Friday, April 24, 2015

The Weekly Scope Video Turns Into A Live Event

So once again CCP published a new The Scope news video today. This time, they threw in a twist. A live broadcast, ending with the Drifters attacking the station seeking to stop an autopsy on a captured Drifter.

The Drifters lost multiple (4-5?) battleships while only killing 10 capsuleer ships (1 Malediction, 1 Claw, 2 Crusaders, 2 Imperial Slicers, 1 Cormorant, 1 Thrasher, 1 Atron, and 2 Veletors).

The CONCORD Bureau and the Yulai Graveyard
Despite some initial reports indicating that the Drifters had heavily damaged a station, the only visible damage to any infrastructure remains the still unrepaired CONCORD Bureau station.

Stories appearing in the videos new scroll included:

Just a couple of comments about the stories. Glad to see CFC's, er, I mean, The Imperium's foray into roleplaying is recognized in a video. Also, that the silence from Empress Jamyl is intentional and not because CCP is ignoring the storyline. However, don't lump the Absolute Defiance wardec into the roleplay category (unless I missed something). They didn't seem that type of alliance when we reached out and hugged them a few weeks ago.

The story of Propel Dynamics losing three jump freighters to the Angel Cartel could go a couple of ways. Is it a simple theft of the super kerr-induced nanocoating (SKIN) technology and the Angel Cartel will begin selling the technology in the very near future? Or does the theft have something to do with The Sanctuary? After all, Propel Dynamics is one of the corporations that helped build the Astero-, Stratios-, and Nester-class Sisters of EVE ships.

Finally, after watching the video, does anyone doubt that the Inner Circle will soon up the DED threat level for the Drifters?

Correction: The original version of this post stated that the Drifters managed to severely damage the CONCORD Bureau station. This is incorrect. The station was originally damaged in an attack by the Thukker Elders in YC110.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The WoW Token And EVE Online's New Players

I've written a few posts about the WoW Token, Blizzard's version of PLEX. But why should people who play EVE care about what happens in World of Warcraft? One obvious reason is new players. Ever since the influx following the release of the This is EVE trailer, players have worked to welcome new players into EVE. As events over the past few months have shown, many think "weaponized newbros" could play a huge part in the new sovereignty capture mechanics coming to null sec in June.

But what does the ability of WoW players to purchase game time with in-game gold have to do with new players in EVE and possibly null sec warfare? This:

Accounts banned for buying illicit ISK on the black market
A high percentage of accounts banned for purchasing ISK are new accounts up to 3 months old. Many of these players come from other games where purchasing in-game currency, while not condoned, doesn't come with the penalties such offenses carry in EVE. Worse, some players figure out that they can purchase PLEX to sell for ISK, but then go to shady websites instead of going to their EVE account management page or to an authorized PLEX reseller to purchase their PLEX.

Yes, Team Security is aware they have an awareness problem which is why the final portion of the security presentation at Fanfest focused on awareness. But I'm not sure how effective an awareness campaign will work for new players. Gamers are kind of famous for not reading things, which is why CCP is moving away from the walls of text in the new opportunity system they are designing to introduce new players to New Eden.

That's why World of Warcraft moving to a PLEX-style system is so important. Although the majority of WoW players are just WoW players and not MMORPG fans, WoW is still the biggest western MMORPG on the market today. Once the WoW Token circulates in WoW for a few months, then players who then choose to try EVE will have a greater grasp on the concept. Even better, because the mechanics surrounding the use of the WoW Token are more restrictive than around PLEX, those new players' first instincts will lead them to the account management page to purchase PLEX from CCP and not to go searching out some shady website offering a steep discount.

