Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Working in EVE for $2 per hour

Nothing gets you famous as quickly on the internet as a well-made chart. This one shows the ships of EVE online, with a circle around them whose area represents the cost of the ship when it gets shot down from under you. The cost is represented in either virtual currency, US dollars, or hours of work to get such a ship. RMT is legal in EVE Online, thus there is a known, and relatively stable exchange rate.

So a lot of blogs linked to that chart because it raises the obvious question on whether you really want a $7,600 Titan ship to blow up under you. A lot of people drive cars worth less than that, and normally nobody shoots at your car to destroy it.

But what I found even more remarkable is that by giving the cost in both US dollars and real time "work", you end up putting an hourly wage on time spent in EVE, and it is about $2 per hour. That means you either get paid $2 per hour of "working" in EVE, and that is not a lot, way below minimum wage. Or you end up paying $2 to *not* have to spend time in EVE. If instead you would not play EVE and flip burgers for minimum wage in the time, you would be winning either way.

When discussing games with microtransactions, I repeatedly stated my point of view that there are good systems and bad systems, and that the bad systems are identified by players spending money to completely bypass content (like buying the best available weapon in Free Realms, making the smithing profession obsolete). And EVE to me is a case of bad microtransactions.

I would say that EVE has two major gameplay parts, one being a PvP game, and the other being an economic game. With me not being interested in the PvP part, I'm looking mostly at the economic part. And I would say that legal RMT makes the economic part look a lot less attractive. At the start of the game, when your character is still very weak and has no capital to work with, you will earn a lot less than $2 equivalent per hour. Thus the temptation will be great to jump-start yourself with the 300 million ISK or so you get in exchange for one PLEX. Thus if you think of your power in EVE depending on your skill points and your virtual wealth, you end up having bought both for real money. Skills don't go up from gameplay, but go up with the length of your subscription, thus there is a direct skill points to dollars correlation too.

The funny thing is that EVE has a lot of hardcore fans, which will undoubtedly swarm all over this post in the comment thread to defend EVE. That is exactly the same people who tend to complain about games where you can buy your way to power, but somehow in their mind it is different if EVE does that. Imagine Blizzard would offer gold for dollars, and automatic leveling of unplayed WoW characters as long as you pay a monthly fee for that, there would be a huge outcry. I wouldn't like that in World of Warcraft, and I don't like that in EVE Online. EVE being a PvP game doesn't change that, just the opposite: You being able to boost your power with money is even worse if you directly compete with other players in PvP.

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