Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SOMERtime BBQ, Now with More Sauce

Shortly after my update last night was done, SOMERblink's PLEX buyback promotion hit the skids. Somer posted a bit of a bitter message on his website, and I smiled for the first time all day. His words were not the words of someone interested  in making things right, rather he drew his sword, then lashed back at CCP and the VP of sales it would appear he manipulated into giving the go-ahead for his latest RMT cashout scheme.

Based on Somer's reaction, my advice to the community last night on twitter was to cash out of Blink before Somer tried to pull an Eve Bank and hit the exit running.

This morning the CSM had another alarm clock meeting with CCP. The picture of what happened is getting quite clear at this point. What you don't need an NDA to know was actually posted up by Somer himself where he linked his proposal to CCP, and CCP's VP of sales e-mail response to him. Where Somer hung himself on this was where he said:
Blink provides no extra ISK or bonus Blink credit for buying through the link. - Somer
Now I can't speak for CCP on this, but the way I see it, offering to buy PLEX back from only people who buy from you at a price substantially above market looks to me like extra ISK in thanks for dropping a little RL $$ in your pocket. Making it retroactive for almost a year saw PLEX prices in Jita yesterday rise from 785 to over 800 million as a result of what I assume were people snapping up PLEX on the market to cash out on what Somer said he owed them.

Somer's entire proposal reeked of a sleezy sales job, deliberately deceptive as to what his intentions were, and tailor made for an audience with limited knowledge of the actual game Eve and its economy. It's also telling that he seems to have avoided the Community team on this, where his proposal likely would have found its way to the trash bin faster than a Doritos bag in the hands of a fat kid.

Based off the e-mail chain posted by Somer, it also appears that Markee Dragon has had his hands in this, and Somer was trying to cover Markee's ass almost as much as his own in seeking approval for this RMT run. Markee himself is no stranger to RMT, and has a deep seeded history in it going all the way back to Ultima Online. He may have cleaned up his act since those days, but I refuse to believe he doesn't recognize an RMT scheme when he sees it, especially one as blatant as this one.

So where does this leave us at this point? I'm absolutely of the opinion that Somer is in breech of the EULA and TOS. His "approval" from CCP means jack shit. His proposal for this promotion was deliberately misleading as to what his actual intentions were. He knew what he was doing from the start, and put a house of cards in place to attempt to cover his ass from the inevitable community backlash that would result from this, a house of cards that has gone up like flash paper thanks to his own revealing of both his proposal, and the VP of Sale's response.

While Somerset Mahm is a player in eve, Markee Dragon is an official CCP business partner, and PLEX resellers are governed by a different set of rules than players. He could also play the plausible deniability card, stating that he took what I did from Somer's proposal and didn't realize Somer was actually going to give the ISK bonus as an above-market exclusive buyback.

If this was my call to make (and fortunately for Somer it's not) I'd see SOMERblink burned down epic BBQ style for this. This guy has gotten so many breaks at this point it almost makes me sick. This latest incident is a nose thumbing not only at the community, but also a nice little teabagging for CCP in the process. This is the sort of person you make an example of for others to understand that this is not how to conduct business.

Sadly, as of this evening, it looks like Somerset Mahm has chosen seppuku over the possibility of a public execution:
Hey friends,

Thanks for all the years of Blink that we've spent together. It's been a long four years-- some of it longer than others!
Unfortunately, as of today, Blink is going to go on extended-- perhaps indefinite-- hiatus. CCP has gone back on everything they said several months ago, and the resulting environment is so hostile that it's not one we want to try to operate in, if CCP throws us under the bus.
If you have prizes waiting, they will be fulfilled. You can claim prizes as normal. Bonk tickets have been refunded to your account balance. We will begin refunding all account balances of people that have played in the last 6 months, starting with balances over 10 million ISK. As always, we're not in the business of stealing your money. 
It's been an absolute pleasure to meet many of you, through Blink, Eve, and our lotteries channel. Thank you for the experience.
Smart play on his part returning the ISK to people, assuming he follows through on it. That will at least ensure some goodwill from his customers if he ever figures out how to run an Eve business without resorting to RMT. I'd like to think this will be the end of it, but Somer strikes me as the dramatic sort. While a quiet fade into the night would be preferable for all those involved at this point, one can only hope he provides us a little more rope to hang him with.


  1. I'd go as far to say that this Lisa gave him the go-ahead before it went through all the proper CCP departments. While she may be a representative of CCP by virtue of being an employee Lisa is not CCP in and of herself. This whole thing stinks. Tinfoil would add insider help because of RL friendship? The whole thing is wrong

  2. Well said.

    I suspect he could've probably covered his server costs pretty easily running as a standard affiliate, but that doesn't appear to be enough. He wanted to (continue to) make real world dollars by running an eve business, and thus he deserves all the scrutiny he got.

