Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Worms are Out of the Can

My apologies for the lack of posting lately, TEST has been keeping us VERY busy in lowsec, and my downtime of sitting around hoping for fights has been minimal. Today though, I am presented with an opportunity I simply can not pass up.

Earlier this month, you may recall a trilogy of postings regarding SOMERblink (ONE, TWO, THREE), the love they were getting from CCP, their practices, and what looked to me like some messed up priorities. All the attention has seemed to have a bit of a negative side effect which will likely bring harm to both CCP and SOMERblink, probably sooner rather than later. The can of worms in this case has not only been opened, but dumped on the floor for good measure.

I didn't delve too far into SOMERblink's RMT scheme in my postings here (it was mentioned, but amid other issues I was trying to discuss, delving too deeply didn't seem prudent at the time) but when I guested on Podside #144 during the whole thing, I got into it with former CCP Zinfindel. The illegitimacy of the RMT nature of it did come up, with Zinfandel defending SOMER's practice as being so small that it's not a big deal. Of course, Zinfindel no longer works for CCP, so his word means nothing as far as company policy is concerned, but one may gather an implied endorsement with all the promotional consideration SOMERblink has received from CCP. At one point (can't find the link just now, but I know I saw it) one CCP employee, Navigator I think, endorsed SOMERblink as "legit".

Let's first take a look at what is going on here. One of SOMERblink's revenue streams comes from GTC referrals. They post a link on their website that leads to Markee Dragon, an official Eve GTC reseller. Buying GTCs through this link generates a referral code. 5% of the GTC sale is then paid to SOMERblink for the referral, and SOMER rewards the player who purchased in this way by giving them a free 200m ISK in credit on the gambling site. The goal of the player is to then use that credit to win something in a micro lottery, and if successful, cash out a nice in game bonus. SOMER's hope, of course, is that the player loses the 200m gambling.

Let's draw a picture to illustrate what is, and is not OK according to current implied CCP policy (forgive my paint skillz):
Feel free to use and distribute all you like! Click for big version!


Eve players being clever and all, have begun to realize this little implied loophole in CCP RMT policy, and the floodgates are beginning to open:

First, character DNSBLACK decided to quit eve and cash out.

Now you can buy GTC through a referral link for a 500m ISK bonus from Katarina Reid! That's way better for the player than SOMER's deal, and while the exchange rate is far below market value, Katarina has figured she can cash out her 600b in assets for just over $1,000! Several players have come out and endorsed the service as 100% legit and thanked Katarina for the money.

CCP has yet say anything about this one way or the other. On the one hand, they're in an awkward spot. By endorsing SOMERblink and not thinking about exactly what they were endorsing, they have effectively told the player base that RMT in this way is OK. DNSBLACK may get caught on a technicality, but Katarina appears to be completely in the green at this point.

Coming out swinging the ban hammer on these players, along with the requisite confiscation of illicit goods before an official CCP response would be ill advised, and could spell yet another PR disaster in this chain of events.

To be reasonable though, CCP can hardly allow this practice to continue. I think we can expect a cease and desist on this form of RMT in the relatively near future. I don't expect anyone involved to get banned or their stuff taken, but a "from this day forward..." posting will probably be in the works before too long. A smart move by CCP would have been a "We're looking into this..." posting already, but, well... yeah. I guess silence is golden in this case. Happy cash outs guys!

12 comments:

  1. ISK and asset selling is only bad on the seller's side for cutting into CCP's profits. For the buyer, they could have gotten exactly what they bought simply by spending money on PLEX and then using the market. This type of transaction has exactly the same type of end result on the buyer's side as the dollars for ISK scheme that is PLEX while protecting and even increasing CCP profits on the seller's side. I see no reason why CCP wouldn't want to encourage this type of practice.

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    1. The problem is that there's an awful lot of inactive isk in the Eve economy. Dr E described it a few years ago in either a QEN or devblog. If player's assets, instead of dying with them, get routinely released back into the economy then it's a very profound change. We're looking at potentially hundreds of trillions of extra isk being released into the money supply.

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    2. I can think of one good reason; giving players a way to pocket RL cash in exchange for their ability to cough up large sums of ISK encourages players to break the EULA with regards to making said large sums of ISK. We already have a problem with botters, and right now the only way for them to cash out ISK to cash is the black market, which puts off customers because of the risks of negwalleting or banning and the legitimate option of selling PLEX or GTCs. If players are able to legitimately purchase ISK via this loophole then the demand for ISK to purchase is going to increase, and it's a good bet that a good portion of that demand will be met through TOS violations: botting, account theft and sweatshop labour. Do I need to point out the problems they bring? Botters or sweatshops running content 24/7, both out-competing legitimate players and devaluing their work, plus causing faster inflation and raising PLEX price from running their accounts. Inventive, intrusive and annoying phishing campaigns and keyloggers.

      Even better, imagine how CCP customer support handle an account theft where the account's assets have been sold via this new grey market. As I understand it, their current policy is to reimburse the victim, which doesn't have much wider effect since they can legitimately remove the ISK that was stolen by negwalleting the buyers; after all, they bought ISK against the TOS. However if the ISK is sold on this GTC bonus grey market they can hardly turn around and wipe it from the customers, after all they bought it above board! So what instead? Duplicate the ISK/items passed on? How long until some enterprising EVE player fakes being hacked to dupe their assets?

      Perhaps this sounds unnecessarily paranoid to you; it's certainly paranoid, at the very least. On the other hand, the one constant in all the time I've played EVE has been that if you give the playerbase as a whole a loophole they will find every possible way to use it and abuse it.

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  2. Would you neckbeards let this fucking die already ffs

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  3. @anon Ooooh someones getting pissed because they dont like the turn of evens.

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  4. How is it that every blogger conveniently forgets that with RMT there is no PLEX created? That is an important difference. With RMT it's straight isk for cash, nothing is created. With a GTC sale you are creating a PLEX and CCP gets paid. If individuals like Katarina Reid want to isk-subsidize CCP's GTC sales that's fine by me.

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    1. Really? I visit RMT sites quite frequently and not only do they sell ISK, but they sell PLEX as well. Some of them even sell ships and modules.

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  5. Did you get banned from Blink? Lost too much ISK? Show us on the doll where Somer touched you.

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    1. Actually I've never played blink at all. Took about 3 seconds to see what the site was about and decided it was a bad idea.

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  6. More Autumn of Autism blog sperging.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Seems to me the only real solution is do ban GTC selling and third party involvement? That removes the option to cash out.
    We can ignore PLEX because it doesn't allow you to cash out, it allows you to not to spent money on accounts.

    How would the removal of GTC impact the game? It wouldn't affect me personally but I am not looking to cash out..

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