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The staff of gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: When did RMT become okay?

Posted by MikeB Saturday March 24 2012 at 6:20PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight we focus on the thread "So when did Real Money Trading become okay?" by fundayz. In the thread, fundayz breaks down why RMT was cracked down in the first place and wonders why several MMO developers are allowing a controlled version of it in their games:

EVE Online, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 are AAA games that are now implementing legitimate forms of Real Money Trading. All four of these games now allow players to purchase gameplay-affecting items and boosts using real world currencies.

When did this become okay? 

The above companies rationalize the introduction of RMT trading by touting that it prevents illegal RMT, hacking, scams, etc. However, these are NOT the reasons why RMT was banned in the first place.

RMT was banned because it provided in-game advantages for out-of-game resources. That is, RMT was considered cheating.

What happened to make these companies believe that main evil of RMT is hacking and scaming instead of the loss of the game's integrity? How did the paradigm shift so much that people actually stand for it now when you would have had internet riots if this happened only 6 years ago?

What does our community have to say on this issue? Read below to find out!

DShepley60 offers some insight on the trend:

The main reason they did it is because they cant stop it. They been trying for so long with WoW which took them 6 months of fighting after Relase of Vanilla WoW before they could stop people from selling Gold and Accounts on Ebay, which now all takes places on many 3rd party sites.

Same with Diablo 2, which from nearly day one and still to this day, there is Real Money Transactions happening all the time via 3rd party sites. Since they cant stop them, they are going to impliment it so that they can benieft from it as well as giving those who do do it, a secure means of doing so.

Torvaldr is entirely on the other side of the issue:

Doesn't LoL and other MOBAs sell boosters?  Where do we draw the line on what's fair and what advantages can be sold?

The only reason RMT is legal in these games is because it's easier to capitalize on it and rake in cash that it is to design around it.

None of those game need and "in game" economy, except possibly EVE, in that they aren't sanbox games with a player driven environment.

So our argument that it is inevitible that people will circumvent game rules means we should just accept it and it makes it okay for companies to sell this advantage.

Why not accept people using third party programs to enhance their game play?  Why not have developers sell us third part programs and automation tools to help us.

The "paradigm shift" doesn't make sense to me.  It seems like a cash grab from the developers and a justification from players who don't want to feel like cheats for buying their way through the game.  In an online game everythinig we do affects other people, from the things we say in chat, to how we interact in content.

Yet, through all this we bitch at the development community for following the money (read WoW clones).  We rant how we're getting offered substandard game systems, dumbed down experiences, no true virtual worlds to play in, no "challenge", and all those other things we froth about here on a daily basis.  But when it comes right down to it we hypocritically rationalize being able to buy our way through game play and purchase convenience-advantage.

garretth attempts to be the voice of reason in a thread that is understandably contentious:

The players have all the power...all the control.

If you don't like the CS then don't play the game.   If you like GW2 and have decided to play, then play by the ruleset that has been developed by ANET.

If after playing a month you feel that the CS impacts your fun of GW2 then give honest, unemotional feedback to ANET.

MMO's are ever-evolving games.  Players do impact the original games but it takes time and metrics to fine tune a game.

GW2 has the potential to be a great game...ANET and players have the potential to make it better or worse.

Unemotional feedback based on ingame experience will help...wailing and weeping before we even get our hands on the game is absolutely worthless.

The players have all the power.  Let's use it wisely.

RMT and the prevalence of cash shops has been a passionately discussed (to say the least) topic here at for many years now, but given the recent announcement of ArenaNet's stance on microtransactions in Guild Wars 2, one of our most popular games to discuss here at the site, it's no surprise that this issue has come back into the forefront as of late.

MMO developers have tried (in vain) to crack down on gold farming in their games for probably as long as the genre has existed. However, going hand-in-hand with the new wave of free-toplay/hybrid free-to-play MMOs catching on in Western markets is an opportunity for MMO developers to address the RMT issues that have been plaguing their games for years while also enabling an additional revenue stream for themselves. The fact of the matter is that MMO devs have been combating RMT forever and as long as there are people willing to pay for these services, they will continue to exist, so why not regulate and control RMT so that it's safe and inteacts with the game economy in a predictable way?

Sure, you can argue that there are probably a subset of players who were too afraid of the potential risk involved with purchasing services from gold farmers that are now likely to take part in legitimized RMT where they haven't before, but so what? There will always be people with more time than money and those with more money than time and blurring these lines so that it all factors into the in-game economy in a sensible rather than destructive way really isn't so bad.

