How 'Cheating' Gamers Fueled Steve Bannon's Rise to Power

From gold farming to the power of gamer angst

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends a ceremony in the Rose Garden Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Before becoming President Trump's White House Chief Strategist or a founding member of the board for alt-right Breitbart News, Steve Bannon was deep into the shadowy world of virtual sweatshops and video game gold reselling, according to an in-depth piece by The Washington Post.

The Post details Bannon's move from Hollywood and Wall Street to the burgeoning world of buying and reselling virtual gold coins to players of games like World of Warcraft.

It started in 2005, according to the article, when Bannon was brought in to start-up Internet Gaming Entertainment (later known simply as IGE) as the company's vice chairman, in a move to try and legitimize the business which danced along the line of legality for years before leaving the business.

Bannon ended up spending six years at the company. In 2005, the company's revenue had soared from $2.7 million to $6.7 million, according to the story. All of that came from the sale of virtual currency and gear for a host of computer games like EverQuest, Lineage II and World of Warcraft.

While companies fought the resale of such items and currency, few devoted the resources needed at the time to entirely shut the gray market down. It wasn't until 2006, when World of Warcraft developer Blizzard launched a massive crackdown against the practice, that companies like IGE were essentially forced to abandon the business.

While most of the story of IGE and its connection to the gold coin market has been told before, The Washington Post story also delves into what happened next, detailing Bannon's decision to steer the recently renamed company into internet chat rooms and forums for gamers.

It was there, guiding a company invested in social media, that Bannon first became fascinated with the power of grassroots communication, according to the story. And from there it was a short leap to the founding of Breitbart.