On October 12, 2016 at 13:32, CCP Falcon announced that there will be some new changes coming out with the Ascension expansion on November 8th. For months now, players have been told about the changes to clones states, mining, engineering complexes, and fleet boosting, but today a new change was announced, and in just the few hours since, the official forum has gained more than 10 pages of comments, and multiple eve subreddits have been started, all about the revisions to the EULA.
Revising the EULA is expected from time to time as major MMO’s grow and change, and with a major expansion like Ascension, moving Eve to a Free-to-Play model, it was required. Many of the changes were expected, but the largest and most controversial change is the choice by CCP to ban all third party gambling using ISK. The literal wording from the devblog
“You may not use, transfer or assign any game assets for games of chance operated by third parties. In short, this addition to the EVE Online EULA means that as of the launch of EVE Online: Ascension, players will be prohibited from using in game assets and currency, as well as the EVE IP, to take part in or promote gambling services or other games of chance that are operated by third parties.”
In addition to these changes, two prominent gambling websites have been shut down. IWANTISK and EveCasino have had all of their in game assets seized, as well as some of their members and employees, with rumors of bans applied to the top brass. This is as a result of real money trading (RMT) allegations against IWANTISK, and a violation of the Developers License Agreement by EveCasino. CCP stated that with these particular sites, all bets are null and void, and if a player has money in the site, it will not be refunded. Despite the apparent violations by some of the third party gambling sites, there remains those that did not violate the existing EULA or DLA and for those such as EVE-Bet and Eve Online Hold em’ (EOH) they will be allowed to continue, until the update goes live on November 8th, given that there are events, such as the alliance tournament, underway that may have outstanding wagers.
This comes as a shock to many, and leaves players to question the motivations behind the move, which will cripple many other third party services that depend on the betting services for their basic ISK needs.
Currently, there are two commonly held theories around the change; The first being that CCP has overreacted to a minority of 3rd party content providers and has decided to swing the banhammer at everyone as a result.
In a reddit post, the CEO of EOH, Niraia stated
“Suffice to say, it’s disappointing that the greed and reckless irresponsibility of others has resulted in the end of honest gambling services in EVE Online.”
There are many that agree with this point of view, and are concerned that RMT was the true cause of the ban. One of the comments in the response on the CCP forums was well thought out and captured the heart of the argument:
“I think the major bit of this is that it’s cost CCP a ton of money and manhours to investigate RMT in the cases named, and others. Time and again ISK gambling sites seem to slip into RMT along the way – and CCP have had to investigate. Not to mention accusations true or false on these sites having to be investigated. So why not save time and just cut them out entirely.”
Although this seems to be a completely logical and sound argument, there are others who believe that there is more to the issue, and that these bans are not the sole result of RMT, but also pressure on CCP from governments and existing litigation against other game developers to put an end to this practice. Most recently, Valve, the developer behind the popular PC FPS Counter Strike: Global Offensive, was notified by the Washington Gambling Commission that their practice of auctioning off “skins” in game violated gambling Laws of Washington state. According to the notice, using real money to purchase digital goods, and then gambling with those digital goods, constitutes gambling, and furthermore, there aren’t adequate measures in place to ensure that the participants are over the age of 18. Valve stated that they have issued 40 “Cease and desist” notices to the websites, and has declared that gambling in this fashion violates their rules.
Even closer to home for CCP, who have recently relocated their senior management team to London, the UK has recently stepped up its active involvement in removing online gambling related to “Skins” in both CS:GO and FIFA 2016. According to the white paper released by the UKGC(United Kingdom Gaming Commission):
“In considering whether prizes are money’s worth operators should look widely at the uses their prizes/winnings can be used:
- Can they be converted to money via third parties
- Are they tradeable with others to obtain goods or services
- as virtual currencies to pay for goods and services
If so it is likely that your prizes/winnings you are offering are money’s worth.”
In a recent article by the “NosyGamer blog” he believes that:
“But ISK, as regular readers of The Nosy Gamer know, is converted into real life currency every day on the secondary RMT (aka black) markets. So unlike in the ruling in Mason v. Machine Zone, Inc., illicit RMT does come into play in U.K. law. ISK also counts as money’s worth according to the second point. The obvious answer is that ISK is tradeable for PLEX, which is worth one month’s subscription to EVE. But ISK is also tradeable directly to other players for things like server fees, artwork, and payment to writers on various EVE Online news/fan sites. So ISK qualifies as money’s worth under two of the UKGC’s three criteria.”
