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Agent D.
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« on: December 10, 2012, 08:37:42 AM »

Ok, so I've been playing FFXI for about 2 years now, with 2 years of PSU and a year of random free to play MMOs, and all this time, real money trading haa been a dominate force behind these games. You get people who don't wanna work who are willing to spend money to make progress in games that usually demand effort for rewards, it's no different from real life. Now personally, I've got a sense of honor (???) when I play games. I earn it, I own it, I keep it as a souvenier, but there are others who don't feel this way as strongly, and as a gamer, I feel this has isn't as huge an issue as companies make it to be. On the contrary, I feel that selling an item or service for a real monetary value is ingenious. So why do so many people frown upon it? Even worse, why do companies like Square Enix and Blizzard go so far to stop it? I can understand that as I don't own the game, selling materials amd items I have found in it are not legal, but in that respect, it's my time I am selling, and no company owns it. If I waste 2 years of my life farming a super rare item and then sell that item to a person, I am not selling him the item, but the extended amount of time I used in my life to obtain it. If I spend 6 hours a day farming cheap crap to sell for money that I intend to sell to someone else, why is this so heavily frowned upon? How does it destroy economies in these games? It's no different from a group of players exploiting high prices in a game by camping any and all places to obtain these items and control the price influx, just one merits a person doing this in a financial way. And as insult to injury, some of these companies offer their own variation, selling items or specialized currency in game for real value to obtain certain items or equipment otherwise inaccessible to players (casual players anyway).

Basically, why does it seem to be okay to condemn players who take advantage of lame people who rather pay to win? Even worse, why is it okay for the companies to take advantage of it?
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2012, 09:25:33 AM »

Great question.

Gamasutra did what I consider to be one of the best analysis of MMO economies back in 2010: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134576/virtual_economic_theory_how_mmos_.php?print=1 - I linked the printer friendly version so you don't have to page through.

As near as I can tell, the actual company behind the game cares about this insofar as they want you to continue playing the game and spending money on THEIR stuff as opposed to some outside party. Money that goes into a gold farmer's pocket is money that doesn't go into the company's pocket because time = money: on a subscription game, that is less time you'll need to spend that month acquiring the gold. Similarly in microtransaction type games, every dime spent outside is a dime they're not getting.

Obviously the notion of how to maximize profit by separating people from as much money as they will tolerate is at the core of the business, so this keeps evolving in interesting ways.
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Agent D.
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2012, 11:28:50 AM »

That's exactly what I was thinking regarding it. Spoiled corporations just want more money, no matter how they get it. I find it hypocritical that we work for their gain only. If I offer 10 bucks to a player for me to tag along and leech experience from their work, and claim any valuable stuff, who is Square Enix to tell me I am breaking their terms of service? Square Enix, Blizzard, SCEA...they don't own my time, and are entitled to no say how I spend it.

Corporate greed is balls.
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2012, 12:09:12 PM »

Well, that is one way of looking at it. Not necessarily an incorrect way.

Another way though is that this is how you pay for these games and the staff that builds and maintains it. Obviously if there is no profit to be had, the game will cease to exist.

I certainly understand your POV on the matter, but I also understand the company POV which is if they freely allow this, they lose a big chunk of money that keeps the game alive in the first place. For evidence you need look no farther than the virtual graveyard of past MMOs that couldn't get a handle on this type of thing.

The more interesting question to me is how you design games that CAN allow this and still be profitable. Diablo 3 is kind of an interesting experiment that way - make no mistake that Blizzard manages that game like an MMO, even if there is no monthly fee. The new Guild Wars is another.

