Kotaku is reporting that the players of Eve Online have taken to rioting following the introduction of a new in-game currency and marketplace where players can buy useless vanity items at exorbitant prices. Given that the in-game currency is tied to real-life money, players are worried that this is all leading down the road to the selling of items that will affect the game by allowing people to pay to be upgraded:
"At the main trading hubs of Jita and Amarr, people in their thousands, (seriously, thousands) [are] firing upon a memorial statue in rage, locking down the trade hubs and crippling the in-game economy," writes one EVE-playing Kotaku reader, who supplied that picture above. " I can't help looking at this like a virtual geek version of the 'Arab spring' of late."
Sounds a bit extreme, but to many, the sale of $68 monocles, however ridiculous, portends a "pay-to-win" model in which virtual items with real in-game applications are put up for sale.
Fuel was added to the fire when an internal memo about the upcoming micro-payment system, in which Gordon Gekko employees touted that "Greed is Good," was leaked and posted online.
While players fear the coming of a game altering pay-to-win model, the company is maintaining that they are actually pricing things so high because they are being mindful of trying not to crash the in-game economy. A commenter from a previous article who seems to know what he's talking about breaks down the currency situation like this:
ISK is the main in-game currency. PLEX originate from Game Time Codes (GTCs), which can be purchased as an alternative to paying a monthly subscription. 1 GTC can be broken up into 2 PLEX, which can then be sold on the in-game market for ISK, and used by the people who buy them to extend their game time as an alternative to paying a subscription fee. PLEX aren't new. The new currency is called Aurum. Basically, in addition to using PLEX to extend game time, you can now convert PLEX to Aurum, which is then used to buy these vanity items.
People are butthurt because the vanity items are expensive right now, but CCP has stated that they are trying to ease in the new Aurum market in order to make sure that the entire in-game economy doesn't suffer adverse effects. If they charged too little for the vanity items right out of the gate, there would likely be a buying frenzy on PLEX as people try to take advantage of the new Aurum market, which would skyrocket PLEX prices and basically screw over anybody who relies on PLEX to extend their game time. Suddenly realizing you have to pay a couple hundred million ISK more than you're used to in order to play for another month could result in a lot of people leaving the game.
The interesting thing to me, besides the existence of space-monocles, is the idea that maintaining economies in virtual worlds can be such a delicate thing ... especially when the online currency is tied to value in the real world. It also illustrates the odd position that the companies who run these virtual worlds find themselves in...somewhere between company and government. These games are products, intended to make money, but the players who have invested time and money in making Eve Online what it is feel like they should have some say over how their world is managed.
Seems like there could be some parellels between these kinds of virtual worlds and the old British Empire trading companies like the East India Company.