If the UKGC agrees with NosyGamers analysis, this could present a problem for CCP, and so it is understandable that it may be better to completely remove gambling from third parties to protect itself from potential legal action. A combination of the two reasons seems to be the legitimate cause of this action, and there are many (check out the whole forum here) who believe this to be the case. Regardless of the cause, there has been backlash and there will continue to be fallout from this decision for the next few weeks, as Ascension approaches.
The main concern is for all of the non-gambling, third party, content sites that were supported by ad revenue from these major gambling sites. Both EVE-NT and Crossing Zebras have put out articles (EVE-NT Crossing Zebras stating that this will be a blow to creative voices that are compensated through ISK, although they will continue on and adapt to the changes as they come. We here at EN24 will also adapt and make the changes necessary to continue providing the news as we do now. Being one of the three largest sites, we are afforded more stability than many of the smaller broadcasters, and so this is a particular blow to them, as not everyone has the same level of stability. Although this was not likely a blow aimed at these content providers, it is one of the unintended consequences of CCP’s EULA change that must be faced now and overcome by the players. A far more troubling issue, however, is how this will affect many of the in game charities.
Only 2 months ago, EN24 held an interview with the leader of one of these charities, the “Best of Us” corporation. The BoU corp spends its time assisting veterans who are dealing with readjusting to civilian life, in an attempt to help lower the suicide rate of those veterans. In an interview with Jimmy Val’Rayne, the CEO of BoU, J Mcclain explained how they go about reaching this incredible goal:
“With some of the ISK pulled together we’ve helped a few of our guys with ISK for their twitch streams to help promote Vets doing good things in the game. We’ve taken out NPSI roams and been joined by CCP Larrikin more than once, he’s a huge bro when it comes to joining us. With the help of some charitable contributors we’ve gotten some game time for a few of our group who were have some hard financial times, hopefully by getting them access to the game it allowed them some sense of normalcy and enjoyment during a stressful time with what they were going through. But the most important thing I can say that we have done and offer to Vets is the ability to get plugged into a community where they know their peers understand what they are dealing with not just in the sense of possible mental health issues but the shared experience we all have. There have been some really good constructive conversations that happen from people trying to find help and have been given some really good guidance because of all the personal experience we have through folks in our group.”
Many of these charitable contributors have been these gambling websites, providing ships and ISK to help not only this, but many of the charitable events that take place in New Eden. It is one thing for a content producer to find alternative revenue streams, but these charities rely on just that, charity. We reached out to J Mcclain to get his take on this and how it will effect his charity:
Jimmy Val’Rayne: How do the recent changes to the EULA hurt the operations of BoU Charity?
J Mcclain: well we won’t be getting anymore money for ships
J Mcclain: so it might put a big cramp in our style for this coming veterans day fleet we were planning on doing
J Mcclain: Eve bet was a big supporter in the past as well
J Mcclain: so kinda a**ed out
J Mcclain: I don’t know how CCP thinks they can offset that negative impact
J Mcclain: I can’t go to them and ask for isk for ships
J Mcclain: they are super tight about that kind of s***”
These are highly public entities that have given their time and effort to make the world a better place, using Eve. They are publicized, and through their actions, the player base grows. CCP recognizes this, as they have tried their hand at crowdsourcing charity work, with their Sisters of Eve minigame. Their efforts through that brought in free press, and introduced people to Eve that never would have found it otherwise.
Unfortunately, these consequences will make the game less than it was, although there are some things that CCP could do. They could start an application system for donations of plex and ships to support charities/news sites/etc., make it public and have a cap in place beforehand, allowing for groups to be funded, without affecting the market. Not just CCP, but capsuleers as well, can have an influence, as alliances could contribute to these charities, individuals could donate ships or ISK, or there could even be a “Charity of the Month,” where a specific charity is focused on for that month.
Regardless of how, these third party content providers must be maintained, and with the gambling revenue removed, there is a gap that needs to be filled. CCP may have made the changes with the best intentions, but, as always, there are usually unintended consequences.