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My name is Hallan Turrek. This is my blog.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Money For Nothing, Isk for Free.

Is there something else I should know?
Something hidden down below the level of your conversation?
Well he turned away before the answer,
Though I yelled aloud he refused to hear,
It became too clear.
Bob Seger - Ship of Fools

I'm sure you folks've seen the recent expose on isk sellers, on Eve News 24. I've always been amazed that people actually do this thing. CCP Games has taken steps in the past to create a method to buy isk, and it's called PLEX. You go and buy a game time code, and sell it ingame. There's a scam free system set up to do this.

And yet someone's made almost 300,000 dollars off of CCP's game. Now, some of this can be chalked up to new players. These can be excused as ignorant. In that vein, some of the blame is on CCP. There should be better information available to the new player about PLEX. The game should have a prominent message when you log in for the first time about this whole deal. Sure some people wouldn't read it, but you don't gotta feel guilty about those that are ignorant because they've chosen to be.

But that's another matter altogether. I browsed the client list and found that a huge number of them had bought isk more than once. One guy, Icarantus, bought over 6,000 dollars in isk. I'm not sure of the exchange rate over at iskbank, but if you bought GTC's with that and that's a bit over 100 billion.

So I'm left seriously asking myself, what in the hell did this guy need 100 billion isk for exactly? And why was it so important that he save himself a few hundred dollars and take the risk of buying it illegally? Some of these other guys are going to be alright. They're in the hole for 100 million, or 5 billion. You can fix that kind of negative wallet balance. Eventually, and through hard work(or buying GTC's, you idiot) you can bring that back from the brink. But 100 billion? What the fucking fuck?

Now of course we're not discussing the real life information of these users. It's a good thing too, because that itself would be breaking the EULA. But these people bought isk, and it's for the community's good to see them pay for it. Making a public spectacle of these people, and displaying their names prominently will make it less likely for people to buy isk from the isk sellers in the first place.

But I'm always left aghast at the stupidity of people. Is there a fix for stupid? I doubt it, but better information is a good start. As long as people buy isk, the isk sellers will be breaking into accounts. They will be macro missioning, macro mining, macro ratting and just macroing in general.

There is no real life counterpart to this. Drugs work in the other direction, with the buyer willing to do anything illegal to get his fix, while isk sellers are willing to do anything illegal to have the product they need to sell. It's backwards, but I have a distinct feeling that if CCP cracks down hard on every single person on that list, and publicizes that fact, we'll be a bit further on the road to recovery.

So what you're going to say here is: "Well CCP gets money from each and every one of those subscribers, so it's in their best interest to slap them on the wrist,". Yes and no. This one leak shows 300,000 dollars that CCP didn't make because of real money trading. If this was WOW, or some of the other games, you'd be absolutely right. Real money trading is an annoyance, but it's not taking any money out of Blizzards pocket. CCP on the other hands has the PLEX system, a legal way to buy isk.

"So what" you say. "It's still more profitable to just let the accounts stay right?" Wrong bucko. 300,000 dollars is equivalent to almost 1700 accounts a year. That's just one leak in a veritable flood of real money trading. I hear a figure upwards of 6 million dollars being thrown around pretty regularly as a guestimate of how much money CCP loses a year to this.

Now sure, banning those accounts that bought the isk is a bad idea, you should crack down on those the old fashioned way, with negative isk balances. But the people who're doing the botting? Surely there aren't more than 33k accounts(6 million dollars a year worth) out there doing this, right? Even if there are, you ban them all and get that money back in PLEX. If there are more than that many accounts, it starts to become a real question of profit.

But you know what? CCP needs to learn to tell the truth. Look, I appreciate you want to look tough, but this?

We are aware of the evenews24 situation and the leaked list being discussed here. At this time we cannot comment on the information in focus but we would like to use this opportunity to remind everyone that buying ISK for real money is a violation of our EULA and anyone doing so risks getting the ISK removed and punitive action against their accounts, including possible permanent bans.

Shut up. It's possible CCP is actually dumb enough to perma ban someone for buying isk, but I doubt it(because, ironically, I have a certain amount of faith in CCP). Hey CCP, you want to be good at your job? Outline clear and exact punishments or shut up. "risks getting the isk removed"? "possible permanent bans?". I'm shaking in my boots, really.

What it should have said?

We are aware of the evenews24 situation and the leaked list being discussed here. At this time we cannot comment on the information in focus but we would like to use this opportunity to remind everyone that buying ISK for real money is a violation of our EULA and anyone doing so will have the isk and/or items removed from their account. We will also subtract an additional one billion isk from your wallet, regardless of your current balance.
That's clear, concise, and to the point, yeah? Say you're going to do that, and then do that thing you said you'd do. Ban the ISK sellers as you find them, permanently. Change your policies to be a lot less lenient on Macros(no more one day bans because you're afraid of catching regular players in the sweeps).

That isn't to say that your super secret RMT taskforce can't keep doing what it's doing. I know and you know what's going on here. You send your own folks in, buy a little isk, track the accounts that sell it to you, track the accounts they've ever gotten money from, do a little database searching to see if they traded items in space and all that rigamarole. You're doing that legwork, and I get it, you can't always crack down on people outright. It risks the investigation. But when someone reports a bunch of macro'ers in DRF space, and you give them one day bans, we know you're not trying at all.

The responsibility lies with both the playerbase and CCP and communication is the key.


  1. 100 billion is a sensible number. It's about the cost of a fitted titan and supercarrier, or a fitted titan and a character to fly it.

  2. CCP doesn't (usually) make any money on PLEX.
    They provide the same length of gametime they would otherwise have had to - and they get paid the same for every redeemed plex as if the owner has used it.
    The only PLEX that's free money for CCP (ie, any more profitable than a sub) is those PLEXes still floating in the market, PLEXes used to pay for products with ISK that cost less in cash (Portrait change, character transfer, etc)
    Oh, and if they introduce bloody microtransactions.

    But simply for doing GTC->PLEX->Gametime, there is no profit for CCP in it.

  3. Plex are worth a little more. It's $35 for 2, which is $17.5 for one. That's 17% more than a one-month subscription, and you get a discount on subscriptions if you set the interval to longer than a month -- a one-year subscription costs $11/month.