Of Bots, Dupes, and Ethics

So I’ve had this idea rattling around my head for a few days now but Jim Younkin’s post today on Strong Evidence of Rampant Item Duplication in WoW was kind of the final stick pulled in a game of KerPlunk…yes I just likened my head to a plastic tube filled with marbles, shut up.

I’ve touched on the concept of ethics on the World of Warcraft auction house before and it’s certainly an interesting topic, ethics in video games in general. There are many activities that could be labeled as dubious, some of which are against the Terms of Service others that aren’t, though no one seems to agree what constitutes dubious activities and what doesn’t.


Botting is an excellent example of this indecision; While using a bot is clearly against the Terms of Service (though apparently HonorBuddy is apparently now classed as a product to help disabled people according to a German court) a large percent of the WoW population appears to frankly not give a crap and bot anyways. Then there is the part of the population that agrees that with botting, but won’t risk their accounts to participate. And then finally there are those of us, especially in the gold making community, that speak out against bots.

But we’re hypocrites.

Let’s face it, gold making 1O1 is pretty much manufacturing: taking large quantities of ore, herbs, leather, etc. and turning them into final products for the masses. The kicker here is that this probably wouldn’t be possible for the botters who supply most of the games base materials. When you’ve got people who can bot as a job and bring in over 50 million gold per month there’s no way you can claim you’ve never touched botted material. In fact I’d hazard a guess that most of what we do wouldn’t be possible without the legions of botters supplying ore by the truckload.

Sure without bots the prices would be better for human farmers and more people would be enticed to collect the mats, but does anyone really think the economy would be the same place without them? Take the example above, how many players would it take to make up for losing that one person who runs 150 accounts and makes over 50 million gold per month? (Here’s a hint: a lot.) We still haven’t recovered from the bot banwave that happened earlier in Cataclysm (you remember that right? When all the prices went through the roof suddenly?)

Although I don’t like it botting is here to stay, there’s simply no avoiding it. You can bitch and moan and gnash your teeth all you like but frankly the game would pretty much collapse if Blizzard effectively banned the bots (they can’t and won’t for the record). I’m not trying to sound cynical here, I’m just trying to be a bit of a realist for a moment.


Ahhh duping, such a different kettle of fish yet still has the same fishy sell, bring me back to my Pokemon Rare Candy duping days (Don’t look at me like that, we all did it). Still against the Terms of Service this technique for gold making has a lot less potential to “damage” the economy. While information isn’t publicly available on to how this trick works, the basics of duping is to take a valuable item (mounts, pets, rare drops etc) and duplicate them by exploiting some glitch in the game. I imagine it’s a rather slow process so it’d mostly be used on items with very high gold per item slot values but frankly I have no idea, this is just conjuncture, so it’s possible things like materials are being duped as well.

The most observable effect of this as Jim illustrated is the increase in supply of items like the Reins of the Crimson Deathcharger which over the course of a month saw supply levels increase by an order of magnitude. I’d like to go off on a tangent here and point something out: The spike started on July 10th by the looks of it, which is a Tuesday; Might be interesting to see what happened on that day (server maintenance perhaps?). Mind you it could just be a graph resolution thing, so I digress.

I would like to point something out though, while the supply levels increased ten-fold across US realms it seems the average price only dropped by half, not to shabby if you ask me. It seems we’ve hit a price point were it’s now cheap enough for more players to buy it which counters the negative effect of a substantial increase in supply, that can’t be that much of a bad thing can it?

Now I see where others are coming from, it “devalues” your achievement of gaining such an item yourself. But again that might not be such a bad thing either, with a smaller price tag players will feel less pressured to sell the item and will likely keep it themselves. Personally I’m all for players keeping trophies of their achievements rather than feeling pressured to sell it because of it’s large price tag.


At the end of his post Jim suggested boycotting the dupers in an attempt to discourage the act of duplicating items. Personally, I don’t think it would be very effective even if every regular of his followed his advice immediately.

First, at this point it’s going to be nearly impossible to determine who’s duping, who’s reselling, and who’s legitimately earning these big ticket items. This is further complicated by guild bankers who will often sell guild resources to fund the guilds raiding or what have you.

