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Sony Goes After MMO Spammers and Farmers

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has created a nine-member covert group called the Norathian Underground Gnome Investigation Team (NUGIT) to specifically tackle in-game spammers infiltrating EverQuest II, Free Realms and its other MMO games. To date, SOE has closed a whopping 295,000 accounts across all of its MMOs. Sony ultimate plan is to put a dent into the $2-billion-a-year industry that farms virtual items within its games, a practice that's banned by all game publishers.

According to Reuters, 3rd-party spam companies will hire players to build up characters and collect weapons, swords, and other valuable items. These items are then given to "mules" who in turn deliver the goods to "runners." Legit players are thus "bombarded" by unsolicited ads by the runners selling these items, usually with messages linking to 3rd-party websites. For players wanting a quick way to boost a character, these websites offer the ideal upgrade... for a price.

Initially the NUGIT team keeps an eye on spammers or farmers once they are reported by legit players. The group then tracks other accounts of the mules and runners associated with the organization stemming the original report. "Rather than closing down one account, we'll follow the individual and end up banning as many as 100 to 200 accounts based off one tip," said Brad Wilcox, director of customer support at SOE and manager of NUGIT.

SOE president John Smedley also added that it's difficult for the company to track 3rd-party farmers located offshore, especially those located in countries where the laws are "friendly to the United States."

  • maigo
    only 9 people?
  • mlcloud
    Plus the aid of annoyed players throughout each MMO world. It's enough.
  • NuclearShadow
    I can understand stopping the spamming thing but I honestly couldn't care less about people who are dumb enough to spend their money on virtual money or items.
  • Onus
    It is no secret that this behavior is a violation of terms of service. For those who choose to do it anyway, it would not bother me one little bit if, after being proven guilty, they became the targets of hit teams. GAME OVER.
  • hennnry
    What's wrong with this practice? It doesn't make or break MMO. So it's like... you created a service (a gaming service), and why can't others who utilize your service to make a profit?

    To NuclearShadow and others alike... if you think buying virtual money or items are dumb, wouldn't then that same logic apply to online gamers who pay real money to get pleasure from virtual games?

    So what's the difference between getting pleasure from virtual games and getting pleasure from getting virtual items in games?
  • ssalim
    Dumb? when you have money and no time to play, I don't see it's bad to save your time and jump on the "fun" -- I don't play MMO since 2008 btw.
  • ssalim
    There are plenty of free to play mmo or 1st person shooter that players can buy to get "pleasure from virtual games." It's not dumb.


    getting pleasure from virtual games - takes time
    at the end, you get it and feel good through achievement then use the item to your advantage.

    getting pleasure from getting virtual items in games - it does not take time, it takes money (time is more valuable than money). You get it and may or may not feel achievement, but still use the item to your advantage.
  • Major7up
    NuclearShadowI can understand stopping the spamming thing but I honestly couldn't care less about people who are dumb enough to spend their money on virtual money or items.While many of us feel the same the efforts to crack down on these practices make the games more enjoyable for the rest of us. I don't care to be bombarded with messages to buy crap I can earn on my own.
  • matt87_50
    thats really cool. I see a new season of Underbelly in this.
  • skit75
    "Did you feel boring to level your...." blah blah blah /addignore spammer.
    I'm actually a little suprised they would hire anyone at all to look for active subscriptions to close down. It is after all, income they are terminating. Games where the best items can be purchased using in-game credits or real money, rather than earned on an individual or group basis never interested me. The above quote is very common in SOE's Star Wars Galaxies MMO. If there is an economy within a game, there will be spammers & I think most MMO players have just accepted this truth at this point. That doesn't mean I'm not applauding the effort. Barter system anyone?