Whether you're AFK in Limsa Lominsa or preparing for your next raid, any FFXIV player will tell you that spam bots and real-money scams are inevitable. The scams come in different forms, too. Some crooks sell "clears" or "runs" of difficult content, and others claim to have weapons, cosmetic items, and even currency to sell.
Buying these virtual goods with actual money is known as "real money trading" – or RMT. And if you've heard of RMT, it's probably because the practice is heavily frowned upon by players and developers alike.
I'll take a look at RMT in this post, and figure out how it happens, who's paying for it, and why. So, let's dig in!
What is RMT?
The monetary exchange involved in RMT is totally different from a player buying in-game items with in-game currency. Slay a few boars or turn in a few quests, for example, and you'll probably earn yourself some virtual currency. You can spend this however you like; on potions, armor, mounts, or whatever else takes your fancy. This in-game currency can only be earned and spent in the game itself.
RMT, on the other hand, brings real-life finances into the mix. It's also a scam more often than not, and pretty prevalent across just about every MMO.
You'll see a lot of RMT involving the exchange of real-world funds for in-game currency. Some RMT tempts players by offering to "power level" their characters, doing all the hard graft and grinding for them so they can jump into high-end content. Power leveling requires the player to hand over their login details, though, and dodgy scammers could very well seize the account for themselves. After all, plenty of RMT sees characters and accounts themselves being sold, pre-leveled and kitted out with armor and weapons, ready to go.
These accounts might've once belonged to victims, but a player can opt to sell their account via RMT, too, or use RMT to facilitate a sale to another player.
The folks behind these RMT scams will certainly hope that you make life easy for them and hand over your login credentials and financial information willingly. However, others resort to hacking accounts and stealing this information.
Killing the vibe
Most folks condemn RMT because the thought of losing access to your MMO account is sometimes just as devastating as the prospect of financial fraud. Game developers also claim that RMT leads to some players gaining an unfair advantage… but I'm not sure that's true.
MMOs are not pay-to-win, meaning there's no one special, overpowered item you can buy to become stronger than other players… even if you pay with actual money! No, MMOs are about experience and skill. Some games, like FFXIV, allow you to purchase "level skips", but even these cannot replicate familiarity or muscle-memory – just look at any freshly level-skipped player in a high-end raid if you want evidence!
Why does RMT happen?
Unfortunately, some people who resort to selling in-game currency do so because they are left with no alternative. If they own a console, conducting RMT could be a singular lifeline in an otherwise bleak time.
RMT is not lucrative for everyone, but it is consistent – MMOs don't sleep, and continue to be active even after you've logged off. The demand for items, money, and services is always going to be there.
Trading is another inevitability in MMOs. It might start with in-game items, like swapping crafting materials for in-game currency – natural supply and demand, but the value of these items is also affected by things like a player's time.
And time-wise, playing an MMO is a big investment! Hopefully, you'll be drawn into the story – you typically begin your adventure as a wayward hero starting from scratch with very few resources. It's up to you to level up and accrue wealth and power, and MMO players excel at figuring out the most effective way of achieving these goals.
RMT can offer a player more value for their time. A player might be tempted to engage in RMT if they don't fancy doing the necessary grinding in their MMO of choice, for example.
Why is that tempting? Well, if you only have a few hours a week to dedicate to your favorite MMO, you might not want to spend that time gathering crafting materials or endlessly grinding to level up – but these things might be necessary in order to reach the next part of the story or to catch up with friends. This grinding creates an unwanted obstacle and time-sink.
Grinding is rarely fun, particularly compared to what else an MMO has to offer, but most of us get on with it if the right incentives are there.
But there is another option. RMT would allow a player to pay to have someone else do the grinding for them – but they'll need to hand over their account login to make it happen, and there's no guarantee that they'll get the account back. For some players, however, the risk is worth the reward! They skip over the dull parts of the game and can enjoy all the good bits without having to slog through it manually like the rest of us.
How does RMT happen?
RMT shouldn't be confused with buying stuff from an official MMO store – buying a level skip from the FFXIV shop is not at all the same thing as handing over your account details to a stranger claiming to be a power leveler, after all. One transaction is legitimate and the other is a total gamble, but both do provide a virtual service with real-world value.
RMT is a big business, and it is now thought that there are hundreds of thousands of people employed to conduct RMT, worldwide. These gold sellers (who might sell items and services, too) purchase their goods from farming companies and sell it to players… for a profit, of course.
The farmers themselves are more interested in collecting accounts that can be co-opted and used to farm more gold or items. Often, farmers make use of stolen or hacked MMO accounts and characters, and can even utilize stolen credit cards to purchase stock to be sold on to gold sellers.