    I've got a question that I feel is pretty pertinent, we have some educated guesses to what Somer was making on each PLEX purchase, but do we have estimates as to what Markee Dragon is making?

    1. All resellers buy plex for the same amount, though they choose their affiliates and how much they're willing to pay them. I do not know what amount they pay for PLEX.

  3. CCP are being incredibly shortsighted. You only have to look at the likes of Youtube or Dota to see the power of supporting 3rd party creativity.
    Understand that what Somer did was not fully above board but CCP have no legitimate schemes setup to compensate those who are giving so much to their game.

    Imagine if CCP had third party developers paid with the $21m that they sank into the pit of World of Darkness and lets not even consider Dust 514.

    Give us a tools and compensation and I can see talented players creating: ships and paint jobs for the rest of us to enjoy.

    1. There are plenty of 3rd parties supporting this game AND following the rules. Battleclinic, Eve-Bet, and EOH to name a few. Also plenty of ETC resellers that don't resort to affiliates pulling dirty tricks to generate business. when I was at Eve New England last weekend, Somer was only one of about a dozen logos on the official t-shirts.

      On a side note, if you want to see some aweome ship paint jobs, I suggest following Caldari Prime Pony Club on twitter. @PaulOosterman

    2. Why do we need to be paid to generate fan content about a game we love? If you need to be paid to do it, it's obviously not for you. Sure, it may take running costs which you need to ask the community to help with, like with EVE-radio requesting donations and offering a premium quality service to people who support them, but those shouldn't be provided by CCP.

      The affiliate programs help you do this, and they should be used for people making a choice around who they wish to support when buying their GTCs. If Somer had just used those normal methods, there would be no problem, but he's a greedy scumbag who decided to abuse the scheme for RMT and deserves to be forcefully removed from the game.

  4. Now, can we turn our attentions to Markee Dragon? He's about as legitimate as Corleone.

  5. Everyone is RMTing, from big 0.0 aliance leaders to CEOs of small renting corporations. Sadly, Somer was dumb to trying it in so obvious way.

  6. Nice to see who not to vote on for next CSM.

    1. :) If you're this buttmad about it, considering how I came down on blink last year when this happened, you were a fool if you voted for me the last election.

  7. Well there goes the program that used to sponsor a significant portion of the community events in the game :( and provide entertainment for many.
    RMT or not this is definitely a loss for the game.

    1. They are not the only ones who have sponsored community events. At Eve New England, somer was only one of about a dozen sponsors. This is less of a loss than you think.

  8. As much as I hate to use the anonymous angle, here's a bit of a thought.

    Somer's financial relation is not with CCP. It is with Markee. While I'm sure CCP pressured him, I can honestly see Markee pressuring him effectively to close down the house properly. After all, Markee has worked hard to get a foot in the door (special status, special relationship, special margins, community spotlight, etcetera) to seem legit. Same as he's done with his stunts and RMT practices in other games.

    I seriously wonder how the fuck CCP ever let that dude get a foot in the door. And chances are, he's going to get away with it again. Tossing Somer to the wolves, preserving his relation so he can find yet another way to dominate the eve player market. Each time cutting off extra fat from the meat.

    And CCP's quiet on that part of this. While Somer was angling to secure Markee's ass. Again. Especially considering how Markee has pulled off the same stunt in other games, I don't have any doubt whatsoever that he's in it.

    And yet he walks free, his special relationship intact.

  9. "Sadly, as of this evening, it looks like Somerset Mahm has chosen seppuku over the possibility of a public execution:"

    "Public execution" is still entirely possible, in the form of banning of all of his accounts and seizing of assets, as well as the banning of accounts of all who worked for him as participants in this business, and the revoking of Markee Dragon's status as a PLEX retailer. Frankly, this is the only acceptable course of action at this time. Somerset Mahm and his employees cannot be let off the hook just because they have voluntarily closed up shop. Shutting their doors does not excuse them from facing the repercussions of their actions, nor does it absolve CCP of the responsibility to enforce their rules evenly to all players. The worst thing that could happen in all of this is for Somerset Mahm et al to go unpunished simply because they have chosen to withdraw from public prominence.

    Forgive me for being cynical, but years of Somerset Mahm flouting the rules of this game and getting away with it has left me distrustful of his motives. The refund of ISK to Somer Blink players just stinks of an opportunity to launder ISK to alt accounts for future use, and to make CCP's job harder by creating so many new transactions as to obfuscate what may be happening. To prevent this, at the very least Somer Blink affiliated accounts should have been frozen until the investigation could have been concluded.

    No, Somer Blink shutting themselves down is not nearly enough for an acceptable solution. Do not let the collective members of Somer Blink slink off quietly into the night without being held accountable to the rules which they have broken. If CCP fails to punish these players appropriately, I will have no faith in their ability to be "impartial referees" of their sandbox, and no reason to trust them with my money (although to be fair, I already have very little trust in CCP after the last Somergate).