I think the answer is more of a design issue from day one when you are planning how you are going to make money and keep games like these running. As currently implemented, it is easy to see why Blizzard and Square Enix take the stance they do - they don't really have a choice as the games currently exist if they want to keep being profitable.
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Agent D.
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 12:52:34 PM »

But in prior years, FFXI was unapproachable as a short term game. The scope of involvement required to advance was massive. As a career Dark Knight, it took me almost a full year of play to reach level 75, which was the old level cap. I had the freedom to dedicate lots of time to do this, so I stayed playing. Numerous friends of mine left the game at around 50 or so due to the sheer grind of getting to the fun stuff end game content. It defeats the the player before they even have a chance to try something hard. Granted, since XI changed its entire everything to easy mode, its more approachable, but players still need to do ridiculous amounts of grinding for the better weaponry and armor. Long story short, this either scares fresh blood away, or infuriates current players who are singled out due to being inferior in terms of gear and level. In this case, I feel that allowing a player controlled boosting system using real money isn't a harmful thing at all. It may not be the case for some mmos, but that's just my opinion here.

Personally, I feel squeenix would do well simply taking a cut of the rmt profits. Can't hurt them, that's for sure.
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2012, 12:56:24 PM »

I certainly am not privy to the player behavior statistics Square Enix has - but your idea that it "can't hurt them" does definitely interest me.

What I mean is, I actually do wonder if it would be possible for them to somehow implement a system whereby they get a cut of profits for player transactions like that involving actual TIME. When it is gear and gold that's one thing, since they can control drop rates, but when you're talking about paying somebody to play the game for you how would you even enforce that? And why wouldn't a player simply want to go around the issue by conducting the transaction outside of the game so they keep 100% of the cut instead of anything less?

It's an interesting problem.
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Akanbe-
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2012, 02:29:25 PM »

If I spend 6 hours a day farming cheap crap to sell for money that I intend to sell to someone else, why is this so heavily frowned upon? How does it destroy economies in these games? It's no different from a group of players exploiting high prices in a game by camping any and all places to obtain these items and control the price

It is different.  Having bots farm stuff 24/7 day in and day out will get much more stuff than a couple players would farming for a few hours.  As far as destroying economies go, I don't know.  Sure, it does to a degree hurt people who are legitimately trying to sell their goods because the flood of goods on the market will cause the price to drop quite a bit.  On the other hand, it brings the prices down on many necessities making things cheaper and easier to make which causes you to not need gold as much unless there are a lot of developer made gold sinks where price is not affected by a good or bad economy.  On a related note, I fucking hate Economics and really don't know it too well so I probably don't know the effects it can have on the economy other than what I listed =P


These days, I think the biggest argument people have against RMT is that it directly fuels account hacking which causes problems and headaches for both the customers and the game company.  One could lay the blame on people for using weak security practices (weak pws, using bad sites, etc), but it seems to happen quite often to all kinds of people, even techy people who practice good security measures.  That's pretty much the reason why I use an authenticator for everything I possibly can.


As near as I can tell, the actual company behind the game cares about this insofar as they want you to continue playing the game and spending money on THEIR stuff as opposed to some outside party. Money that goes into a gold farmer's pocket is money that doesn't go into the company's pocket because time = money: on a subscription game, that is less time you'll need to spend that month acquiring the gold. Similarly in microtransaction type games, every dime spent outside is a dime they're not getting.

As for micro-transaction games and F2P games (whatever you want to call Guild Wars 2), that's pretty much spot on.  They have a vested interest in trying to limit this as much as possible since they're wanting extra revenue to come in from the micro stuff since they don't have a subscription based game.  Really, micro-transactions are practically pure profit outside of credit card transaction fees so I can see why they want to protect it as much as possible.