I'm personally not bothered by this, but I know I'm not going to convince anyone that is. Some will just need to try it out for themselves before they are convinced, and some will simply be ideoloigcally opposed to this notion and there isn't much that can be done about that. With that said, garretth is correct, if this isn't something you approve of -- give the developers this feedback (constructively!). Write them, post about it, and most of all, vote with your wallet!

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

fenistil writes:

Well mmorpg's are not homogenic. They are diffrent from each other ,even if most AAA titles was following one design last few years.


Anyway - if mmorpg is made like more like a GAME - like GW2 is. 

Then I think it MIGHT be acceptable if done very very very carefully (borders are very thin here).


If mmorpg is 'virtual world' type of game first and that does apply frequently to sandboxes ,but is not exclusive. Anyway this descirption does apply to mmropg's that build on 'each server a separate virtual world and players of this server are separate society-like thing and shape world together ,etc' 

I could NOT imagine myself having any cash shop and other rmt in those type of mmorpg. 

Especially that I played mmropg's like that (currently apart of EvE there is no worthy game of this type and I don't like 'beign a spaceship practically' ) for very long time , shortest was 1,5 year - so nah I cannot imagine playing that kind of mmorpg with any rmt.




As for official RMT as means to fight not-official / illegal RMT.

Well from my point of view it is bit 'bollocks'. 

What it does it increase amount of players that use RMT's by making it safe & much more accesible thus actually it WORSEN problem from my perspective.

+ it does not eliminate illegal RMT as gold farmers / cheaters still do exist in games with official rmt (yes even with those that sell gold). They just undercut official prices and that's it.


From pubisher point of view it is of course better and it solve RMT issue well at least partially. 

It does give piece of cake from illegal  RMT to  publisher + it brings new consumers to RMT business cause of accesibility , so for publisher it is win-win scenario bascially with some exceptions.




So offical RMT / microtransaction is not going anywhere and what effect it does have on me personally?


Well for first - it usually start to bother me sooner or later in game ,also cause CS get progressively bigger and more 'influential' in a game over time. So it kinda drives me out frequently. 

So while I still may play some mmorpg from time to time I now do long brakes between mmorpg's (on  hiatus since 06/ 11 when I got sick & tired of cash shop in Lotro) - now I am going back for GW2 , but cause I kinda now the drill as I played many cash shop games (with very diffrent RMT philosophies & design) I will propably get tired of it and stop playing after few weeks.



So I am mostly sticking to single player games (thou DLC's are spreading like fire and getting worse and that's kinda drive me out from single player games when I see things like day-1 dlc , buy ending with dlc ,etc ) cause I hate nicke & diming and I am flat rate & one payment person (also in real life) and will propably hop in some mmorpg like once a year or even rarer if I see some mmorpg worthy enough to handle CS / RMT's ,but will leave them after I extract some massively-type of fun.


I just became disillusioned with RMT's. They killed my main reason to play mmorpg's - being in virtual world / society which was fun.


Now it is just a game.


Oh before you say there are some pure P2P games. 

Yeah they are and they are 15 year old (UO) or are basically co-op instance game (Swtor) and alot are not pure P2P anymore as they have growing RMT thing (WoW , coming TSW) which kinda defeat whole idea of P2P for me.



Oh even if I play mmorpg with CS I don't spend single penny there. I may buy box or pay sub buy won't use shop. Thing is after a while I realize that even though I payed sub - cash shop is still big , influential and trying to get money from me ,etc and monthy 'stipend' really does not adress the problem cause it is not what issue is.


Okay end. Peace out.


Sat Mar 24 2012 6:51PM Report
MurlockDance writes:

I guess the first question to ask is what is a cash shop? I mean, is it just an online store where you can buy gems to upgrade items or extra bag slots or something like that? Or is it a store where you can pay for services such as changing your character name, transferring your character to another server, or buying the game itself?

I always understood the first definition to be what cash shop is meant i.e. paying for things in the game to make your playtime more advantageous, comfortable, or just to have some silly ingame fluff. Recently, I have been seeing people mentioning that services, such as the ones I put above in the second example, make it a cash shop as well. In that sense, anything could be construed as a cash shop and they have been around for a very long time indeed, well ever since game companies began to offer their games in digital downloads from their own sites.

