I dare you to think of any commercial product in the world where if you purchase the product, and then the company producing that product makes a mistake that benefits the consumer then any consumer seen to be taking advantage of said mistake has their purchased product confiscated with no financial restitution, and the consumer is banned from buying any further products.

I dare you to think of just one, except for online videogames. Because in the online gaming world not only can you do this, but other customers who missed out on the opportunity will sing the company’s praises at doing such a wonderful job of catching nasty evil-doers, apparently blissfully unaware that they too could one day find themselves thrown out for a similar reason.

The story is that in Guild Wars 2 a valuable item was listed in a NPC vendor shop at a very small fraction of its actual price. Players naturally purchased the item, until Arenanet found out about their own mistake and reacted by banning 3000 accounts and temporarily suspending another 1000. They recently backed down a little and said that players that wished to have their ban overturned could begin the process by publicly begging for forgiveness on Arenanet’s own forum. In other news at Guild Wars 2, people caught botting receive a 72 hour ban.

There are a few points here. Number one, this was not an exploit. An exploit would be discovering that if you danced seven times counter-clockwise around the vendor while singing “Ave Maria” then the NPC would sell you the item at 1/1000th of its value. In other words, the software is not performing as intended. But purchasing an item from a vendor at the listed price? Software operating perfectly well. In the real world, if I walk into a store and purchase an item at 1/1000th of its value because the store made a mistake and listed it at the wrong price, well guess what … tough fucking luck for them, and you can bet someone in the store is going to get their butt kicked. Not only that, but in some jurisdictions if that store even advertises a product at the incorrect price then they are legally obliged to sell it to me even after discovering their own mistake.
But in MMO land the consumer gets their product confiscated and banned for life for a developer’s own mistake.

Number 2, this is all about Arenanet’s cash shop and protecting it from their own stupid mistakes. This goes back to my post earlier this week on why cash shops and free to play models are just plain bizarre. Bizarre in the sense that once again, no other commercial industry in the world uses this model that I am aware of. Defenders of Arenanet’s actions have been talking this up by way of Arenanet defending the in-game economy. There is no in-game economy at the moment; there isn’t even a working auction house. But the cash shop is working.

All of this mess goes back to the fact that the online videogaming industry has no standards to adhere to in a commercial sense. As a consumer of Steam products I dread the day when the owners decide that they’ve made enough money and the operating costs to keep all our games accessible online aren’t worth the investment any more. As a blogger though … well, it will be sweet mana from another world.