In effect, the WoW Token will help in new player awareness of the option of buying ISK through the use of PLEX. Sure, in an indirect way, but then again, EVE has always had a reliance on the butterfly effect.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The WoW Token Two Weeks Later

Two weeks ago Blizzard introduced the WoW Token for sale on World of Warcraft's North American realms. A lot of people were surprised at the initial price point of $20 or 30,000 gold. I don't understand why, as the figure fell into line with the price that gold sellers were charging. But what about now? How has the WoW Token market price for gold fared against the prices charged by the sellers of WoW gold?

First, the WoW Token, after a brief climb to 31,218 gold on the first day, settled into a range between 20,000 and 24,500 gold starting on 10 April. That range put the Blizzard-approved price of WoW gold between $24.50-$30.00 USD for 30,000 gold.

When I've discussed CCP's approach in its War on Illicit RMT, I've described the price of PLEX as part of the "top down" element of its strategy to make illicit ISK and PLEX sales as unprofitable as possible. With the introduction of the WoW Token, gold sellers now have to compete directly with Blizzard when selling gold. Worse, from the gold sellers' point of view, they have to offer a substantial discount due to the possiblity of Blizzard catching buyers and taking action against them, such as seizing all of the purchased gold. I call the difference between the official price and the price gold sellers offer the "hazard discount".

WoW gold prices on Earthen Ring (Horde)
So what is the hazard discount needed to entice WoW players to buy illicit gold? In an effort to determine that figure, I surveyed 12 websites that sell WoW gold that I found either through Google Ads or listed on Google. I know that each website is actively competing for gold sales, as each has posted at least 4 price changes over the past two weeks. The graph above displays the lowest, median, and highest prices for 30,000 pieces of WoW gold found on the twelve websites. As a point of comparison, I also graphed the lowest daily sell price for WoW gold purchased using WoW Tokens, converting the U.S. dollar value to the amount required to buy 30,000 gold in order to make the comparison clear.

After looking at two weeks' worth of data, I still can't determine the answer. The price of illicit ISK has fallen the last 12 days. The only price pressure that the WoW Token has put on the gold sellers is existing. But that's enough, because the gold sellers are still attempting to find the sweet spot. Or are they? I get the sense that the gold sellers are losing a considerable amount of business to Blizzard. But are the gold sellers still competing with Blizzard, or are they competing with each other over winning market share of a reduced clientele?

One thing enabling illicit gold prices to continue to decline is that the gold farmers/botters have not decreased their activity. In a thread on the Honorbuddy forums, one gold farmer was complaining that prices offered by wholesalers had declined to $0.12-$0.14 / 1000 gold. From what I gather, that is an extremely low price. The prices are getting low enough that some farmers are getting frustrated.

A disgruntled gold farmer
So far, the WoW gold selling sites have benefitted from a compliant farming/botting community. Even so, the gold sellers will eventually hit the limit to what gold farmers/botters are willing to accept. I believe at that point we will see the price finally stabilize. At that point Blizzard can then ratchet up the pressure on the botters and farmers and convince them that the small amount they are earning isn't worth the hassle and see a lot of them leave the field.

At this point, Blizzard appears well-positioned to knock a lot of RMTers out of the business. But even then, that is only a first step. With less competition, those remaining can sort matters out and create a new price and supply equilibrium.  Remember, the WoW Token, just like PLEX, is not a quick fix to the problem of illicit RMT. But with enough time, Blizzard can hurt the wallets of the gold sellers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Different View Of New Players

One of the more interesting features of EVE Online is the time-based skill learning system. But in terms of attracting new players, the system does have some drawbacks. Some players believe they can never become competitive with experienced players because they can never obtain the same number of skill points.

The usual counter-argument that EVE players use is that not all the skill points are relevant in any PvP encounter. In my case, Wandering Rose's 17.9 million skill points in resource management, 16.2 million SP in science, 4.8 million SP in gunnery, and 3.3 million SP in missiles will do no good if a new player jumps her while she's mining in a Procurer in lowsec. Then again, with my actual experience of mining in lowsec combined with the skill points I've devoted to escapability, I have an excellent chance of warping off before the new player can tackle the mining barge. But the key, for coming out of the encounter with my ship intact, is my experience behind the keyboard. Mining while aligned really doesn't require a lot of skill points, especially since the introduction of the Higgs Anchor rig.

