Live Gamer RMT Sales Partner With SOE, Funcom and Others
When Livegamer.com sent out a press release yesterday announcing that they had partnered with numerous MMO companies including SOE and Funcom, it raised a number of questions about the nature of that relationship that Managing Editor Jon Wood tries to answer.
Yesterday, a press release was issued announcing the introduction of livegamer.com, a company with the tagline: “A Legitimate Market for Virtual Trading”. The company’s official website makes a clear point of listing partner studios: GoPets, Pingo, 10tacle, Acclaim, Funcom and Sony Online Entertainment (SOE).
“Live Gamer Inc™ (www.livegamer.com) today announced its introduction as the premier provider of a publisher-supported, secure platform for real money trading of virtual property. Live Gamer is partnering with top massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) publishers and virtual world operators worldwide, including Funcom GMBH, Sony Online Entertainment, 10TACLE STUDIOS, Acclaim, GoPets LTD, and Ping0 Interactive Limited. The company was founded by industry veterans and backed with $24 million in venture funding from Charles River Ventures, Kodiak Venture Partners, and Pequot Ventures.” - Live Gamer Press Release
RMT or Real Money Trading deals with the sale of in-game goods (characters, gold, weapons, etc.) for real world currency, and is one of the most heated topics of discussion on many MMO-related websites, including MMORPG.com. The issue for players is multi-fsaceted, as RMT sales account for the population of many MMOs being disturbed by “bots” and “gold farmers”, characters created in-game for the sole purpose of collecting these saleable goods. Concerns are also raised about the effect of RMT sales on game world economies. Many players (and development companies) also consider the ability to purchase levels, gold, items, etc. that others have to work for to be a form of cheating.
"Virtual item trading,” said LiveGamer co-founder Andrew Schneider via press release, “is already transforming the way people experience MMOGs and virtual worlds, but in its traditional underground context, the impact could be as easily negative as positive for a given player or world.”
As a result, the announcement that major studios have partnered with an RMT provider raises a number of questions and concerns in many of the MMORPG communities as to the nature of these relationships and what games will be affected. The press release itself does little to clarify the nature of the partnerships, saying only that:
“An economy this large clearly needs a legitimate trading infrastructure that serves the needs of each of its millions of participants. Live Gamer has developed a platform with all the integrity, security, and professionalism of any real-world marketplace, and we're working hand-in-hand with publishers to ensure a positive experience for every player."
The Live Gamer press release goes on to supply a quote from Funcom CEO Trond A. Aas:
"Virtual trading has the potential to open an entirely new dimension for the player experience in some games, but it has also caused endless grief through the actions of gold farmers and fraud artists, as well as the generally poor quality of service to participants. Live Gamer makes it possible for publishers to satisfy players' growing demand for this type of activity in selected future games by providing a legitimate and balanced outlet that protects their experiences. We really look forward to offering this opportunity to players in our upcoming casual MMOG."
This quote, and the announced partnership in general, could easily give rise to speculation that Funcom’s Age of Conan, one of the MMORPG world’s most anticipated 2008 releases, might be setting to sanction RMT sales. When reached for direct comment however, Funcom set the record straight:
“The LiveGamer deal is intended for a casual MMO that we have not yet announced,” said Community Manager Shannon Drake. “There are no current plans to bring it into our lineup of existing and announced titles (Anarchy Online, The Secret World, and Age of Conan). We know this is a passionate and contentious issue, and we would listen to our players before we even thought of bringing it into Age of Conan, The Secret World, or Anarchy Online.”
Sony Online Entertainment, another big studio listed as a partner on the Live Gamer site has set a previous standard for at least investigating the possibility of sanctioning its own RMT sales through the launch of the Station Exchange, a service that currently allows EverQuest II players the ability to trade and sell items and goods. This service operates on specific servers only and so does not affect those players who do not wish to play on RMT-enabled servers.
During a brief conversation this afternoon, Courtney Simmons, the Director of Corporate Communications for SOE told MMORPG.com that while SOE was indeed a partner, “to what extent [the company will be involved] has not been determined.” During the same conversation, Simmons pointed out that SOE’s current Station Exchange runs at a ratio of 28 non-RMT servers to the two that currently sanction the practice.
MMORPG.com will continue to follow this story as more details become available.