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How about a quick mental exercise? Got your thinking caps on? Here we go.

In the “Sell Orders” section of the EVE forums, you can sell all sorts of EVE-related products and services for ISK. At one time, this only included in-game products and services. However of course, as the concept of being “in game” has expanded(1) so has the concept of an “in-game” product and service. For example, lots of alliances use chat services or kill-board services provided by central providers of those services. While it’s not an in-game service like Red Frog Freight, it’s certainly a service you wouldn’t need without the game.

As a result of all this, CCP expanded their definition of in-game services (it’s at the bottom of this post from CCP Spitfire):

This has been extended to include Characters, EVE Time Cards (ETCs), website hosting and voice chat services. Please use the sticky thread in OOPE to advertise signature services there. Please note that scamming for out of game services is not allowed; for more information see this post by GM Lelouch.

As implied, the post from GM Lelouch mostly has to do with scamming but does include this tidbit:

Finally, for maximum accountability, transactions involving out-of-game services such as killboard/voice chat server hosting should be negotiated through the sell orders section of these forums.

OK, so these sorts of services can be sold as long as the sale of them is documented in the forums, sort of like a character sale.

Players have certainly been taking advantage of this expansion of the definition. It’s a rare day that TS, Mumble, or kill-board services aren’t right there on the front page of the Sell Orders section. But Spitfire’s post also mentions “website hosting.” I myself have a domain that I use for hosting pictures that I put on this blog (among other things). Theoretically, someone out there who runs a website hosting company could sell me hosting services for ISK, too. And as long as we negotiated our agreement in the Sell Orders section of the forum, this would apparently be legal.

Let’s suppose you run a massive EVE gambling site that recently lost its main source of RL income. You have website hosting charges to pay. You don’t have a RL income any more but what you do have is billions of ISK flowing through your hands on a weekly basis. Suppose that you were willing to pay 50 billion ISK per year for website hosting…

Hey, you in the back! Don’t start talking yet. I’m not finished. Stay with me.

Ahem. Suppose that you were willing to pay 50 billion ISK per year for website hosting. On paper, that’s about 85 PLEXes with a nominal cash value of about $1500 U.S. It’s a sizable amount of in-game currency but ironically the actual amount doesn’t matter. Let’s just use 50 billion per year as an example amount for our discussion. Let’s say your actual RL hosting charges for your website are around $500 U.S. per year, again just as an example amount and again the actual amount doesn’t matter. It’s just a number we’re using for our discussion.

Per the Spitfire post, if you advertise that you’re willing to pay 50 billion ISK per year to host a website, and someone accepts that (or vice versa), then this is a perfectly legal transaction, an exchange of ISK for EVE-related services.

Let’s take it a step further. I don’t own a hosting company. But I do have $500. Let’s suppose that I’m willing to pay the hosting charges for this massive EVE gambling site. I go to the operators of this gambling website and they’re amenable to giving me 50 billion ISK per year for website hosting. I go to a hosting company I know, and I buy a dedicated hosting server. I then advertise it in Sell Orders with a somewhat misleading post title. The operator of this gambling site then replies to my post saying that he wants to buy my services with ISK. We then let the post fall far down into the invisible pit of thousands of other Sell Order posts.

The gambling site gets their hosting. I get 50 billion ISK — $1500 worth of ISK — for $500. Is this legal? Or is it RMT?

Not so fast.

When you buy a kill-board from EVSCO (which hundreds, if not thousands of EVE players, corps, and alliances have done), you pay ISK for the in-game service, which is legal. The owners of EVSCO then pay for the website hosting of your kill-board. As their in-game business has expanded, I’m quite sure they’ve had to pay more RL money to their hosting company to host all those kill-boards and deal with the demand. EVSCO pays RL money and in return receives large amounts of ISK from hundreds of EVE players, corps, and alliances. Same question: is that legal? Or is it RMT?

Don’t be alarmed. That sensation you’re experiencing is just the slippery slope.

I don’t know the answer to this question myself and hell, I’m not sure there is a definitive answer. I’ve been asking the question of a lot of different people lately (it usually escalates into an argument pretty rapidly).(2) Nobody seems to know the answer and those that do know the answer — if there is one — aren’t saying. What do you think? Discuss.

– Ripard Teg

If you would like to read more we invite you to visit his blog here.

(1) For instance, how often is The Mittani “in game”? How often am I? Am I “in game” right now as I type this? Am I “in game” when I’m debating some concept of future EVE development in my role as a CSM member? The whole idea of being “in game” probably deserves its own blog post at some point.
(2) My thanks to everyone who’s argued this with me over the last few days!

