On Micro- and Macro-Transactions

A lot has been said, both inside the Eve community, and outside it, about the recent Incarna expansion, which offers clothing options for dressing up your avatar.

Personally, while I think the prices of those items were wrong, I don’t think the $70 monocle is an outrageous sum.

Let me tell you about fashion

There’s a bar in the city where I live. It sells expensive drinks in an opulent setting. How expensive? Well, the online drinks menu has no prices.

Once you get there, the menu has prices, but I will focus on one small part of the menu: the premium cocktail menu.

Premium cocktails are essentially regular cocktails, but with name-brand ingredients. The Champagne used will be Moet and Chandon or better; the garnish will be air-freighted from Japan that day, and the prices are appropriately stratopheric. The cheapest cocktail is $15; the most expensive, gold-leaf-laden drink is in the order of $500,

Five. Hundred. Dollars.

Even that price is dwarfed by the wine list, where a thousand dollar wine is still in the cheap end. The point is, people pay money for socially-related things based on the status they bestow on the purchaser. A $70 monocle says ‘I can afford to pay $70 for a fashion item that only other Eve players can see.’ In fact, the existence of an insanely expensive item makes everything else appear a lot cheaper, just by its existence at the top.

CCP’s mistake was not that the monocle was too expensive, but that the other items were. If the other items of clothing were a tenth or twentieth of the price, the monocle would clearly be a true ‘ultra-rich’ vanity item, because of the wide gulf in affordability. The fact that it is in the same ball-park as the other items is terrible price signalling; it lowers the status the item bestows below the threshold of being worth the objective price you pay.

This is CCP Business Development’s failure, and it is a massive one.

Where will it stop?

This topic has been further fuelled by CCP’s internal newsletter on the subject, which indicates that CCP’s stance on micro-payments is strongly in favour of being comprehensive rather than decorative.

The article’s strategy implies that World of Darkness and Dust 514 will be full-transaction games, with all three types of items available, namely

  • Cosmetic/Fashion
  • Convenience/Services
  • Power-gaming

It appears that while Power-gaming items are off the table (for now) in Eve, there is still a push towards convenience items – trading Aurum to remove grinding. To be fair, that’s what PLEX does now – you pay real money for Isk, which you can then give to other players for services, such as a faction battleship, forum signature or standings improvement with a certain corporation. Paying AUR for faction standings is, to most players, not significantly different to buying pirate dog tags and cashing them in at a COSMOS data centre.

Fact is, if you can buy it with Isk at the moment, buying it with AUR isn’t substantially different.

7 Responses to “On Micro- and Macro-Transactions”

  1. 1 Brannor McThife
    June 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Sorry Serps, but it is different. With AUR CCP never has to provide game time to anyone as the PLEX gets destroyed in the process. When you trade ISK for PLEX, the PLEX still exists and CCP is still obliged to provide 30 days game time to someone at some point – unless it gets destroyed in space – should that not have been a warning of CCP wanting to maximise profits?

    • 2 Serpentine Logic
      June 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

      That’s a bonus for CCP, but does not affect players in the slightest.

      • June 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm

        It impacts players because isk is currently inherently linked to effort. Anything you can buy with isk is, at some level, bought with the effort someone put in to earn the isk. Even if you buy the plex off them, you’re just buying their effort. “Effort” is a finite resource, and is shaped by supply and demand

        Buying with AUR is fundamentally different, as there is no link between AUR and effort, and thus supply and demand doesn’t come in to it. It scales infinitely. Combine this with non destructible items, and you’re staring down the barrel of bad mudflation, as well as undermining the player driven economy. You can argue that none of that really matters as long as it doesn’t impact with the existing market or gameplay, and that’s the case with vanity items. However, the rumoured “buy faction standing with AUR” will cross that line pretty badly

      • 4 Serpentine Logic
        June 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

        Well, PLEX is already ‘no-effort’ and hasn’t broken the game (well, not more than the illicit RMT it replaced).

        I think you also have the wrong idea about what mudflation is. I agree that ‘ships out of nowhere for AUR’ is a bad thing, but mudflation issues in Eve are more focused on isk sources and sinks than planned obsolescence and power creep problems.

      • June 25, 2011 at 6:29 am

        PLEX is not no effort. It’s no effort for the person buying the isk, but someone had to put time/effort in to creating the isk being purchased. That’s the effort I’m referring to. It doesn’t matter who spent the effort, as long as someone did. And as long as all isk sources fit in to that category, than anything bought or sold for isk is impacted by the player economy and by supply and demand. Buying Aurum for PLEX instead of isk though, alters that, as it’s a fixed exchange rate, and it isn’t impacted by supply and demand, nor limited by effort. You will get linear gains that scale infinitely as long as you continue to supply cash/PLEX

  2. 6 Herp the Derp
    June 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    > Paying AUR for faction standings is, to most players,
    > not significantly different to buying pirate dog tags
    > and cashing them in at a COSMOS data centre.

    You can do the COSMOS mission arc once.

    • 7 Serpentine Logic
      June 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      True, however the functionality still exists in-game, and it’s used a lot by players to get their alt’s faction standings up for trade or research. Thus, while some people may rage over the very idea of paying AUR as bribes to a faction’s leadership, it’s not unprecedented.

      Also, COSMOS is terribly old; the previously once-only epic arcs may now be run once every three months; if COSMOS features were in a similar state of repair, who is to say that the data centres (and hypothetical standings-related money transactions) wouldn’t follow a similar scheme?

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