Not all transactions are evil. I don't enjoy being nickle and dimed to death when I want to sit down and enjoy an immersive game myself, so I admit I am biased in favor of the sub model where you know what you are getting up front, but sometimes these DLCs or RMTs can be done in such a way that it is not so horrible for the player. EQ2 pre-F2A was such a one, with only fluff, large bags, housing, and xp pots on offer. GW1's was also well done.

I don't like the RMT AH of D3, but on the other hand, I didn't like the black market trading in D2. I avoid using real money to buy items in my games for many reason. I think it is a pity when both player and company greed can start corrupting the quality of the game. In that sense, it can be very negative, like uncontrollable online gambling.

Sun Mar 25 2012 5:07AM Report
A_Mighty_Wyn writes:

It's actually a pretty simple concept called the free market.  If people have a problem with a game, they shouldn't give money to the developers of that game.  The developers will make changes based on what is best for them, i.e. what brings in the most paying customers.  When they are wrong, they pay the price(SWG).  Once again, free market priciples.

Now most people's perceptions of free markets are corrupted by the goverment controlled "free markets" in the real world.  Would you rather have that kind of psuedo free market with it's 'fairness', or an actual free market where the customer has real control?

Sun Mar 25 2012 11:17AM Report
sfc1971 writes:

My big problem with RMT and Cash shops in MMO's is not about cheating, it is about the very high cost that these things put on gamers who often can't afford it but get sneaked into it.

It is well known that the complex phone plans get people into financial problems. Gambling to has created a lot of misery. There are therefor now strict rules (in Europe) for both and casino's take it upon themselves to stop people from going too obviously, to far.

My example is Lotro, its latest expansion was only available in store, buyable with Turbine points. If you actually bought the points needed, you spend more on this small expansion then the large Moria expansion which came in a shop box. That makes sense, a small expansion with no physical sale overhead after all is more expensive logically.

It is not as if other items in the store have trivial prices either. Dyes which my scholar gives away for free, cost hard euro's or dollars and all you then got is a small stack. It is VERY easy to end spending way more per month then a subscriber ever will, especially life time subscribers.

SWTOR has constant gold spam and if you check the prices, you notice soon enough that a speeder costs over 50 bucks at level 40. And then you got a speeder that goes 10% faster. Once you start, it is hard to stop, another 10 bucks and another.

I worked for an online game company that allowed people to play for money, we got letters from people in serious trouble as a matter of routine. That is why government regulates that industry, does the MMO market wish to be regulated as well?

MMO companies are not doing cash shops or RMT for the benefit of the players, they are trading a reliable predictable revenue stream ONLY if they expect massive increases in revenue. They are right but is that to the benefit of gamers?

Do the math yourself, calculate just how much Lotro costs a subscriber vs a lifer vs a cash shop user. Calculate just how much SWTOR credits cost you in real money and what you get for it in game.

Someone is making a lot of money from this and it is coming out of your pocket. 

Mon Mar 26 2012 1:50AM Report
Kaleston writes:

I used to have a big problems with putting real cash into a game, but after thinking it through... What is the difference between putting money into a game and between putting enormous amount of time into a game (typical worker/student difference)? I can't see a big difference.

I think shift in RMT goes with change in players' composition. They used to be almost all students and thus investing time was prefferred before investing money. Now those students are older, usually got a job and they have much less time, but they have money.

I personaly don't mind anymore. I used to hate any influence of outside world in my virtual worlds... These days I simply play for myself and don't care much about how others are playing their game. In the end it's about finding a balance that suits you... pay if you think it's worth it, play as much time as you find fun (and your responsibilities let you). Overdoing it in either way seems wrong to me.

Mon Mar 26 2012 7:24AM Report
GrumpyMel2 writes:

The reason why publishers are pushing this is's an additional way to monetize thier product and increase thier revenue without needing to increase and support a larger user base. It litteraly is a license to print cash.

Everything else, even if partialy true, is pretty much a rationalization by Publishers in order to publicaly defend thier additional revenue stream. The only thing that most publishers want to moderate in this regards is the PERCEPTION that it negatively effects game-play and players experience of the game. That is why you see a veritible BARRAGE of articles/posts in any venue that publishers have access to which attempt to rationalize and justify RMT as a practice. It is an orchestrated PR campaign by publishers in order to protect thier chosen business model and revenue players having a bad PERCEPTION of the practice, can impact the products overall revenues by driving away players. For many (but not all publishers) actual negative effect on game-play is a secondary concern (if at all) when compared to the PERCEPTION of negative effects.

