A Look At The Clash Of Clans Grey Market

By Eugene . April 20, 2014 . 11:02am

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Clash of Clans is one of the biggest names in social mobile gaming. We recently took a quick look at its grey area—selling an account. Here’s what we found.

 

image

First, a table graph taking a look at some of the last four months (January to April to date). The above table is only from the first page of eBay’s successfully “sold” accounts, and doesn’t include a massive outlier we’ll discuss later.

 

The graph shows account sales, sorted by account levels and the price people ostensibly paid for them. By itself, it’s hard to spot a trend. Prices seem to go everywhere. However, diving into the listings, one thing that stands out is that those with descriptors tend to get paid more. The account seems to sound more legit that way, probably. For example, this level 90 account sold for $500 lists down explicitly what you’ll get in the account; such as the level of buildings. Those that don’t, however, such as the level 71 account sold for $75, tend to get much less.

 

Trust, for obvious reasons, is in very short amounts. Those who talk more, get more, so it appears, as being scammed is par for the course in the grey market. There’s therefore a need by buyers to be reassured of what they’re getting, even if all they get really is a descriptor. Of course, this is a very generalized, sweeping kind of cursory look into the grey market that is account selling. But it’s interesting that even a free-to-play game account can command basically pretty decent figures—and perhaps a reason why those who are willing to spend in such games tend to come out on top. They can literally buy their way to the top, a well known issue.

 

There was one outlier case that we didn’t include in the above graph. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to examine. In this eBay sale, one Clash user seems to have decided to sell his decent account due to work. And it appears the winning bid is $8,988 for the final bid. Two things stand out here which made us not include this piece in the table above.

 

The first is its simply massive sale price in comparison to everyone else. It’s hard—though not unbelievably so—to believe someone actually paid almost $9,000 for an account. That’s almost 18 times the price of the next highest account sale. Which also happens to be a level 90 account. Yes, this particular account listing is very detailed, with a seller seeming to legitimately explain the reason for his sale. No one else is that detailed. But even with our own generalized note that more details means higher sale prices, the price differential was too gargantuan.

 

The second bit raising alarm bells are the screenshots. Take a look at the included screenshot from that $9,000 account listing below.

 

$_57

You’ll notice a “Return Home” bit on the lower left. This is the sort of screen you’ll see when you’re visiting someone else’s home base, rather than your own. Yes, we do get to see the account level 90 number (what the account is ostensibly selling) but it isn’t the right screen. Compare this with the first screenshot we posted, which shows an “Attack!” button in the lower left. That’s the traditional, correct home screen for your own account. Whether this is a real or fake deal and final sale, though, plays back into the issues of trust the grey market commands for its premium.

 

While it’s against EULA to sell accounts, what do you think about such deeds? Would you? Is it worthwhile? If you have bought or sold something, maybe you’d like to share a tale with us about it in the comments below.


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  • Thelastgunstar

    I sold my FFXI and WoW accounts back in the day. Knew I wasn’t going back to them, ever, so I figured I could make some quick cash from it. Never made anything crazy like this stuff but got a decent amount back for them.

    In retrospect, it was a good move. Both accounts would have stagnated into worthlessness if I kept them.

    • Shady Shariest

      It’s weird. I have never even considered that as an option.

    • neocatzon

      Isn’t most mmo have something like: “You may not sell, gift, trade accounts” or something like that? It’s not even a gray market, it’s totally black.

      • Thelastgunstar

        Yep, but they don’t pursue sellers, just the buyers. I take it that they want newcomers to start fresh, i.e. they need to spend money on monthly fees and such to reach the endgame, which is a grind in and of itself.

        Buying an account at the top deletes that and the company behind the game gets no immediate profit. If these companies did something to actually prevent the selling of accounts, then the market wouldn’t exist.

        I’m with you on the gray comment though. These actions violate the game’s TOS, usually. However, I don’t see a person who wants to sell their account really caring much for TOS. They want out…and want some cash as well.

        • neocatzon

          They don’t pursue sellers, just the buyers.
          This is interesting. I can understand the logic behind not wasting an account and it’s humane, I think. But they stated otherwise in TOS, widely to inhibit the whole account trading to begin with. Is it because the company’s understanding or tolerance? Which is weird when talking about companies.

          Maybe they’re just doesn’t care or legally TOS are not that binding?

          • M’iau M’iaut

            You can track an active account. The account can then be suspended or banned.

            Yes, you can know IPs previously used on login, a credit card charged, and an email account which may have been tied to it previously. Proving who that previous person was and that they sold the account? Hardly. Especially when all the company could do is sue in civil court.

