Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pay to win, CCP, A-OK!

     With DUST nearly ready to come out of the oven (supposedly), and its future reliance on RMT for CCP income, I got to thinking about pay to win.

     I've always been of the opinion that pay to win was already in the game, and was easy to see and use from the first few days of me playing Eve.  I'm talking about PLEX.  You can train skill points at the same rate as the next guy, but if neither of you has earned enough ISK to buy the item/module/ship you'd like to or need to, the person who can buy a PLEX will get a jump start that the other poorer player might not be able to afford.  If you both can train cybernetics skill up to be able to use level 5 implants, but neither can afford them, the player who can sell a couple PLEX for the ISK to buy the set will get, and keep, a permanent advantage over the player who had to grind out the ISK, in-game, the hard way.  At any rate, I found it curious how so many people lost their shit when rumours of special boats and "golden" ammo were floating around.  Curiously limited scope of view, they had, thought I.

     So, what got me thinking was a while ago when CCP had 100 wicked awesome video cards that they were "giving away" for 20 PLEX each, to the first 100 people that showed up.  This is from well back in the spring, so no news flash here, but I have a "life" (TM) so often some of the meta content/bullshit gets back-burnered til more off-peak mental load times arrive.  So anyway, for 20 PLEX, or a little over $300, you could have gotten one of these ~$250 (retail) video cards if you jumped at the offer in the less than 2 minutes it took to sell them out.  It's also important to keep in mind that no company is going to pay, or going to be required to pay, full price from a video card company when they take 100 of them.  So how much did CCP pay for the cards?  $200?  $150?  Less?  Cleverness on the part of CCP to accept PLEX that players have bought off them, watch as the PLEX prices raised for a period of time as 2000 PLEX were removed from the game, their price in isk rose, which sucked even more isk out of Eve than the amount used to buy the PLEX for the video cards, and then make a tidy profit on the video cards that they got from the manufacturer for a (probably) huge discount in the first place.  So, rich players can convert ISK/PLEX into a video card without breaking a sweat, , not to mention CCP selling even more PLEX to fill the hole left by the 2000 used for the video cards.  If that's not pay to win, I don't know what is.

     Then, there was the alliance tournament.  Again, PLEX was the currency of choice instead of ISK because CCP said it's "just easier to manage and allows us to create some revenue to fund this and future tournaments".  Players pay the bill to run the tournament . . for the players, but not all the players, only the ones who could pony up at least 10 PLEX for the first 32 auction slots, and then another 10 PLEX for the last 32 random draw slots.  640 PLEX guaranteed, ~$10,000 US, and word is/was, that there were some pretty epic bids by the richest alliances to guarantee their slots.  1,000+ PLEX is likely a more accurate guess as to how many were bid or used for tournament slots.  Maybe considerably more than that.  Likely considerably more.  Soaks up a lot of that ISK in an ISK-flooded economy and CCP gets paid twice.  Once when the PLEX were bought, and the 2nd time when new PLEX were bought to replace the ones burnt up for the tournament.  CCP could have accepted ISK in lieu of PLEX, but ISK isn't worth shit to CCP when they can get the players, the rich ones, to cough up $150+ per team.  So, really, could any alliance have entered, or just the ones with the money to pay to win?

     Now, there's the New Eden Open tournament.  Again, PLEX are the entrance currency.  LOTS of PLEX.  This time it's 20 PLEX for the minimum bid, so like $300 per team, more expensive than the last one, but in the end, the absolute minimum of PLEX down the pipe, taken out of the game, is 640.  I think it would be very safe to assume that with $10,0000 in prizes, bids will be even more epic than tournament ten.  That's at LEAST $10,000 US that the players will take out of the game economy and gave BACK to CCP.  Huge ISK sink for the richest players in Eve, good for CCP sopping up more ISK from the game, getting funded by their own customers, twice, like before, and the anti "golden ammo" crowd aren't saying a word.

