Thursday, December 20, 2007

Live Gamer

A reader alerted me to a new company named Live Gamer, who is trying to provide a legit platform for RMT with the support of the game companies themselves. Several companies, including SOE, back the venture. Raph thinks that "Will the gamers like this? Flatly, no. At least not publicly. But a heck of a lot of them will pay up quietly." and calls the idea a no-brainer because uncontrolled RMT is "impossible to eradicate" and "worth billions to someone else". Controlled RMT would be "controllable and therefore potentially less damaging". Blizzard disagrees and won't use Live Gamer.

I think that RMT is possible to eradicate. You just need to make gold "bind on pickup". That is, you need to remove all possibility of asymmetric trades where one player can give or send gold to another player. And you need to change the auction house system to make it anonymous and blind, so that players can't buy a worthless rock for 1000 gold and transfer money that way. This is totally possible, but it would have a cost: it would also remove twinking (unless you program a shared bank) and sending money to friends or guild mates. But possible it is, the only thing that is missing is the will of the game companies.

I still believe that Blizzard, in spite of their public anti RMT stance, is secretly regarding RMT as a feature, and is therefore unwilling to eradicate it. They did a good job in reducing secondary negative effects of gold selling, like gold spam. They *could* eradicate gold selling itself, but they won't, because lots of players do buy gold and would be annoyed if they couldn't.

So in a way the companies signing up for Live Gamer are more honest. It just isn't a "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude as Raph suggests. Game companies just realized that RMT is a way to close the gap between people playing a lot and people who don't have that much time. Far from being damaging to the game, RMT actually prevents millions of players from quitting the game because they can't keep up with the Joneses. And once you realize RMT as a feature, of course the game companies want to cash in on that feature themselves, and not leave it to third parties and potential scammers. Right now Blizzard is only "taxing" gold sellers by periodically banning a huge number of them as publicity stunt, and then selling each of them new game boxes and accounts to let them back in.

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