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Bloomberg news is reporting that the government of China on August 1 will make it illegal for companies that operate Web sites that deal in virtual currency to allow minors access. The ban will not affect the way virtual currency is used to buy items within online games, the Chinese Ministry of Culture said.

Business analysts say the ban won’t affect the gaming operators, but could have an effect on sites that provide traders with a place to exchange the virtual currency for real money.

Story here: “China Government Bans Online Virtual-Currency Dealing Platforms for Minors”

This is possibly about two things.

— The Chinese government wants to control (and tax) the huge shadow economy that results from exchange of virtual gold
— and possibly control an industry that could be using child labor.

We blogged about “gold farming” in January: “Gaming Trojans: ‘because that’s where the money is.’”

Gold farming has grown incredibly in recent years and become a source of employment in China and other parts of Asia. An estimated 400,000 people, work for gold farming companies, spending as much as 12 hours per day playing online games in order to accumulate virtual goods which can be sold to some of the 50 million on-line game players world wide for real cash. There’s a pretty good chance that some of those gold farmers are minors.

It is hard to imagine many kids who would complain about playing video games all day for pay, although it could be so attractive they’d be inclined to skip school to “work.”

Tom Kelchner