Greedy Goblin

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ending RMT, rewarding PvE and doing good

My last post about RMT wasn't general enough, therefore was unable to reach its goal. Now I'm back with a broader approach.

Why does illicit RMT exist? Because there are buyers with money. They want to bypass the obstacles, they want to progress even when they suck. Let's face it: just like with drugs and prostitution, as long as there are buyers, there will be sellers. Every game dev fights an unwinnable battle against RMT-ers.

How can illicit RMT be defeated? Only by legitimate RMT: if the players can buy advantage in the game, without automatically winning it. The PLEX trade of EVE does a theoretically perfect solution: what you buy from CCP, the PLEX does not give you any advantage in the game (you can use it for character training and subscription), however you can trade it with other players for power. As no one is forced to accept the deal, the amount of power you can buy is controlled by the real players (the ones who earn their ISK in the game). You can't buy anything that others aren't selling you, but you can buy a baseline power easily, which is the point of the pay-not-to-lose model.

Why PLEX failed to end illicit RMT? Because of the limited PLEX demand. Someone who is good in the game can easily earn ISK in the magnitude of dozens of PLEX-es a month, but can't use them. What's the point of having dozens of accounts (besides earning more PLEX-es)? These players are ready to sell their ISK for less than PLEX price, allowing RMT-ers to offer better deal than the official.

What is the solution? Adding more options to use PLEX. The more PLEX-es are used, the higher the demand for them, increasing their price. This in turn make illicit RMT-ers less profitable. If PLEX prices would double, the real money reward of the RMT would be halved. There is a price point when RMT in EVE becomes unprofitable compared to RMT-ing in some other game, making the professional farmers leave.

Of course the developer must avoid simply doing the job of RMT-ers and introduce pay-to-win. CCP cannot increase PLEX demand by selling power for PLEX, they learned it during Incarna. The only guarantee against pay-to-win, if PLEX can only buy what other players sell. My original post shown such service, the pay-for-content: to be able to buy FC, corp leader, website operator or whatever services you need. The original implementation wasn't the best as players would be tempted to cash out stolen or farmed ISK. However the developer could simply hire content providers (actually the same gamers) as employees, to provide services for their customers. The former player - now bound by empoyment - will utilize his gaming knowledge to provide content of players who pay an extra. Imagine that you could hire a famous FC to lead your corp roam!

Recent events provided an even better PLEX-sink. An infinitely big one, that can eat all the PLEX in the world. I'm talking about PLEX for Good. $190000 was donated by the players in the form of 12726 PLEX-es. Two things contributed to this success. The first is that you could donate EVE Online pixels. I did not donate money. I used the ISK I gained on the market to buy the PLEX and donate that. The money of my donation came from someone else, who simply wanted to buy EVE currency and have no clue that their money went to the Red Cross. Secondly, the fact that people pay a lot for the donation T-shirts prove that looking good is important in a community. The people who wouldn't bother to donate alone, donated (or faked it by buying T-shirt) to show off in the community.

How could CCP utilize it to get a huge PR success, increase revenues and hit RMT hard? By starting a permanent PLEX donation drive for some permanently existing charity, like space research and making a toplist of it. Remember, how much ISK TEST alliance got via donation toplist! The official toplist would list characters, corps and alliances according to their PLEX donation to the cause. It would work especially well as it would provide a goal for PvE players. There is no killboard for them, so after they get more ISK than they can reasonably spend, they lose interest. Now they could just spend it all on PLEX and donate to space research while getting themselves internet fame on the toplist. Of course to provide revenues to CCP, only $10/PLEX would go to the charity, the rest would remain for CCP. While such PLEX would bring less income to CCP than one used for character training, this would be outweighted by the higher PLEX sales. I mean if there is more PLEX demand and ISK/PLEX rate go higher, more people will buy PLEX from CCP to get ISK. Also, many former RMT buyers will turn to the PLEX market if the official price go higher.

One can say that "but the higher PLEX price make lot of free players unable to pay their accounts". It's not a problem. Not because I don't think they bring much to the game, but because the ISK/PLEX rate isn't defined by the developer. They just create the new PLEX options, force no one to use them. Other players choose to buy PLEX with their ISK, driving its price up. If the actions of other players hurt you... Welcome to EVE Online!

Finally, consider the PR value of such system for the whole MMO gaming community: players get money for charity, by playing. The better you play, the more you can donate from the money of the bad players who have to buy PLEX-es to cover up their defeats. The more of them you blow up, the more PLEX will be purchased, increasing the revenues of CCP and the funds going for charity.

Update: Von Keigai had a great idea in comments, "PLEX for development". Players can donate PLEX-es to CCP for working on their favorite feature. Like nullseccers could donate it to buy stronger nods that can handle multi-thousand combat, WH-ers to work on POS-es and so on. The ideas would be provided by CCP/CSM, so you can't buy features, but you can prioritize them or add extra funds to speed them up!

Smug PS: I love to know (and invest into) the future doctrine 9 months before it happens.


Lucas Kell said...

Regardless of how clever you think the idea is the problem will always remain. RMT sellers will simply undercut whatever people can get from PLEX, and the problem will continue to exist. If all it took was some guy and his blog to say "Hey, make plex more useful" then RMT would have been solved long ago.

The only way to stop RMT (or slow it down, since stopping it is pretty much impossible) is to punish the buyer. By making the risk level of buying RMTed isk too high, you cut off the buyer so the supply of becomes pointless. It's the same way they deal with drugs and prostitution in the real world.

