I don’t have to tell you that buying and selling of MMORPG characters has become big business over the years. Back in the day you could easily go to Ebay and see hundreds if not thousands of listed auctions of people that were selling their MMORPG characters. Today however Ebay does not allow the sale of online characters, instead new sites have stepped in to fill their shoes, MMObay.net for example where you can buy wow account.
The question that has comes up over and over is, who really owns your online character? Well it’s different from game to game, I’ll use World of Warcraft for my example here since its the most popular. If you take a look at the EULA for World of Warcraft, you can see that Blizzard owns your character.
A. All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to the Game and all copies thereof (including without limitation any titles, computer code, themes, objects, characters, character names, stories, dialog, catch phrases, locations, concepts, artwork, character inventories, structural or landscape designs, animations, sounds, musical compositions and recordings, audio-visual effects, storylines, character likenesses, methods of operation, moral rights, and any related documentation) are owned or licensed by Blizzard.
Buy, if you read further it does state you can transfer your account to another person as long as you also give them the CD and packaging. However the EULA for European users does not allow the same transfer.
You may permanently transfer all of your rights and obligations under the License Agreement to another by physically transferring the original media…
As you can see, character ownership is a complicated topic. You’ll need to check your games EULA agreement to see if trading/buying/selling your account is allowed.
Now aside from what the EULA states, I’m wondering just how legal it is for a gaming company can claim rights/ownership over a users account. People argue that they can claim ownership because its their game hosted on their servers. However I can claim the same about this website, even though I legally own the domain name, I don’t posses anything other than a piece of paper that says I own it. It’s also hosted by another company where I don’t own the servers. So why doesn’t my domain registry or web host claim ownership of the site? Because even though they provide the technology and hardware I am the actual owner by law.
Why don’t MMORPG players get the same treatment? MMORPG gamers spend a extremely large amount of time building their characters and making them unique, from the name to the characters look and the nearly infinite combos of armor and weapons.
For a studio to claim ownership of the account in my opinion is pushing the legal boundaries, however until there is an actual legal battle over account ownership we will have to abide by the EULA set by these gaming companies.