World of Warcraft players have discovered a more direct and more satisfying way of dealing with "gold farmers". The farmers make real money by exchanging dollars for virtual gold. Regular players are often annoyed when these farmers send multiple messages over the citywide chat in the major towns of Ironforge and Ogrimmar. WoW administrators have rarely stepped in to stop message spamming, but players on the Medivh server have found that a well thrown virtual snowball gets the point across much more effectively.
The repeated killing of monsters to obtain gold and rare items is known in the online world as "farming". Many regular players consider farming to be boring, but a necessary evil in their quest for higher levels and better gear. Professional farmers, however, will spend several hours a day killing monsters and selling the rare items because they must make a certain amount of virtual gold per shift. This virtual gold is then sold for real money.
World of Warcraft does have an Auction House where players can buy and sell items, but players must often wait several hours for the sale to finish. Since professional farmers must obtain their gold quickly, they often resort to sending repeated messages of WTB or WTS, short for want to buy or want to sell, over the city-wide chat channel. Regular players usually are quick to tell the farmers to stop, but it rarely happens as the farmers, who usually hail from Asian countries, only understand enough English to buy and sell items.
A recent game patch activated some holiday themed content including gingerbread cookies, reindeer quests and even the virtual snowball. Much of this content, including the snowball, is purely cosmetic as they cannot help or hurt players or in-game monsters. The virtual snowballs can be purchased in groups of five and then thrown at other players. Blizzard Entertainment recently announced that WoW has more than five million customers and a big part of that popularity what many people call "the little things" or seemingly small audio and graphical garnishments that make the game more lifelike.
Snowball fights also give players something to do while they wait in the main city for their groups to form up or for the battlegrounds to open. High-end dungeons are extremely tough and require a large group that can take hours to form. WoW also has battlegrounds where players can fight other players. These battlegrounds are extremely popular and players must wait in queue to get in.
We witnessed one gold farmer get pelted with dozens of snowballs after she sent several "Want to Sell" messages over Ironforge's city chat. Over several minutes, the farmer was bombarded with more than a hundred snowballs and fled out of the city. Eventually, the spamming stopped.