As for subscription based games, it really depends on the game.  For games like Final Fantasy XI, where (I believe) you can buy great equipment on the AH, you are probably spot on.  For other games like WoW, I don't agree.  In WoW's case, I don't think buying gold would reduce the amount of time a player would stay subbed as gold has limited amounts of use.  You won't be able to buy or craft the best gear so buying gold to get ahead of the game doesn't really work.  In the past, from what I read, most people have bought gold so they don't have to farm materials that they will later need to do what they REALLY want which in this case is raiding.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2012, 02:47:13 PM by Akanbe- » Logged


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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2012, 02:40:34 PM »

The reason I say it can't hurt them is because generally, the players are going to find methods to do things like that anyway, so if SE drops the banhammer, all they do is lose subscriptions that were paying money, even if they were not doing much in terms of actual play. Instead, they could allow players the limited ability to conduct business via an authorized assistance channel, paying commission fees to veteran players for their services. Something like 1 dollar per 10,000 exp aquired, or 5 dollars for a mission battle completion along with all rewards going to the customer. Takes away some of the competitive edge of selling items like that, which in turn could help adjust the fucked economy in some games. Matter of fact, assigning the drops to the player in a fashion that they couldn't be sold after would even fix it further. This is pretty simplistic to me, as I know it's fully possible to do a fixed to player thing ( ex items in ffxi). You could even leave the non- assisted versions as free to sell, giving players incentive not to pay to win. It's pretty common knowledge that if you make bad things acceptable, people tend to not use them as often, or generally don't go beyond the one bad habit.

Obviously I am no business graduate, but for a company that's losing money because its playerbase is getting annoyed at their bad decisions, maybe they should cater to the fans more instead of assuming they know better. I can't say the same about blizzard or bioware or other mmo developers maybe, but the people who play those types of games are pretty similar between titles. What works on one should work on others. But meh, who am I to call out these asshats, eh?
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« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2012, 03:11:12 PM »

I'm double posting because it took me the course of an hour to write that last post, its hard to finish a thought while at work.

I can understand botting, which is horseshit and should be banned. It's one thing to pay a person to do your work, but making a program do it is beyond dishonest. One of the things I HATE about ffxi is the massive amount of mods they have for the pc version. Sorry, it's cheating to use windower, it is, deal with it. But bots that allow you to operate while elsewhere.....no, fuck you, banhammer. That's where rmt is out of hand and needs to.be dealt with, and I'm sure it could be handled alot better if companies were more forthcoming on paying for solutions or people to solve these problems directly. I blame that on corporate greed once more, as it's some rinky dink kid sitting in his basement that makes the software to perform these tasks, not some MIT grad with a bachelors' in programming and an associates'  in computer science. What little you claim to know about economy, Akanbe, is about what I know regarding computer program design, but sometimes basic knowledge is pretty good itself.

If RMT stood to be accepted as real people doing the work, then I stand by my opinion that they shouldn't be treated so negatively for it. You wanna bot and and hack and cheat, you deserve the banhammer.
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« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2012, 03:14:15 PM »

They are good points. Without the data on player habits it is very tough for us to do anything but speculate, but in the case of FFXI or some other struggling MMO, it would be interesting to see them try something a little bit different just to see if it works. Any lessons they learn could potentially be applied to a future product.

However, the flipside of that is it is hard to know whether FFXI is actually LOSING piles of money, just losing subscribers, or whether it is barely breaking even/losing money without actual access to the numbers. Let's not forget that as late as June of this year, Final Fantasy XI was hailed by Square Enix itself as the most profitable Final Fantasy in franchise history. That may be part PR spin, but the point remains that we don't know what the subscriber threshold is for FFXI to make money, whether it is currently making money, etc because we don't have that info.

Points about corporate greed aside (and I maintain that without actually knowing what the P&L is for running/maintaining a game like FFXI, making that accusation is not productive since it is not provable/deniable), it sure would be interesting to see more of this type of data made public. But there are issues of competitive advantage there as well.
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Agent D.
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2012, 03:25:10 PM »

I wasn't referring to XI being a direct cause of squeenix losing money, but more about their terrible decision making as a company overall. On the contrary, I believe XI is actually still quite profitable in terms of a 10 year old game. Just choices like XIV and XII and XIII.....it seems to be more nails in the coffin than ingenious ideas.
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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2012, 03:26:56 PM »

I'm double posting because it took me the course of an hour to write that last post, its hard to finish a thought while at work.

