Apparently, Gabe Newell — you know, the billionaire president of Valve who has enough money to, say, throw it into the bonfire of rejiggering a digital CCG — apparently spent some time as a gold farmer in World of Warcraft. However, this wasn’t because he needed money to open his own sovereign nation, but for research.
An interview in EDGE magazine is where this revelation was made, where Newell explains that he was investigating how games could be “productivity platforms” instead of only sources of entertainment. “As a sort of proof-of-concept, I decided to be a World of Warcraft gold farmer for a while,” explains Newell. “I was making $20 an hour farming gold. I was making what was a spectacular wage for most people in most parts of the world.”
This research project informed design ideas like the Steam Workshop, which also created a unique moment where a kid’s parents contacted Valve out of concern that the kid was selling drugs. “The parents called us up and I said ‘He makes items on the Team Fortress workshop. He’s making $500,000 a year,’” Newell recalls. “That to us was an indication that this was a helpful way of thinking of games as platforms and it has informed all of our decisions about multiplayer games subsequently.”