Turbine Prez Speaks Out Against Secondary Market in MMOs
On 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.