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Thoughts on Station Exchange

Darren Bridle Posted:
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Food For Thought: The SOE "Station Exchange"

"Starting in late June, SOE will begin offering a new service called Station Exchange. This secure service will allow EverQuest II players on specific servers to buy and sell the right to use items, coin and characters. To be clear, all we are doing is facilitating these transactions. We are NOT in the business of selling virtual goods ourselves."
-- John Smedley, CEO Sony Online Entertainment (SOE).

A recent decision by SOE to allow in game sales for real cash has shaken the foundations of MMO's. Major competitors in the MMO market space such as Mythic and Sigil Games, have spoken up against such a bold move from SOE.

The Station Exchange web site recently went live allowing customers to learn more about the service.

In game item sales is a $200 million dollar market, SOE is gift wrapping this new decision as "Dealing with fraudulent transactions". According to John Smedley, fraudulent transactions account for up to 40% of Customer Service calls, which SOE hope to reduce dramatically with the introduction of the Sony Exchange.

At the moment, there are no plans to force the new Exchange onto live servers, rather add additional servers with this feature enabled. SOE is making it quite clear that next weeks polling conducted across all live servers, will not determine if existing servers should be converted.

In a recent quote from Brad McQuaid, President and CEO of Sigil Games, he hinted that adding such a plan of action is for short term cash gain and could potentially hurt the long term health of the game. He also mentioned that it would add some control to third party Company's using MMO's to make real money profits.

Mythic Entertainment has been very vocal about these plans. Mark Jacobs, President and CEO of Mythic, said "We will gladly 'leave money on the table' to ensure that whether or not you like our games, that they remain as that, games and not an entertainment version of day-trading,", and "I'm disappointed with the decision from a leader in the MMO industry"

So what is behind the push from SOE to conduct business in such a manner? Customer Service calls? An effort to facilitate players that do not have the time to invest in high end MMO's? Or is Sony just out to make a buck?

IGE is well known for its involvement in selling virtual items for real world cash, being the leader in online gaming sales. Purchasing items from third party companies is as simple as deciding what you want to buy, giving your payment information and meeting someone in game, sometimes as fast as 5-10 minutes after purchase. This is a fast money making market, that's rapidly growing with more MMO's hitting the shelves each year.

One of the most disturbing problems that has arisen, is so called Sweatshops, where people are being paid very little wages to play upwards of 6 characters at the same time (otherwise known as "Botting"), to create in game money that can then be sold online. If this is as John Smedley says, a $200 million dollar market, then Third Party Company's such as these can put up some healthy figures.

The question remains, how will Sony Exchange affect the future of MMO's? Indeed, Sony has been the leader of the MMO industry since the release of Everquest. They have been instrumental in the evolution of Online Gaming. With such a strong background of initiative and new idea's, should we trust them to make the right decision? Or have they just taken it too far?

What are your thoughts on this topic? We want to know! Please post your professional and constructive thoughts in this topic!


Darren Bridle