In truth, anyone could get tangled up in RMT, but those folks who click phishing links, willfully hand over their credentials, or have poorly secured accounts are the ones in danger – and these are the accounts that farmers target when looking to bolster their numbers.
If a gold farmer hacks an account, or otherwise gets access to one, they'll basically strip it of its resources and sell those on to other players or middlemen. Money and tradable items always fetch a decent price, and the account itself can be sold on if it is leveled and geared well enough.
As for who these gold farmers are, they're often vulnerable people in labor camps, forced to harvest these virtual goods under threat of physical violence. It is thought that up to 80% of the world's gold farmers are located in China, where the total number clocks in somewhere around 100,000 full-time RMT agents.
Is RMT allowed? Is it illegal?
The answer to this question depends on the MMO you're talking about, because there are a handful of titles that allow you to make a bit of money by trading items with other players. Remember Wurm and Entropia? You could once earn money playing these games if you had the patience of a saint and really, truly, nothing else to do – but it was never a substantial amount of money, and sometimes not even enough to recoup the money spent playing the game in the first place.
Most MMOs claim to stand in opposition to RMT, however, as well as other modes of cheating, which includes botting and spamming. RMT is particularly worrisome for MMOs because it could interfere with their profits. After all, a player who skips a long grind via RMT may not pay their subscription for as long as a player who toughs it out and does it themselves.
But whilst the ToS of many MMOs might ban RMT, stamping it out of the games is an arduous task that requires more than the occasional warning. It feels like very few MMOs take decisive action against RMT and micro-laundering circles, seeing as these crooks are moving small amounts of money that are hard to detect, and RMT is not considered a crime, exactly. If you engage in RMT, you're more likely to be punished for breaching the terms of your contract rather than the financial transaction!
But there are MMOs chipping away at the tide of RMT. FFXIV consistently updates players regarding the action taken against RMT scammers and spammers. Earlier this year, more than 5,800 accounts were banned for engaging in these sorts of activities, and it's not the first time the FFXIV have come down hard on RMT accounts. In 2019, more than 9,500 accounts were rooted out and banned for botting and conducting RMT transactions.
Similarly, you might've heard about WoW banning a whopping 74,000 accounts back in 2020, seeing as the majority of them were bots collecting items to be sold or automatically leveling characters. Another 40,000 were banned shortly after for similar reasons, but plenty of bots returned to the WoW servers shortly after they reopened.
How to report RMT
If you're an MMO regular, you've probably seen your fair share of spam and gold selling, but you might not know how exactly to report this activity… or that it's even an option! Usually, it's pretty simple to report RMT and bots, so let's take a look at how the process unfolds across a few popular MMO titles.
Square Enix automatically processes all RMT reports before deciding if action needs to be taken, and if you get fed up of being whispered to about savage raid clears, mounts, or gil, you can take the following steps:
- In-game, select System Menu.
- Then click Support Desk and Contact Us.
- From here, just click the Report Cheating button.
- Alternatively, you can right-click a gil spammer's name via the chat log and Report RMT Activity right from the Report option.
WoW isn't the most profitable RMT theater now as it once was, but there's still no need to put up with annoying ads selling content clears or power leveling services. To report RMT activity, you'll need to:
- Right-click the player name in the chat window.
- Click Report Player For and select the option that best suits the scenario.
- Remember, you can include videos and screenshots too if you email Blizzard instead.
Guild Wars 2
If endless spam is clogging up your Guild Wars 2 chat window, it's a pain, but it does make it nice and easy to report the individuals trying to launch a scam.
- Select the Player Conduct window by right-clicking the player's name via the chat.
- Click Report.
- You'll see a drop-down menu then, so just select the most appropriate reason.
- Then hit Send Report when you're ready.
Money launderers and opportunistic RMT scammers are flocking to Fortnite to make a quick buck off of the back of the title's popularity, especially with new chapter (and new outfits) coming soon. However, you can report RMT activity by:
- Pressing Esc on a PC or Mac.
Selection Options on a PlayStation.
Hitting the Menu button on an Xbox.
Pressing the + button on a Switch.
- From there, simply click Report Player and select your reason in the tab.
- Select the player in question under Player Name.
- And add any extra details in the Additional Information tab.
- All sorted? Click Send Report!
RMT is a massive risk, and one I can't recommend anyone taking – there are just too many tales of heartbreak out there detailing how players lost their accounts and characters and achievements by taking an RMT shortcut. Save your money and secure your account, instead.
Don't use a weak password and make sure you're using two-factor authentication wherever you can.
The truth is that grinding is a chore, but there is a charm to it if you do it right – round up some friends to help, recruit from within the game itself, or load up Netflix and do a bit of binge-watching at the same time! It's rare that an MMO doesn't reward you handsomely for grinding, and so any time you might save by looking into an RMT solution is kind of negated by the fact that you lose out on the experience!