Turbine Prez Speaks Out Against Secondary Market in MMOs

Gold CoinsOn Tuesday, Shawn told you about Sony’s Station Exchange, and how many MMO companies were watching closely as it developed.

Now, over at Ten Ton Hammer, there’s an interview with Jeff Anderson, President and CEO of Turbine, the company who brings us Lord of the Rings Online. With LotRO’s recent banning of some gold farmers, what is Turbine’s official stance on the secondary market?

Anderson says, “I understand where [the secondary market] comes from, from a player standpoint,” he said.”If I have more money than time and want to kind of ‘cheat ahead’ and get to an easier place in the gamplay experience. The downside is that it kind of tends to be corrosive to the player economy if left unfettered, adding a significant amount of inflation to the game and making everyone else’s gameplay experience much harder.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and I applaud Turbine for their stance on this issue.

Now, SOE has taken a totally different approach, taking the secondary market and making it a part of their Station Exchange. This is, I think, where SOE is missing the boat. To players like me, who don’t really believe in spending real money for pretend money, it looks like SOE is trying to squeeze every last dollar they can out of their MMO players, and that they care little to nothing about those players in the long run. The secondary market is incredibly destabilizing to the player-driven economies of most MMOs. Players who have very little time played suddenly have thousands of ill-gotten gold, and they spend it on everything, with little to no regard for prices, or fair market value. This drives the market price for everything up, as more money = more demand for goods, and a static supply. Thus, the potion that you bought for 4 gold last week, suddenly costs you 7 gold. The supply didn’t change, but the gold purchased on the secondary market artificially inflated the demand.

Because of this, I think all of SOE’s games are destined to fall short. Not fail, exactly, but just to not have the lasting power they hope for. Never mind the NGE debacle, this will frustrate and alienate those people who actually still play SOE games. Why is WoW so popular and long lasting? Well, for one (certainly not the only reason), they take a hard line stance on the secondary market, and ban farmers and botters out of hand when they are identified. Each month, you’ll see Blizzard post something along the lines of “50,000 accounts banned, and 11 million gold removed from the economy.” Those aren’t just numbers. They’re a testament to the effort Blizzard puts into identifying and banning those who support the secondary market.

In the future, as the secondary market continues to grow, I truly believe that those games that fight against it will outlast those who embrace it, all things being equal. I believe that the vast majority of players don’t mind losing to someone in PvP who is more skilled than them. However, losing because someone with no skill has amazing, ill-gotten gear is another story. As long as the secondary market allows real world money to trump time invested and skill level, it will never be embraced by the vast majority of MMO players.

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2 Comments on Turbine Prez Speaks Out Against Secondary Market in MMOs

Darkmoon

On May 31, 2007 at 8:53 am

Good, another company joins Blizzard in getting rid of these damn gold farmers.
Anyone with one ounce of brainpower knows that gold farming is bad for an MMO game….well, that is everyone except Sony. :twisted:

I resell

On August 21, 2007 at 7:17 pm

I went through college and worked from home by working in the MMO industry. I played the same as any other gamer except I did so professionally. Most people working the industry tell the same story. They’re young adults that notice there’s a way to support themselves from home. As far as destroying a game, I don’t think so. The games kind of destory themselves.

In order to get anywhere, you need high end equipment. Eventually newb zones are dead, and it’s nearly impossible to grind your way to max level where you can join your friends and begin playing normally, the way the game was meant to be enjoyed. To catch up with the herd, you have to pay a few dollars, maybe fifty bucks for some in game wealth so that you are adequately geared and prepared. Other gamers won’t be interested in grouping with you if you are underpowered.

In the early days of any game, everybody is playing the earlier content and it’s easy to get money, and get gear if you are low level. The low level market and economy is great. RMT doesn’t destroy that. What destroys it is when all the gamers transcend the content and new subscribers are small in number. Log into EQ in a starting zone and you will probably be the only player in that zone. You will play alone until about level twenty, which is a point that you can nolonger play without others assiting you.(you will die easily)

Thankfully, WoW got things right. GOOD gear drops off of AVERAGE mobs at any level, and you can solo to max level easily. The game will have more staying power. The low level quests are soloable and fun. RMT is not highly needed for games that are engineered properly. However, there is still a demand.

If you raid 3 times a week, and you don’t want to add an extra 8 hours of weekly playtime so you’re funded with gold to buy potions and raid necessities, you will turn to a farmer to do those 8 hours for you. It’s a wonderful service that saves the game for you. It stays fun and rewarding instead of work.

The problem with games, and the reason why RMT exists, it because gaming is work. Hours of brain numbing, frustrating, unhappy, work. If a person in a third world country can do that for you on the cheap, or a kid that’s paying for college like I did… that’s a good thing.

The economy is also inevitable. It doesn’t hurt games, so there’s no reason to fight it. If game companies were smart, they would learn from second life, where you can turn real money into game money at the same site you use to log in and manage your account. SOE was brilliant to finally test the market.