Swimming Whales and Black Market Sales
The thing that separates ArcheAge from the three games mentioned above is that the player versus player (PVP) component of the game is meant to be somewhat prominent in certain respects. There are lingering questions regarding the revenue model, currency system and overall security of ArcheAge that deserve to be mentioned.
After finalizing their revenue model, XLGames and Trion Worlds need to provide details on what items can be bought with the system they're implementing. They should open the floodgates of information as well, explaining what exactly those items bought with a particular currency can do, as well as the implications of purchasing the item using real money versus earning it in-game.
For XLGames to say that gold production in the black market is useless seems logical, but only points to a certain exaggeration as well when you're dealing with a community subset that revels in the competitive game world. Saying that black market currency groups and gold farmers "cannot produce gold illegally" (see question 3) only means they can't earn money from black market activities through farming one currency.
As gold may not be traded, it ups the possibility of black market elements participating more heartily in the in-game economy through other means. Any organized group with enough hired workers should be able to corner a market, sell goods crafted or raised from gold-bought items for arcs, then create a real money sale by trading the arcs to a player for a predetermined amount in the game through a strangely-priced item.
The idea that gold is functionally useless for black market trading also implies that it is ONLY a deterrent and workarounds – which may include functionally criminal hacks and phishing attempts – will be better suited to eating into XLGames' profits. XLGames (and Trion Worlds) will want to address how the game will handle account security for its localizations, especially given that the game is meant to have a worldwide audience across multiple publishers.
Not a Billy Madison
To wit, here are some hypothetical questions that could use answering:
1. Can I speed up crafting or the acquisition of materials for crafting with real-money purchases? Doesn't that mean I lessen the time gap between myself and the acquisition of an important or powerful item? Are there items that need to be earned in-game to actually create a particular item? Simply put, does anything in the game store impact my progression speed, and if so, by what factor relative to normal gameplay methods?
2. Can I buy boosts – significant or modest increases to PVE or PVP efficacy or experience gain – through real money purchases?
3. What limits are imposed on me as a buyer if I wish to pay an exorbitant amount to gain items that provide game advantages? Is there a "max items bought over X period of time" limit imposed on a character or account?
4. What security measures are in place to ensure our account information and credit card or Paypal details are not compromised?
Again, the response XL Games had wasn't a Billy Madison incident, but it was obvious from the comments on the article that people want worthwhile, actionable information on it to make an informed opinion. The lack of reliable long-term information on the Trion Worlds localization of the game coupled with the inability to properly explain the concepts of their monetization model are, to put it mildly, disheartening to read.
As we learned from the last ArcheAge column, we may not be able to ask Trion Worlds for a trickle of information just yet, but some facts and earnest reassurances from Trion Worlds – as opposed to vague statements from any camp invested in making this game a hit – would be most welcome.
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate, ArcheAge, and Everquest Next columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.