          • Thelastgunstar

            When it comes to MMOs and accounts, the company in charge is king. They make the rules, all of them. It almost goes without saying that this kind of action goes against TOS, however, is it worth pursuing?

            It’s like jaywalking. In some parts of NA, it is straight up illegal and you can be fined. Does that stop people from doing it? Nah. Does that mean that this is strictly enforced? Nah. Its a rule that tends to be overlooked by civilian and law enforcement alike.

            However, that does not mean that it’s okay to do so. Enforcement has full right to pursue one who does. The same thing applies to this MMO account selling stuff. The company in charge has all of the records of everything that transpired on said accounts. They can ban any account that looks…off. Hell, they hold the right to ban anyone for any reason they see fit.

            From my point of view, it all comes down to money. Spend money to hunt down people who buy/sell accounts? Or let them be? It seems like MMO companies are doing both. RMT and Account Selling are still at large when it comes to this genre. The MMO companies could squash this problem, but it would take time and resources to do so. RMT is a pretty massive business.

            Is it worth it? That’s up to the company. I’m sure they care about dollar signs over all, so…what would cause them the least amount of trouble and the most amount of profit?

          • neocatzon

            In the end it’s come down to profit, the simplest answer
            -_-
            Combine this logic with @Nyanyaan:disqus ‘s comment below, finding the seller alone is already a chore that doesn’t worth it.

            My only lingering question in this case is how harmful the whole business of account selling and Real-world trading on the top of that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more urgent answer beyond rule breaking and scam risk on the user side. Though there’s amusing answers like banking and playerbase behaviour. http://runescape.wikia.com/wiki/Real-world_trading

            I hope there’s some researchers out there that show interest on this issue.

      • Fen Y

        TOS is not automatically legal in most countries. In fact, most TOS are actually not legally binding. All they do is protect the company from reproach if they ban you.

        They can’t do anything above that.

        So yes, it’s very much grey.

  • epy

    First time I heard about this one was a couple of days ago in Jimquisition. Apparently, videogame CEOs only really care about 3 titles in the industry and how to emulate them: Candy Crush, Clash of Titans and CoD.

    I’m againts anything that brings money into a game beyond its initial purchase, which is why the current ways of gaming are very unpleasant to me. That said, like Thelastgunstar, I would sell my account in some game if I knew I was never going back to it. Not with making money being the main objective, but to avoid wasting it.

  • Barrylocke89

    I think the thing that surprises me the most is just how much some of these accounts can be worth. It’s especially true for someone who likes a specific game, but doesn’t want to put up with whatever grind is needed to reach the end/postgame. I know many people find the time to be more valuable than the money, and if they really want to play, they’d be willing to pay some money. I also knew that selling accounts/gold/etc. in MMOs were a common thing, but despite that, making 100+ (much less almost 9k O_o) on an account seems mind boggling to me.

    In a more general sense, it also shows something that’s important to remember when selling stuff on a listing site like ebay or craigslist: people want to see info on what it is you’re selling if you actually want to sell it. Showing pictures of your item, saying what’s included, and being open to answer questions that people have can go a long way when selling stuff online.

  • revenent hell

    Im in the wrong business……. My god if only I had have known such a thing was possible to do years ago…. I could be rich!

    Actually I don’t agree with selling accounts, I think people should do the work in a game themselves(because that’s part of the fun and if your not having fun why are you playing it?), but if people are willing to buy a pre made account… I kind of think that’s their fail in life to be honest.

    People can make claims to whatever the reasons may be for buying a persons account for a game but I could care less and think overall that person shouldn’t be playing the game to begin with if they aren’t willing to put in the “work” for it. I think the buyer looses out in experiencing the game and the seller…. well frankly the seller just makes out like a fat rat having gotten paid for doing something they enjoyed doing to begin with… Playing games.

    Though I have to think a great deal of these types of accounts are probably scams so hopefully people remember that whole “buyer beware” thing. I don’t think anyone deserves to be scammed out of money, even if I do consider buying a persons account the height of lazy, ridiculous, and that person obviously has more money to waste than common sense but I don’t think its fair to say they deserve to get screwed over on this type of deal.

    I think its safe to say we have all bought something in life that makes something easier on ourselves and just because it does doesn’t mean we deserve to be ripped off but where theres a market to bring in the money there will always be people willing to scam someone else.

  • SlickRoach

    Well shoot, when my account gets that high I know what I’m doing with it.

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