14 Comments

  1. NoTech

    Well since the introduction of PLEX there is an exchange rate between $/€/¥ and ISK which is dictated by supply and demand. Wouldn’t that (in theory) make ISK something like a real currency and everything RMT ?

    November 28, 2013 at 15:14 Reply
    1. neon

      Still no. Since there is no legal way to directly turn isk back into currency. Which is what CCP will uphold by all means necessary.

      November 28, 2013 at 15:29 Reply
      1. Bawk Bawkbagawk

        i cant be certain, but i think you are confusing “legal” with “company policy” another slippery slope.

        November 28, 2013 at 15:48 Reply
        1. neon

          The word is irrevenant. In the end “isk” is just a number in CCP’s database. They have full control and authority over it. You agreed to their legal therms (in the EULA) by using their service. If the other day CCP decides that even hosting game related IT services for eve-isk payments is no longer allowed you’d have to swallow it.

          November 28, 2013 at 15:54 Reply
          1. Bawk Bawkbagawk

            irrevenant isnt actually a word at all, stop trying to sound smarter than you are. i believe the difference between “legal” and “policy” is hugely RELEVANT in this age of corporation vs. sovereign country.

            November 28, 2013 at 16:26
          2. Lionel Joseph

            Bawk please refrain from using personal attacks to try and move your point forward. And I know your better than that.

            Look at it this way if you take isk for services but never do anything against the EULA such as RMT then that’s ok. If you as the example supplies charge someone 50 PLEX’s and I’m saying you trade them 50 PLEX’s in game for a service that at most is worth maybe half that, and if you never change the PLEX’s into real cash illegally then you are just scamming someone for isk in game which is fine if they don’t do the due diligence and look up prices. The second that isk is exchanged in any way into real cash then it’s RMT.

            November 28, 2013 at 16:49
          3. Bawk Bawkbagawk

            i wasnt attacking him, i was describing him.

            November 28, 2013 at 18:13
          4. Angry customer

            he could be chinese

            November 28, 2013 at 16:55
          5. neon

            “corporation vs. sovereign country” yes. If CCP would ever allow the way of isk back into currency it would be considered as a banking service which requires a banking licence, oversight and what not which would have implications that CCP just would do. So they just nuke those loopholes the moment they realize it gets problematic.

            November 28, 2013 at 17:17
      2. Duh

        There most certainly is a way to turn isk into real life currency- Somer has been doing it for years by giving people who gamble on his website ‘bonuses’ or isk incentives to buy a gametime code through his site- the sale of which, he gets a 7% cut from Markee Dragon. 200m to gamble with if you buy a GTC from Somer, they upped it to a billion the last week before the practice was shut down. They are looking for a new loophole and promise to track all GTC purchases for when they find the newest RMT loophole.

        November 28, 2013 at 16:00 Reply
      3. Adamski

        donate it to Plex 4 Good and your turning isk back to currency legally… you just cant have that isk

        November 28, 2013 at 17:08 Reply
  2. banned username

    Some people are too dense. Its just an easy way for CCP to track large amounts of ISK movements with seemingly no reason.

    November 28, 2013 at 16:08 Reply
  3. Dirk MacGirk

    Well, if CCP will allow the trade of isk for out of game, game-related services, such as website hosting, it could be used for RMT. I think Ripard’s example shows fairly well that it could. How far it could go would be predicated on whether CCP has any limits on they type of service, any oversight on what is being purchased (does it actually have to be game related?) and are there any rules on fair market value. What if it wasn’t 50 billion, but 100 billion for $500 worth of “service”. I think CCP is going down a pretty deep rabbit hole with this. A forum post outlining what is being transferred for isk isn’t a whole lot of evidence of anything. Will they even track whether or not the service was actually being transferred and for how long? How about I just say in the forum I am paying some dude for his hosting service? They going to check?

    November 28, 2013 at 17:47 Reply
  4. Argus Sorn

    As has been discussed elsewhere, the problem with RMT is not a guy getting ISK for cash. Everyone that sells web/hosting/etc. services for isk is getting isk for cash. This does not create unstable economics in game because people go out and earn the isk and use it to get a service. No one is converting isk into cash. Converting isk into cash however, turns EVE into a business and that’s where the ‘evil’ lies. Because then there is a motivation to spawn, through whatever way possible, massive amounts of isk in an effort to maximize profits.

    Too often people focus on ‘buying’ isk as RMT, but we buy isk all the time from CCP. The fact is that there are clear market controls on that isk, and it does not promote the capitalization of the game by outside forces. The same is true of people who sell services, in fact they are not capitalizing the game – but doing the reverse, they are gamifying their capital, and THAT is a positive thing.

    November 28, 2013 at 20:05 Reply

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