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!
– Gevlon Goblin