And at the end of the day, CCP have to keep making profit. Your ideas come from this weird world where CCP can just dump profit by handing out free stuff and this won't hurt them. And the thing is, CCP push against RMT every day. You want to help? Then encourage people to not RMT, report RMT and botting when you encounter it, and help them gather then info to do their jobs. Coming up with weird and wonderful ways they could blow masses of their profit and crush the EVE economy helps noone.

Gevlon said...

RMT sellers have costs. Also, they have opportunity cost: they could spend their human and computer resources selling gold in another game.

Illicit ISK must be cheaper than legitimate, by a significant margin, to make buyers take the risk of negwalleting or being scammed by the ISK seller.

Either way, if you push the price of legitimate ISK low enough, they will simply go somewhere else.

Poor guy said...

Self regulating market.

Let's say I earn 1.5b ISK each month by running missions on a single charakter.
620M ISK is needed for PLEX subscription.
I could donate another PLEX to your "donation ISK sink".
Less PLEX on market - PLEX price goes up - my income (bounty, reward, time bonus, loot, salvage) doesn't go up.
Let's follow your example of doubled PLEX prices.
1.5b ISK income versus 1.24b ISK for a PLEX.
That's enough to subscripe my account but not enough ISK left to donate a PLEX.
Will I double my playtime? No, I can't.
Result? More PLEX on the market, less demand (simply because fewer people can afford one for donation but you could get a lot more ISK if you buy a GTC and sell those 2 PLEX), dropping prices -> RMT is back.

Where is your ISK sink in PLEX for good?
12726 PLEX donated, @600M each that's 7.64 trillion ISK... moving from player group A to player group B.
And player group B (which bought the PLEX 10 month ago @500M ISK) is now RMT'ing their 1.27 trillion ISK profit for $ back to player group A.
And player group A need to buy these 1.27 trillion ISK for $ because their income didn't raise and they need more ISK to PLEX their accounts...

nightgerbil said...

people take drugs because drugs are fun and make them feel good. people commit crime because its easier then working. People buy gold because its easier and faster then farming. People use Rmt instead of plex because its easier and cheaper then either selling plex or farming isk. Strict enforcement doesnt and cant work. It can raise the risk to the buyer and maybe deter the faint hearted but it doesnt work either in game or in real life.

Alternate solutions SHOULD be discussed and explored, even if they aren't practical. No ccp giving away most of its plex profits isnt practical.

Anonymous said...

Is there alot of illicit RMT in EVE?

last time I spend some weeks in EVE I din't get any RMT advertisement or anything else vaguely illicit.

I would love to see some more PLEX sink. to donate my "playtime income" sounds interesting.

(Disclaimer: I don't read hub local. and never will. jita scrolls to fast so I pay no attention to hub local what so ever)

Lucas Kell said...

"RMT sellers have costs. Also, they have opportunity cost: they could spend their human and computer resources selling gold in another game.

Illicit ISK must be cheaper than legitimate, by a significant margin, to make buyers take the risk of negwalleting or being scammed by the ISK seller.

Either way, if you push the price of legitimate ISK low enough, they will simply go somewhere else."
Except for the game to continue, the economy will balance. Raise the isk price of a plex and other prices will rise too. Why would a miner double the amount of time he would need to make a plex when he could just double the price of his goods? A lot of miners would feel the same way and you'd watch the mineral index creep up. The mineral index is pretty much the market index, so you'd then see the rest of the market rise. What you'd end up with is the exact same situation we have now, but bounties are considerably more rubbish (in comparison) and average people have a lot more isk kicking around.

So illicit RMTers would now just sell more isk for a lower price, and still only spend the same amount of time botting the isk.

It's pretty ludicrous to think CCP could hit the plex price hard enough to stop all illicit rmters but have the market not follow. And even if somehow they did, illicit RMT would still exist, as people would still want to turn their isk into cash.

Gevlon said...

@Lucas: most players are not plexing. There are about 400K accounts and only 100K PLEX is moving.

A player who pays subscription and neither buy, nor sell PLEX can't care less of the PLEX price. They restabilize the prices.

NoizyGamer said...

I think you have the right idea about giving players something to spend PLEX on. I just don't think that a permanent PLEX for Good campaign is the right way to do it. I worry about donor fatigue.

CCP already is doing something like that with allowing people to train multiple characters on an account if they pay with PLEX. If something needs to be added I would suggest ship skins or something else that is cosmetic but cool.

Von Keigai said...

Doing charity work is not and cannot be a business plan. Even if you believe in telescopic philanthropy (I don't much), then giving away all of your profit is a sure way to kill a business. Thus, your specific idea for how to incentivize PLEX use is not viable.

The general idea, though, is quite sound. CCP should be working hard to find new and better ways for rich players to sink ISK. Multiple character training is a good example. But also paying for conventions with PLEX, buying video cards, etc.

Here is another idea, riffing off of KickStarter. Call it "PLEX Start". CCP should, perhaps with the CSM, establish a set of features that they are willing to implement in the next release. They will not actually implement them, though, unless a certain amount of PLEX is pledged to the special character "PLEX for Development". Perhaps they can get programmers for $100k/year, and they estimate that (my favorite) removing the z-arrow from probe movement should take, oh, half a day to program. Very well: it costs them $250 to implement. No wonder they don't listen to me whine about it! So they should just put a target amount of PLEX on it: call it, say, 25 PLEX. (This builds in profit.) Let anyone who wants the feature pay for it. (I'd throw in 10 PLEX for this.)

POSes that work: 20000 PLEX. You get the idea.

PLEX for fixing bad features. That can suck up infinite PLEX!

Gevlon said...

That's a great idea.

However the charity doesn't give away any profit. It gives away PLEX-es that wouldn't exist in the first place. The higher demand means higher price, so more people would buy PLEX from CCP.