Science fiction: what if game companies could get rich on bots, instead of players?

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Bots grind and gather value which a human player then uses, so I am curious when & where inbound revenue (typically in-game purchases) arises to bolster the company’s P&L.

Both REAMDE and For The Win touch on grinding / gold farming economies.


Yea, it was a fun story, but that one point lost me too. When the bots generated value, why didn’t they pass it along to their human masters? Why did they spend it on pixels? Somebody must have programmed and hosted them, unless they just growed like Topsy.

Yeah, some portion of the game needs to be highly desirable to human beings or this doesn’t work - bot farms are businesses that need someone to buy their product, or they don’t exist. But speaking as someone who has worked as an MMO designer, it’s disturbingly plausible to design a game mostly for bots - you could have 90% of the game functionally unplayable for human beings (because, for example, it’s just so tedious, etc.) if that remaining 10% is really, really compelling. If the game company takes a percentage of transactions in the gold/whatever marketplace, they’re monetizing bot play. I’d be surprised if no one was already taking that into consideration in their designs.

The thing is they could also accomplish the same thing just by selling the gold the bots farm surreptitiously and bypassing the man-hours and processing cycles associated with the bots.

The story was cute and all, but this is by definition less profitable than just skipping the artificial middleman.

Now, bots that exploit other peoples’ games or (more interestingly) aspects of life itself (a more sophisticated version of automated stock programs that covers a broader scope of activity) have potential.


Sure, that happens too (and traditionally game companies have tried to have a monopoly on this), but the alternative of “play it yourself” has to be there (and tedious as hell) which opens the door to third parties doing the same thing. Game companies have become more open to the idea of being a platform where these transactions can occur (and skimming money off of it), rather than trying to be the sole vendor in the marketplace and forcing third party vendors into other sales platforms where the game company doesn’t benefit at all.

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Or they could just pretend to be Gold Farmers and take 100%

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If the players are the ones programming the bots… then I this is an MMO I always thought would be kind of fun.

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Directly selling game gold and items is tricky because one has to consider the game economy - if the gold/items are being generated by actual gameplay, even if by bots, it should be already balanced out. Selling gold generated “ex nihilo” is more like a government printing more money. There are other things you can sell that even gold-farmers might purchase, allowing for multiple opportunities for sales. The whole “game as marketplace” model has really taken off in recent years, with companies like Valve leading the way - players create game content that they sell to other players; Valve make their money by taking a cut of all that.

Yeah, I’ve thought something like that might be interesting. There are MMOs where your character passively “improves” while you aren’t playing, but I’ve thought it would be interesting to systematize that automation more, making it into its own game.

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