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Comment: It's not really ONLY about those profits... (Score 4, Informative) 315

by tibike77 (#36577694) Attached to: <em>EVE Online</em> Players Rage, Protest Over Microtransactions

It's much more complicated than this, and right now a lot of players are too enrage over the poor implementation to see the big picture.
If you're easily bored by explanations, jump right to the last paragraph, if not, read the rest too.

A bit of a background is needed here to properly understand what's going on.
I won't bore you with much detail (as incredible as this sounds, this below is the short version).

Since many years ago, for the majority of the game's life actually, CCP (the game makers) attempted to curtail attempts of RMT ("Real Money Trading") - and mostly succeeded in reducing the frequency of it happening - by allowing players to sell GTC ("Game Time Cards") for ISK ("InterStellar Kredits", the in-game currency).
This meant some people were getting the ISK they wanted without having to buy from "goldfarmers" (so to speak), while some players could afford to "play for free" (not pay any real-life cash for their subscriptions). It didn't take long for CCP to introduce a secure trading method, which became the only allowed exchange option, with the game time automatically applied to the purchasing account (to prevent RMTers from buying GTCs and selling those for cash).
This became popular enough that nearly a quarter of the total active accounts were actually subscribed using this particular method. Or, in other words, they were seeing a more than 30% increase in subscription counts because of it.
About two and a half years ago, CCP decided to introduce a new way to trade GTCs, by allowing players to split a purchased 60-day GTC into two 30-day PLEX ("Pilot License EXtension") in-game items, which could be traded on the in-game free market.
What CCP didn't expect however was just how popular PLEX would become.
TOO popular, in fact.
It didn't take long for the player base to realize that investing ISK into PLEX could be viewed as a hedge against inflation, as a security blanket for the time they might not afford to pay real-life cash for a while, or even just as yet another good to be traded by the ultra-rich (in ISK) players.
Because of that, the demand to purchase PLEX was outstripping the need for PLEX to be used on the spot, so the price on the open market was a bit higher than what it would have been if it would only have been used as a subscription extension tool - and as such, the supply side (people purchasing it for cash to sell for ISK) obliged them, and increasing numbers of PLEX have been stockpiling in people's hangars.
The only data regarding this trend is quite old, from mid-August 2009 - a developer blog with some interesting graphs : http://www.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&bid=684
Players have speculated about just how many PLEX are now stockpiled, the most reserved estimates put a lower count of around 75,000 PLEX (real-life cash equivalent of around 1.3 million USD), with opinions split about the upper bound, but even 300,000 PLEX would not be difficult to believe (roughly 5.25 million USD), and some people claim it might be even higher.

Now, it should be pretty obvious as to why a company the size of CCP would be worried about "unclaimed" pre-paid subscriptions worth anything between 1 and 5 million dollars floating around inside their own game.
As they say, within this here lies the rub.
So they hatched a plan, this microtransaction deal.

It was by no means the first contingency plan, they tried various other methods first, anything from allowing people to use PLEX for other services that used to require a cash payment (like character transfers, for instance) up to holding donation drives for real-life aid, drives accepting both ISK and PLEX (to be converted by CCP into cash and donated on behalf of the player base to charity, without any tax breaks from it).
Obviously, that didn't work well enough, and the threat of financial liabilities growing ever larger in these uncertain economic times (and let's not forget, they're an Iceland-based software development company, which makes this even more of a concern for them) forced them to think something else up.
The result was the NEX ("Noble EXchange") in-game microtransaction store, and a new in-game currency, AUR ("Aurum", latin for "Gold"), created in batches of 3500 AUR when converting 1 PLEX (which puts the real-world equivalent of 1 AUR = 0.005 USD).

So, now, one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, the part which escapes almost any media report, a fact that still escapes even to the vast majority of the enraged players is that this NEX store is _NOT_ really supposed to be a place where people who want to spend real-life cash come to visit.

The NEX (and the new AUR currency) was designed with the primary goal of DESTROYING THE SURPLUS "PLEX" STOCKPILES by allowing ISK-rich players (and EVE has quite a few of them) to flaunt their virtual wealth by buying up PLEX on the open market, turning it into AUR and purchasing anything they like from the NEX.
It is wholly irrelevant that "THE MONOCLE" comes out as the equivalent of 60 USD.
What is relevant is that, on average, one monocle comes out as roughly 3.43 less PLEX in-game, with around 1.3 billion ISK changing hands from the ISK-rich player to one of the formerly PLEX stockpiling players.

Players aren't really all that mad about the ludicrous price of items in the NEX (although, to be fair, some are) - what they are most angry about is the way it was implemented.
If you want to hear more details about what exactly EVE players are actually mostly mad about, there's one document written by one of the players that goes around on the forums describing it in even more detail : http://eve.beyondreality.se/NeXCQResponse.html

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