Second, we (AH Junkies) aren’t the only ones buying these, there are many out there who don’t follow gold blogs and make gold more mundanely who I’m sure would be interested in buying these items, especially as the price comes down to these duping waves. We’re forgetting we’re not the only ones with massive piles of gold, there’s those who save up, those who bot, those who don’t follow gold blogs but are still AH junkies, and those who are just plain luckily. It’s more than possible to get lucky with something like the Trading Card Game, sell a Spectral Tiger or the like, and then use some of the revenue to buy other “big ticket” but cheaper items they might actually like (who knows, maybe they’re afraid of cats, or feel the pressure of selling something worth that much) such as that duped Crimson Deathcharger you refused to buy because you suspected the seller of duping. You think the theoretical player in this scenario cares or knows about duping? Not likely. And you just helped the dupe market by buying his legitimate Spectral Tiger. Oops, so much for the boycott.

Further Points

I’d like to take some time to respond directly to some excerpts from Jim’s post.

The rampant evidence of duplicating Reins of the Crimson Deathcharger has a real impact on the in-game economy.

I disagree. In my mind there are two basic sub-economies ingame: the luxury markets with items like Reins of the Crimson Deathcharger, and the more mundane day to day items like glyphs, gems, potions etc. The increased flow of big ticket items isn’t going to do much to change the base economy, not as much as botting does for the more mundane markets anyway.

If I was someone who had worked hard to earn 200k to purchase a Deathcharger in late Wrath of the Lich King or early Cataclysm in hopes of holding onto it and selling is at a profit later I will likely never be able to recover their initial investment due to the duping.

Frankly this is their fault. Just like we take risks stockpiling so to do these players take risks holding back their rare items for sale. At any time Blizzard can change the game so items become more available (Call to Arms and Black Market Auction House ring any bells?) so it wasn’t guaranteed it wouldn’t go down in price anyways.

If I were a player who was working on making a good amount of gold selling Queen’s Garnets and my market was all of a sudden flooded with tons of cheap “duped” gems the value of my inventory could drop by thousands of gold over night.

While this is more understandable again you just have to roll with the punches, if you can’t adapt you’re not going to get much done.

Unfortunately I feel for many of these items their value is most likely permanently damaged by this duplication. The market simply can’t absorb the massive, cheap (free in this case) increase in goods with out the price dropping.

Again I disagree; Two points here. First, due to the rules of supply and demand it’s more than likely that if the duping suddenly stopped we’d quickly approach the pre duping levels (bot ban waves anyone?) I’d also like to point out that despite a ten fold increase in supply the price only went down my 50%, I’d say the market absorbed it pretty good.

If you are like me and want to see your economy stay (relatively) stable please follow my lead and if you feel the item you are considering purchasing is far too cheap (especially items mentioned in this post) please don’t buy it. While it may seem cliche supporting dupers only encourages them to continue duping and further harming your server’s economy.

Last nit pick here: I’d still consider the economy stable, despite the advent of duping. The markets have adjusted to this new level of supply and unless something again happens to rock the boat I’d consider it pretty stable. As I mentioned a few paragraphs up anything we do can indirectly support dupers so the select few of us avoiding obviously duped or even potentially duped items won’t do any good. They’re not going to stop short of Blizzard breaking the glitch (fixing the glitch?). Who knows, maybe the hole in the game that allows the dupes will inadvertently be closed with Mists of Pandaria.


I realize Jim has good intentions with his post, but frankly I don’t think there’s anything we can do. While I’m not saying not to boycott these obviously duped items (you’re a free person after all) I’m just saying we can’t pretend we’re pillars of ethics in the community when we turn around and buy hundreds of ore from botters (You can’t tell me that person with a hundred stacks of herbs at 15g/stack isn’t a bot, you just can’t).

I’m also not telling you to go out and bot or dupe because not only do I still disagree with it but it can get you banned and you don’t want to lose your years of hard work on your account for a bit of easy gold do you?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on which side of the fence you sit) botters aren’t going anywhere, their creators are simply too good at what they do and when one goes down another will spring up. With a subscription pool the size of World of Warcraft the market is simply too juicy not to have at least one bot software. Botting is here to stay people, might as well get used to it and get off our high horses.