     Word was, one of the CCP devs said that all the PLEX that were confiscated from the banned RMT and macro/bot accounts were going to be put back into the economy.  No number was put on the PLEX that have been confiscated, nor was there any mention of how CCP was going to put the PLEX back into the economy.  Now, the new word is that confiscated PLEX will be given away in the tournament.  Not back to the general customer base who would appreciate the extra PLEX reducing the cost of the ever climbing PLEX prices due to the FW ISK fountain-fuck-up, pumping out more ISK than every high sec incursion in the game ever did.  So the richest players are the ones with the highest chance of getting some PLEX back who can use them or sell them at inflated prices due to the high PLEX demand.  Pay to win?

     Now, CCP says that the PLEX entry fees are also to help pay for the logistics and costs of setting up and running the tournament.  Well, the way they're doing it, yeah, it'll piss a bunch of money up against the wall, but rest assured, CCP will make out like bandits just like they did with the $300 they were charging for the video cards they got for less than $250.  Considering that the MINIMUM amount of money players will pay CCP to enter their tournament is $10,000, there are very simple ways for CCP to cut costs if they really want to, and it won't compromise tournament coverage.

     They don't need commentators to be taken to Iceland.  CCP needs to Google existing tech like Skype and USB video cameras.  Plug a Skype conference call and video feed into their little alliance tournament screen and no one needs to be IN Iceland.  The software and studio are set up, but all that's needed is to plug the audio and video into the tournament display and their job is done.  They can rent their "studio" out to the Icelandic shopping channel or something.  The cost of the tourney is reduced, more people can enter and/or entrance fees can be dropped to include non-rich alliances.

     So, are the players dumber than chickens that they don't see the pay to win?  Or is the anti-pay-to-win crowd silent because the common rabble are kept in their place?  If pay-to-win is modest and accessible by almost all the player base, apparently, Eve players lost, and will lose, their shit.  BUT, if pay-to-win is only accessible by a small minority of the richest players and alliances in the game, apparently, pay-to-win is A-OK.  I guess CCP and the "right kind" of players understand that when everyone is super, no one is super, and that, like in real life, is not acceptable.


  1. Plex is not ISK. Giving Plex to CCP doesn't take any ISK out of the game. It doesn't soak any ISK up, zip, zero, nada.

    What paying with plex does is remove plex from the game, which is great for CCP, because each plex removed is 30 days of game time they no longer have to provide.

    Why don't CCP take ISK instead? Because ISK has no real world value (at least outside of RMT and CCP are not going to accept that ;)). A Plex has a dollar value and has a limited supply. Each Plex in the system originated from a player paying CCP real money (either directly or via a GTC reseller). ISK supply is unlimited and trillions are injected into the economy daily with only a fraction actually being removed (and again, removing plex from the game doesn't remove any isk past the market fees used when buying them).

    For the new eden open they said they are using in house commentators (which considering the number of Ex-AT commentators they have working for them isn't a big issue).

  2. Generally a very good article imo, but a few corrections:
    The entry fee for the 10k tourney has been dropped to 10 PLEX starting bid
    CCP taking away PLEX from the game is not an ISK sink, its a PLEX sink. The money is still in circulation in the game, but in some other player hands. I.e. player a pays money to CCP for a PLEX, player b buys said PLEX for 500mil from player a and gives it to CCP. The result is player a is out 17 dollars (or what it cost to buy a PLEX) but is 500mil ISK richer, player b is 500mil ISK poorer but has gained 30days game time or whatever he used the plex for. The same goes for ship destructions, it's not ISK sinks contrary to popular belief but more a tiny ISK faucet and a big ITEM sink.

    Good article! Well worth the read :)


  3. Yeah, not sure why I thought PLEX was an isk sink. In my mind, I think that if CCP wants all players to participate, they'd allow isk to be used, even though it has no external value in itself. Now, THAT would be an isk sink. Maybe I had memory bleed on that point. I wrote the entry and then scheduled the post, so in the mean time, they lowered the entry fee.