I can understand botting, which is horseshit and should be banned. It's one thing to pay a person to do your work, but making a program do it is beyond dishonest. One of the things I HATE about ffxi is the massive amount of mods they have for the pc version. Sorry, it's cheating to use windower, it is, deal with it. But bots that allow you to operate while elsewhere.....no, fuck you, banhammer. That's where rmt is out of hand and needs to.be dealt with, and I'm sure it could be handled alot better if companies were more forthcoming on paying for solutions or people to solve these problems directly. I blame that on corporate greed once more, as it's some rinky dink kid sitting in his basement that makes the software to perform these tasks, not some MIT grad with a bachelors' in programming and an associates'  in computer science. What little you claim to know about economy, Akanbe, is about what I know regarding computer program design, but sometimes basic knowledge is pretty good itself.

If RMT stood to be accepted as real people doing the work, then I stand by my opinion that they shouldn't be treated so negatively for it. You wanna bot and and hack and cheat, you deserve the banhammer.

I can't speak for other MMOs but I believe the majority of WoW's RMT is through account hacking and botting.  From what I hear, botting is worse than ever now because regular players are using it farm PvP honor (which you use to buy PvP gear).  I've heard that on EU realms it's so bad that in some PvP battlegrounds the number of bots sometimes far outweigh the people who are actually playing.
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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2012, 03:32:10 PM »

I wasn't referring to XI being a direct cause of squeenix losing money, but more about their terrible decision making as a company overall. On the contrary, I believe XI is actually still quite profitable in terms of a 10 year old game. Just choices like XIV and XII and XIII.....it seems to be more nails in the coffin than ingenious ideas.

I guess maybe we're looking at it from different angles then.

The goal of a company is to make money for its employees and its shareholders. Based on that, it sounds like we probably agree that by that standard, FFXI is a success. My hypothesis is that they deal with things like botting and paying outsiders for leveling/grinding purposes because there is a BUSINESS reason to do that.

Are you simply arguing that bans for paying outsiders to do that sort of thing is unfair in some kind of esoteric sense? I guess I can see that.
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« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2012, 04:11:08 PM »

My big beed really is that I don't see the harm in letting players do work in game like they would irl. It's common practice to have a person come to your house and service your electrical appliances or plumbing, or even something as menial as clean your house for a price. Why should it be wrong to have someone escort your character around and feed it exp or kill a monster for a certain item or armor for a fee? Most people outsource RL equivalent tasks like that, square enix could easily take the role of taskmaster. In 15 different scenarios, I see no wrong with it.

Pay for services rendered. As a freelance operator, it's a code I live by.
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« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2012, 04:24:49 PM »

I see what you're saying, and it does make sense.

I guess the only thing I'd say is the analogy you make about electrical appliances and plumbing isn't the same thing as an MMO. The MMO doesn't exist AT ALL if the company doesn't pull in enough dollars to keep the servers running and the people as well. Outsourcing tasks like leveling and gold collection and such does not help them because they get more money making YOU do that task in the form of your subscription. Again I really encourage you to read the Gamasutra article - the time issue, and the Money In Money Out are dramatically impacted by these things.

I do think it is a model that could work though, what you're suggesting. I think in a lot of ways the real money auction house for Diablo 3 sort of does this, right? But Diablo 3 was designed with the Real Money Auction House in mind from the getgo, and Blizzard is able to alter drop rates in accordance with maximizing value for certain items, allowing them to put the cut of sales in their own pocket. I don't think other MMOs were necessarily designed with that in mind, and there are certainly real, no fooling, game economic impacts that have an effect on subscriber base when you have these things.

I think overall though, I like the point you're making here because it would be interesting to see a game designed with this type of stuff in mind that actually rewards/empowers this type of behavior while still balancing with the needs of the traditional gamer.

It's a really interesting problem, to be sure.
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