Gold-farming still big business

World of Warcraft gold vaultVia BoingBoing, here’s a Guardian article on the MMORPG gold-farming phenomenon:

These virtual industries sound surreal, but they are fast entering the mainstream. According to a report by Richard Heeks at Manchester University, an estimated 400,000 Asian workers are now employed in gold farming in a trade worth up to £700m a year. With so many gamers now online, these industries are estimated to have a consumer base of five million to 10 million, and numbers are expected to grow with widening internet access.

As I mentioned last time, what interests me most about gold-farming is that it seems to be comparatively immune to the economic slump. WoW gold or weapons are surely luxury items by any economical definition, but for some reason they’re not going the same way as bling and gas-guzzler cars. Is this due to the low ticket price, combined with the fact that gaming is a comparatively recession-friendly pastime? Is it also a recognition that the one thing we value more than our money is the time to achieve what we want (virtual or otherwise)? [image by fernashes]

Looking forward, though, how soon before the market saturates? The collapse of Chinese manufacturing has resulted in an expanded pool of labour, but that just means more competition for the work. If, as some economists have suggested, the recession is a prelude to greater financial parity on a global scale, will gold-farming or its equivalents become an increasingly attractive employment option in the West as the traditional options for blue-collar work erode?