The practice of real money trading, the exchange of in-game currency from a massively multiplayer online game for actual real-world money, is becoming a growing concern. No longer is it simply a concern of the publishers who operate these games; now the Japanese government is opening up its own investigation into the practice.
The Kyoto Shimbun reports that Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) intends to look into wrongdoing perpetrated in connection with online games and virtual currencies. METI has begun its survey by interviewing major, albeit unspecified, game manufacturers on the matter.
This action was triggered by the recent boom in real money trading and the use of unauthorized programs to tamper with data and/or automatically obtain large amounts of virtual currency or items. Particularly troubling to METI is the appearance of organized groups capable of committing fraudulent activities on a large scale, sometimes from overseas locations. In addition to conducting its own inquiries, METI is urging the industry to take appropriate damage control measures and establish self-regulation quickly.
Last month Square Enix banned 250 accounts for using third-party software to collect massive amounts of gil, the game's currency. The publisher removed 250 billion gil from the game's economy, warning that real money trading "will not be tolerated" in the game. Earlier this month, Electronic Arts removed 15 trillion gold from the Ultima Online economy and banned more than 180 accounts for taking advantage of an exploit in the game.