UPDATE: Faid over at Clockwork Riot posted a very interesting point about an unaddressed issue in duped items

About the author

Eric Dekker

Gamer. Student. Nerd. Author of The Golden Crusade. Find him on + and Twitter.


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  1. Cold

    Amen brother!

    Anyone who claims to take a stand against cheaters should never be buying raw materials off of the auction house. This notion of not supporting dupers but buying thousands of raw mats from botters is a joke. People try to act like they are above supporting cheaters, when they are full of crap giving thousands of gold daily to cheating botters.

    Oh but dupers hurt our profits, where as botters keep our costs down so I’ll turn a blind eye to that illegal activity and take up a white horse and pitchfork and campaign against these evil dupers. Yeah right!

    Just as you said: Hypocrites!

    Excellent article mate!

  2. Jim Younkin

    So essentially your post amounts to throwing up you hands an saying “Everyone else is doing it. I might as well too.”

    Guess that’s where we differ.

    1. Eric Dekker

      Not quite – I don’t dupe or bot or anything else dubious. I’m saying we can’t proclaim the dupers and those who buy dupes as evil or ruining our economy or what have you and then turn around and buy out a botters supply. Among other things

    2. Cold


      He obviously didn’t even read the post or just fails at reading comprehension.

  3. croda

    there is a difference between buying items on the Auction House that one greatly suspects are illegally produced (duped in this case) vs buying items on the Auction House that could be illegally produced (botted in this case).

    the erradication of both bots and dupers would be beneficial to us all.

    the GMs on my server take the view that the Auction House legalises all items sold through it though we are encouraged to report suspicious activity. personally, though i have offered to have the suspiciously lowly priced herbs taken off me – in my experience the botter has disappeared but i have kept the herbs. i suspect duped items would be taken off me. it is a step up in economic dislocation.

    fair points all round though, but i prefer Jim’s route here.

    1. Eric Dekker

      I’m not offering up a different route necessarily, just trying to get some thoughts to paper so to speak. I mean you might as well boycott the dupers, I’m just questioning it’s effectiveness.

  4. wayne

    main problem with your premise is botters obtain items legitimately at a faster pace but dupers create items that dont exist…i am afraid you do not understand te difference. botters are to capitalism what dupers try to do in a neo socialist wold

    1. Eric Dekker

      Ermmm no. Botter use illegitimate methods to create items, so do dupers really, is one any more legitimate than the other?

      I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re trying to say about the capitalism and socialism bit, afraid I never paid attention to political theory (got better things to do)

  5. farli

    i bought a vial for 15k

    botting = duping in my book

    People get bent out of shape over duping because its higher value items, if there was an elementium ore, maelstrom dupe everyone would buy it,

    If it is’nt a priority for blizzard to remove botters/dupers then all we can do is play in the market we are given. I had some bad experience with blizz removing wotlk epic gems from my gbank lol so i’ve stayed clear of duped cata epic gems/ mounts except for the vial i bought for myself.

    If there is a rare mount for cheap on the auction house buy it if you want it, that gold you spent is at the end of the day going to another player.

    If there was no demand for gold buying then there would’nt be duping/botting simple. Fight causes not symptoms.


  6. Lasagna

    Reins of the Crimson Deathcharger was selling on Suramar for 20k yesterday. They were recently at about 120k, so that is 1/6th of the price. I saw Vial of the Sands going for 10k not very long ago also.

    How do you equate botting with duping? It’s not obvious that you could be buying botted goods, while it’s fairly obvious when you buy duped. If you rarely saw something for sale a month ago and now you see it advertised all over /trade for 1/6th the price for days on end you know it’s duped (or at the very least from a hacked account). With ore/herbs all are priced around the same and have been steady for months (starting to go down, but only because MoP release date was announced). I see names that I don’t really recognize selling bunches of herbs/ore, I also see names that I do recognize and have talked to selling tons of ore/herbs.

    Hell, there have been times that I’ve cleaned out a couple of my toon’s banks or guild banks, maybe someone thought that I was a botter because I sold 200 stacks of fish at a time or a couple hundred stacks of herbs.

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