centrality of the avatar -- as identity -- in these worlds."

Our Second Article

Gold Seller Introduces 'Escorts' To MMO Gaming
By Earnest Cavalli
December 14, 2007

In an effort to boost profits, virtual gold selling firm GamePal has turned to selling the services of in-game "escorts."

According to an ad on their website, GamePal is now offering buyers the chance to hire companions who "can do anything you want and everything you ask for!"

The picture included with the ad (and at right) might present the idea that these "escorts" exist to appease the lonely gamer with too much money on their hands, but the description offered by GamePal seems a bit more tame.

"An Escort Service is a new feature that allows you to hire an escort to assist you in the game. Absolutely anything you want can be done, even when you have logged off the game! Ask any questions you want. Have him take you wherever you want to go. Give him orders to help you in your quests. Include him in your strategy," the ad states.

Whether this is a case of extremely well advertised power-leveling services or of confusingly advertised virtual prostitution is still unclear, but either way it's almost guaranteed to be in violation of some part of the extremely broad language used in current MMO EULAs, which generally prohibit the hiring of outside organizations to play the game for you.

That's never stopped gold selling firms in the past though, and we doubt it will have much of an effect on the viability of the "escort" business, whatever that might be.

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