Turbine, the company behind Lord of the Rings Online, recently had executive producer Jeffrey Steefel sit down for an interview where he said the company is keeping an eye on the "secondary market" of legally purchasing in-game items with real money. He says in the next five years the MMO business model will change to accommodate using real-life money to buy in-game currency.
Steefel says, "Our position is pretty straightforward right now. Our responsibility is to the subscribers of the game, to deliver to them the experience they expect. So we certainly do not support people farming or taking advantage of the system in that way. It's against our Terms of Service and we do try and enforce that. ... But, we all know that something will happen in the next two to five years to business models in general, so we're paying attention to what's going on; watching what's going on with Sony Station whose servers support and manage this."
Sony Station Exchange is the controversial pay for item model. Advocates say it's a way for people who don't have the time, to pay their way into the game. Many gamers consider it corporate sponsored gold farming. Even if you purchase an item through an exchange, you can always sell it in-game for currency. Paying your way into an MMO just feels like an athlete using steroids. Sure, you can argue that if the means are there and the time isn't, why not do it? We just don't know how we'd feel about playing a game where you can, as part of the rules, pay a company extra money to get ahead.