I've been digesting the issues CCP has put before the community recently, and trying to determine how bad some of it is. I've posted short twitter comments, but really, that medium doesn't allow wall-of-text exposition, and some of these topics need that.
First up: Microtransactions
This one is rife with trouble, most of it revolving around discussions for a special, skinned ship, the Ishukone Scorpion. This ship would (initially) only be available in the Noble Exchange, which has much of the community up in arms, as this appears to be the first step towards cash for real items, at least to the short sighted. Of course, CCP claimed that they would not introduce items that gave an in-game advantage to this new Microtransaction store, and at first glance this breaks that agreement. Unfortunately, it's a misconception on the player's part. Let's follow the path of money (real money) into EVE online. Right now, there is only one way to "spend" real money on EVE, and that is for subscription time. You can pay a standard monthly subscription, you can buy a Game Time Card (GTC) from a CCP partner, or you can buy PLEX (Pilot's License EXtension) from CCP. A GTC is converted in-game into two PLEX, an in-game item. Today, a PLEX (or a GTC, for that matter) can be traded for ISK, on the open EVE market. OK - that's how money gets into EVE today. Coming soon: Aurum. This is a new way to get money into EVE, I don't know the actual process, whether it's only a PLEX to Aurum conversion, or if you will be able to directly buy Aurum with money through CCP (or third party authorized sites). Either way, this is the microtransaction currency. I think this is dumb, by the way. They just ought to let you buy ISK, and add the new items to the regular market. After all, you can already do that.
As we followed above, when you buy a GTC you can convert it straight to ISK (by selling it to another player) or convert it into two PLEX (which can also be sold for ISK). So you already have a path to convert real money into ISK. That ISK can be used in game to buy whatever items are available on the market, from a single unit of Tritanium to a Titan. Depending on what you buy with your ISK (think +5 implants, or better ships/modules), you can gain an in-game advantage over someone with less real-world cash, because you spent money to get ISK quickly, while someone else has to grind it in game. So what exactly does the Aurum market add besides un-neccessary complexity?
Moving money around in EVE
With the introduction of Aurum, it seems to me CCP is just trying to assuage upset customers who don't realize you already have fairly direct ways of spending real money to "get ahead." After all, Aurum comes from PLEX (you sell a PLEX for Aurum), and CCP has said that you can buy a PLEX with Aurum, so you basically have a second currency for no good reason. After all, PLEX -> ISK -> PLEX is already a proven currency flow, so adding PLEX -> Aurum -> PLEX is actually just an extension of the chain: PLEX -> ISK -> PLEX -> Aurum -> PLEX -> ISK. I see PLEX now as a new "meta currency" between the two main currencies in EVE, Aurum and ISK. So why have two currencies with an exchange? I don't know. But I do know that no matter what is for sale in the Noble Exchange, you will be able to get it with ISK. After all, if you have about 350 million ISK (June 2011) you can buy a PLEX. Now, take that PLEX and convert it to Aurum. Now buy what you want in the Noble Exchange. Turn around and sell it for a profit, take the excess Aurum and convert it back into a PLEX. Sell that PLEX for ISK. Rinse and repeat.
So although I was initially upset about the Ishukone Watch Scorpion (a special skinned ship that would be available in the Noble Exchange), I'm not anymore. After all, if I have enough ISK to convert to PLEX to convert to Aurum I can buy one, basically with my ISK. In addition, once the item exists in game, I should be able to sell it on a contract on the EVE open ISK market, (or buy one the same way), without having to deal with the Aurum/Noble Exchange at all. CCP seems to have done this to create an false wall between ISK and microtransactions, when in reality it's just adding more steps between ISK and new items. Unless, of course, those items can never, ever be traded to another player. But wouldn't that be stupid?
As for the ship itself, it's not functionally special. CCP has said it was a standard Scorpion with a special paint job - but why does that matter? So what if you can only get it in the Noble Exchange? You can take your ISK, convert it to PLEX then to Aurum and buy it. You don't HAVE to spend real money on it. And that brings me (finally) to my question. What's the big deal then?