Where does BoE come from?
BoE occurs when an item, such as a weapon, is found, won, or purchased in the World of Warcraft universe and becomes “soulbound" to the player, i.e., tied (bind) to a character once (on) they arm themselves with it (equip). Once soulbound, the player can sell the BoE item to a merchant but can’t use it to barter with other players. If a player chooses not to mark an item as BoE, they can freely trade it. This gaming feature debuted with World of Warcraft in 2004 and has since been enabled in other popular gaming franchises like Elder Scrolls.
While sometimes called Bind when Equipped (BwE), BoE is the more popular phrase. Other actions are similarly named in the game’s mechanism of binding, including Bind on Pickup (BoP) and Bind on Use (BoU). World of Warcraft forums say that BoE originated to prevent players from “twinking,” slang for when an accomplished, high-level player unloads powerful and valuable gear as an unfair advantage to newcomers, often friends.
BoE items tend to be more expensive than other tools or weapons in online games. Due to this, players can use real money to purchase gold to bypass the normal effort to acquire BoE items during gameplay. By simply purchasing the more powerful BoE items, gamers can quickly pass through quests, or levels, more easily—ironically counter to the original intent of BoE, earning disapproval from some players and earning money for others.
Who uses BoE?
BoE is primarily used by players of massive multiplayer online role-playing games, especially World of Warcraft, which has boasted over 100 million players in its history and millions of active subscribers. Many of these players are young men in their 20s. In reference to their gaming toolkit, BoE can be a descriptor (e.g., “a BoE sword” or “epic BoE drop”) or noun (“landed some amazing BoEs”). Use of BoE occurs in discussions about gameplay in online forums and chats.
Online gaming BoE is not to be confused with other BoE acronyms used in business and finance for Bank of England, Barrel of Oil Equivalent, or Basis of Estimate.
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@mandaeule1, August 2017
You've gained a Bind on Equip Item. Once this item is equipped to your character it will not be transferable to other players.
Orcz.com, March 2014
I often don't buy BoE gear from the AH, prioritizing my gold for mats and raid consumables. However, there are some good deals for belts lately. I was just wondering, do most people look down on the purchases of said BoEs? With enough gold, you could be iLvl900 almost instantaneously without ever raiding.
Gagus, Blizzard (forum), June 2017