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Live Gamer Update

About a month ago, at the Game Developer's Conference, a technical glitch meant that we couldn't bring you our interview with the guys from Live Gamer. This week, Community Manager Laura Genender brings us this interview meant to replace the one that the technical gremlins stole in the first place.

Live Gamer Update

While a significant portion of gamers use gold sellers, the process of gold farming/selling is often regarded as annoying, frustrating, and disheartening. From random, badly worded tells of “sorry to disturb, platsellsite.com fast cheap safe lift your enjoyment of game” to groups of characters named Iiilili farming the same lucrative camp for hours on end, the secondary market is slowly joining the ranks of the most despised, abhorrent internet communication: spam mails.

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Publishers and developers are being punished by this black secondary market as well: unknowing gamers angrily blame Sony, NCSoft, and other game developers for undelivered gold or credit card theft; players quit at the seemingly inaction of these companies in removing gold sellers; and innocent players are swept up in mass bans, losing developers real customers as they try to get rid of the farmers and bots.

And thus was created Live Gamer.

Last week I spoke with Andy Schneider (president and co-founder of Live Gamer) and Evan Solomon (PR firm representative) about the company which intends to bring the secondary market back into primary hands. Live Gamer was created to address the enormous consumer demand that is currently being forced into the underground secondary market. Instead of becoming a menace to both players and developers, Live Gamer only works with publishers who support them, and offers a safe, secure, and classy marketplace for users.

One of the top concerns of Live Gamer is user security; they’re doing a number of things non-visible to the user that are trying to combat some of the ill effects of the current black market. Live Gamer has mechanisms in place to help reduce credit card fraud – unfortunately, they can’t disclose the details of their security without risking it being cracked!

Another of their priorities is to monitor and reduce gold farming activity – while Live Gamer is a gold seller, the company will not engage in gold farming and knows it’s a nuisance that needs to be shut down. By offering a legitimate and safe method to trade gold, supported by developers and publishers, Live Gamer takes the first step in this. In addition, since they’re at the wheel of the secondary market, Live Gamer is able to monitor gold sellers and identify the farmers through certain patterns of behavior.

In a further effort to block out-of-country gold sellers, to register to Live Gamer you have to provide a US mobile phone number; you will receive activation and confirmation codes via text message. For those without cell phones, or from Europe or Australia or anywhere else…for now, you’re a bit out of luck. While Live Gamer has eventual plans of expanding to other markets, their focus right now is purely NA, and they feel that this step is vital to combating foreign farming and credit card fraud.

Prices of gold, items, etc. will not be predetermined by LiveGamer, or even the publisher – “We do not buy from gold farmers, or engage in trading ourselves,” explained Schneider. All Live Gamer transactions are completely player to player. Just like an in-game market, users can decide to sell high or lowball.

So far, LiveGamer has announced contracts with SOE, Funcom, 10tacle, Acclaim, GoPets, IAC/Garage Games, and Team Zero.

While Schneider couldn’t tell me much about the plans they had with their publisher partners, he did give me the scoop on the first project they’ll be doing with SOE.

As any EQ2 players will know, there are a couple EQ2 servers which allow use of the SOE Station Exchange. The SOE Station Exchange did not sell gold itself, but facilitates trades between players – which is what Live Gamer intends to do, too! Live Gamer will be taking over the administration of the Exchange, and is currently asking all Station Exchange customers to register with Live Gamer.

This isn’t just a change of hands, but will enhance the end-user experience with several service enhancements, the abolishment of listing fees for sellers, and additional features. These changes will launch on March 31st – for now it’s a web-based client only, but an in-game client will be integrated into certain titles.

As a gamer who has never engaged in the secondary market, I asked Schneider if he thought players had a right to servers without trade – after all, SOE’s Station Exchange isn’t in effect for all EQ2 servers, and I’m sure many players like it that way. Schneider explained that the secondary market was born despite game publishers/gamer objections to it, and despite massive attempts to shut down farmers and sellers, the 1.8 billion dollar industry has only continued to grow. “It’s a systematic demand, and happens not just in hardcore MMOs but even in casual games. It’s industry wide, motivated by people who do not have time to spend on farming etc. but want to see a later game.” While the black market has thrived on almost every server of almost every game, despite any efforts to control it, Schneider points out that users are not obligated to engage in the secondary market.

Another upside of having publisher participation is that Live Gamer can bring some game balance to gold selling – publishers will have a control panel where they can effect currency limits, non-tradable items, etc. Even just SEEING the statistics and knowing what’s going on will help a lot.