Note that this is all understandable on the part of publishers...they are a business after all...and any business will seek to increase it's proffits if it thinks it's customers will tolerate such. Game publishers are no different then any other industry in that regard. A car dealer would love to charge it's customers an extra $1000 for washing the car and swapping the license plates when it made a sale....if it thought the customers would tolerate it.

As consumers and gamers, we should NOT fool ourselves about exactly what this dynamic means for us though. It DOES have some effect on us, in terms of game-play experience, game design and also monetary impact.

In fairness, the exact impact will vary greatly depending upon the individual players preferences, the type of game, the design and the exact details of implimentation of the RMT. That impact can vary from relatively mild to truely egregious...but there pretty much always is some impact.

Also, in fairness....the model does allow for a wider variety of games to be made...and sold to a wider audience with different financial means then would otherwise be viable. So I'm not saying there is no room for it, what-so-ever, but I don't believe it should be as universaly applied as it is currently being pushed.

Speaking personaly, for any game that I'm playing on anything more then a VERY casual basis.... I'd much rather see the publishers raise the cost of the base subscription (even double or triple).... and take a firm line on absolutely no sanctioned RMT's in the game. As a gamer I really DON'T want real world concerns such as spending/purchasing and how much cash a player is willing to fork out to intrude upon my experience of a game. I'm the kind of guy that would rather pay a higher entry fee for something upfront then have spending/purchasing behavior and real world monetary concerns intrude on my experience... I don't enjoy them. It's one of the reasons I like "all inclusive vacations"....or fixed fee dinner menues.

That's just my personal preference...but I don't think I'm alone in that as a gamer....and I really wish some publishers would start catering to that business model, rather then all jumping like lemmings on the RMT bandwagon. I'm willing to pay a PREMIUM to NOT have RMT intrude on my gaming experience.

Mon Mar 26 2012 12:23PM Report
JazKW347 writes:

The only time RMTs can have disaterous outcomes is when it's not controlled. I'm looking at you, Perfect World. RMTs can be good and allow players not to have to spend real money to get cash shop items. Though if the trade rate is not regulated you could end up with outrageous inflation, though this is preventable if the items in the CS dont give a P2W advantage. (Exp boosters dont count as pay 2 win in a game that says it takes 70 hours to reach max without the boost).

Mon Mar 26 2012 5:20PM Report
Newmoon writes:

RMT has been around since UO. It's actually how paypal became so popular- EBAY didn't own them at the time, they were simply the cheapest transaction fee company available. It wasn't against the rules, either. Richard Garriott famously boasted that the UO gold coin was more valuable than the Vietnamese Dong.

EQ made it clear that RMT was the suxxors. It not only provided an out of game advantage (where grinding for EARNED gear was all important) but because skill was necessary for higher encounters, it lead to players who had no clue how to play their characters wanting into high level raids. You couldn't simply assume that high level druid had any clue how to play their class.

Mon Mar 26 2012 8:08PM Report
Azrile writes:

Honestly you have to change that initial sentence.  WOW does not sell gold, nor does it sell ´game changing items´.  The only thing you can buy on it are vanity pets and mounts.  The store mounts used to have an advantage for about 3 months where they changed based on your riding skill...but now all mounts do that.  So really it is just vanity pets and graphics for a mount that you can buy.

There are much more drastic examples in former AAA titles.  For instance, in AOC you can buy epic pvp gear.

I used to have a mall in UO..  I had more gold than I knew what to do with.. so I would use a website and trade gold for gametime.

I think wow has basically elminated gold as a real currency.  Everything that is important to buy you need to have tokens and alternative currencies for..   The only big things that are sold for gold are mounts (once again, vanity).  You can buy a minor sampling of gear.. but not enough slots to make you powerful.

Wed Mar 28 2012 2:08PM Report
hurriedcorgi writes:

I'm not completely against the idea except for the fact that I know it will be used just to capitalize on players - not for players. Sucks. I'm a finance major and reminded every day with my close approaching graduation that it's all about money. 

Thu Mar 29 2012 12:57AM Report
zellmer writes:

"The fact of the matter is that MMO devs have been combating RMT forever and as long as there are people willing to pay for these services, they will continue to exist, so why not regulate and control RMT so that it's safe and inteacts with the game economy in a predictable way?"


Murder is a wide spread crime through the world that's not going away anytime soon so.......let's "legalize" it and make it a 10 dollar fine!

The reasoning in this post still irritates me..

Especially when you see MikeB fanboying behind all the games he gives a free pass to in this post..

Sat Mar 31 2012 12:04PM Report writes:
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