This could well be a watershed moment in the history of real-money trading and virtual goods. eBay has made the controversial decision to cease allowing auctions of virtual goods. Note that this doesn’t just affect the sale of gold in World of Warcraft, which was already against the Terms of Service anyway. This affects all virtual goods, even if the companies running the game worlds do allow trade or sale for real money (such as Entropia Universe, Second Life, Magic the Gathering Online, etc.). Presumably this will even affect sales of virtual documents and information, like strategy guides, get-rich-quick guides, coupon codes, and more.
eBay has probably done a detailed cost/benefit analysis and decided that it simply isn’t worth it to be involved in the trade of virtual goods. For one, a large number of them aren’t allowed to be traded, and so eBay was constantly getting bugged by game companies. But more importantly, trading of virtual goods is very hard to verify and police. If I buy a real-world good, the seller can put delivery confirmation on the package, and there’s no confusion about whether or not I received it. Packages can also be insured. In an online game, however, there’s no guarantees. Fraud runs rampant.
Although it’s not optimal that sales of virtual goods in games that do allow real-money trading are being shut down, I can see why eBay wants to take a universal stance on this and simply say “no virtual trading”. The hassles just aren’t worth it. There’s definitely a new niche now for an auction site that solely deals in virtual goods, but I would be wary of getting in on such a thing. The potential problems are so grand.