Yesterday Blizzard finally launched the real money Auction House for Diablo III, an event the company had delayed a number of times, in part, to address issues with hacked accounts and people using improper gold farming techniques. While Blizzard continues to wrestle with these issues, the Auction House will initially be limited to equipment sales, with trade in commodities like gold being withheld until a later date.
Tech in Asia has uncovered an interview with one Diablo III gold farmer, who claims to use bots in 100 different accounts to collect gold, grossing roughly 60 million gold pieces every hour. As the farmer explains, it's common for people to get access to this many accounts by stealing credit card information from PayPal or hacking into other people's Battle.net account, which is patently a crime. Using bots and customized scripts to collect gold is not a crime, but it is a violation of Blizzard's terms of service.
It's interesting to compare Blizzard's oversight of its in-game economy with the development of the American economy, which has essentially allowed machines to transform agriculture, manufacturing, advertising, and retail industries.
Blizzard wants the economy to depend not on gains in efficiency but on individuals putting in labor hours to collect the gold. Their terms of service insist on labor and currency being linked in a way that capitalist economies have long since stopped doing. In the real world, if a company uses a bot to do the work of 100 humans, it's counted not as a violation but a gain in productivity. In games, exponential gains in productivity ruin the experience of play, but in the last century of business it's been hard to survive without them.