Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts on money...real money part I

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?


  1. Aurum exists for the simple reason that CCP wants a way to force the *consumption* of PLEX. That action (PLEX sink) makes RL cash come into CCP's wallet, by virtue of increasing PLEX demand triggering more PLEX sales, which in turn come from GTC sales. "Then why not price Noble items in PLEX directly?" Because the value in a single PLEX is too high relative to the things that CCP envisions selling, so they had to create a sub-division of PLEX. Thus "Aurum".

  2. Why not price Noble items in ISK directly? WIth the variable conversion of Aurum to ISK (Currently 3500:400, or 875:1) is it because the items would have to sell for fractions of ISK? That is the real "acceptable" reason, although it seems it would still be simpler to just use fractions of ISK, like dollars and cents...

  3. ISK is created via game mechanics, thus has NO ACTUAL REAL WORLD VALUE. Plex can be used to move ISK around from player to player, but no new ISK is created and the Plex is not used for anything else but game time.

    Thus, Aurum is needed to consume the Plex in a manner other than game time.

    Also, items cannot be sold for ISK because, as I said above, ISK actually has no monetary value. Aurum, coming ONLY from Plex, does.

  4. Ah, so PLEX are actually consumed (and removed from the game) via Aurum conversion? Are they then created when the reverse happens? Aurum to PLEX?

    And if it is in your hangar (like an Ishukone Watch Scorpion) you can sell it via contract or market. Unless CCP wanted to make a huge headache for themselves.

  5. From what I've heard, Aurum cannot be made back into Plex. Also, they are not allowing transfer of Aurum between players yet according ot the patchnotes. The items purchased with Aurum from the Nobel exchange can be I've heard (but not confirmed).

  6. I'm pretty sure I read in one of the Aurum threadnaughts a CCP dev saying you could buy PLEX from Aurum, but there was a lot of reading. As for the rest, from the release notes:

    Our new virtual store, the Noble Exchange is now accessible through the Station Services. Goods can be purchased from the Noble Exchange using the new currency called Aurum, and you can sell those goods again on the market for ISK. Please check out this dev blog from CCP Zulu for more information.
    A fashionable collection of classic military clothing has been supplied to the marketplace for both male and female characters.
    All goods purchased from the Noble Exchange will appear as an item in Items Hangar of your current station.
    All purchased clothing items in your current hangar will appear in the Character Creator when you re-customize your character.
    All clothing in the Noble Exchange can be previewed on a 3-D mannequin model via Show Info.

  7. I think they needed a new currency anyhow just do deal with the fact that ISK is scaled to spaceships and people are mostly going to be buying clothes, etc. in the shop. If the clothes prices were "to scale" in ISK, they might as well be free. If they're going to cost anything at all, it has to be hilariously overpriced, so at least it looks better in a currency other than ISK.

  8. Because if eve was real life, I would much rather run around naked and fly a bunch of awesome ships than wear something "fashionable"