EvE’s Economy – Presentation at FanFest 09

I’ve been watching the various videos that CCP is publishing during EvE FanFest this week. In particular, their economy session was the most interesting to me; It was mostly focusing on the effect of their ‘Unholy Rage’ banning program, implemented in late June.

First, the video link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSgVeU7e9tU

I focus here on the first half of the video, regarding their economy model – a closed system. You put real money in (either US$ or Euro) and, no matter what you do, no actual money comes out to individuals (aka ‘cashing out’). This was generating some interest in what is known as RMT (Real Money Transactions); The video discusses it well, but in essence someone pays real money for in-game ‘goods’ (in Eve’s case, usually the in-game currency known as ISK). This, by CCP’s TOS and EULA, is illegal because (as above) they don’t want money going out.

So, in addition to the normal ‘waves of banning’ that every ‘closed’ MMO tries to do, CCP came out with an in-game commodity known as the PLEX – Pilot License EXtension. Each PLEX gives you 30 days of game time when redeemed, and are generated by converting a GTC (game time card/code). They are sold within the normal in-game market, which meant that players themselves negotiate the (ISK) price of PLEX over time; The only difference from other in-game commodities is that you cannot transport them (making PLEX trading applicable to the region-level only, instead of the entire universe).

I find this to be a very refreshing solution to the ‘gold farming‘ problem that plagues every currency-based MMO (rampant farming and grinding were the main reasons I never liked WoW and other PvP MMO systems). That problem is also why I was so attracted to Uru (pure story, no need for money) and Second Life (they gave up and tied themselves to RMT directly – but charged users in US$ on both sides of each transaction).

The PLEX setup has not been around for very long (less than a year), so I’m not willing to discuss yet its overall impact. But (after its own speculation bubble and crash) it appears to be having the desired effect. More interesting questions still abound, such as: Can you buy the *outside* services (related to EvE, but not in-game) generated by players for real-life currency?

I do think that its worth watching though, and am still keeping an eye on developments related to PLEX.

–TSK