But reading the latest Gentlemen's Club Alliance update on TMC struck home the idea that the view of new players in EVE is different that in other games. One of GClub's basic strategies and principles is to "Remain new bro friendly, and a place where a new bro can learn and thrive." For people looking from the outside of EVE, that has to look weird. GClub is engaged in "end game" null sec conflict. Why would they want the equivalent of a level 1 character in their space guild? After all, they cannot fly space coffins, er, I mean, titans and super carriers. Gentlemen's Club is an aberration, right?

Not really. EVE Online's most successful null sec alliance, Goonswarm Federation, has always recruited and nurtured new players. But, some may argue, the Goons come from the Something Awful forums, so they have a natural incentive to help the people from their community learn EVE. True. But then explain the creation of Karmafleet and opening up membership to all new players in EVE. Markonius Porkbutte, co-founder of Karmafleet, in the TMC interview touched upon the subject of new players in null sec:
"I think on the grand scheme of things, Brave [Collective] awakened a lot of the null blocs and has forced them to realize the power of newbies in their fleets, so I feel much of this is Brave's fault. GSF is merely 'catching up' to the new meta that is slowly unfolding in null."
"In fact, the entire 'pseudo-war' brave had with PL [Pandemic Legion] was really proving that newbies are essential and can serve a well deserved place in nullsec sov warfare."
The aforementioned Pandemic Legion, another of the top powers in EVE, looked to harness the power of "weaponized newbros" by creating their own new player alliance, Pandemic Horde, earlier this month.

What makes the new player so powerful? Electronic warfare. As the Brave Collective and HERO Coalition showed for months against Pandemic Legion, players with fewer than 2 million skill points can neutralize players with over 100 million. But the effective use of electronic warfare doesn't require massed fleets of Mauluses like Brave deployed in Catch. In my own alliance, EvE-Scout Enclave, we employ the "Hugs" doctrine: Griffins equipped with electronic counter-measure modules and festival launchers against the highsec wardeccers who see the alliance as easy prey due to the 1% ISK efficiency listed on our killboard. Our doctrine Griffin is not only fun to fly, but very new player friendly, requiring only minutes to skill into. While we don't want to hurt anyone, if someone wants to pay CONCORD so we have an excuse to shoot snowballs and fireworks, we won't say no.

The same mechanics that make the Griffin ideal in EvE-Scout Enclave's Hugs fleets should make the Griffin, and thus new players, valuable once FozzieSov is released on 2 June. In FozzieSov, sovereignty turns into a game of capture the node, much like the battlegrounds in World of Warcraft. But in WoW, does anyone imagine that a level 11 character, even twinked out, could defend a node from a level 100 character? The idea is so preposterous that Blizzard does not even allow for the situation to occur, gating battlegrounds based on level.

In EVE, with the new sovereignty mechanics however, a two-day old player with less than 1 million skill points in a ship that costs less than 1 million ISK has a good chance of frustrating a five-year veteran with 100 million skill points flying a ship which, when fitted with an Entosis mod, will probably cost close to 100 million ISK, if not more. The new player's chances of success go up based on the index levels in the system. And new players can also contribute to raising these indexes, although from my vantage point outside of null sec, the only method appears to consist of mining. Ugh!

Hopefully, when CCP is revamping the index system, they consider ways that new players can contribute to raising and maintaining the index levels. I also hope that new players will have other ways of making ISK than mining or following older players and salvaging the wrecks. They shouldn't make tons of ISK, but they should have the ability to make a little extra cash to keep them in ships so they don't have to depend on the availability of other corp/alliance members to provide them with content either.

I don't really expect EVE's skill point system to appeal to everyone. Some people just have to have the top "end game" gear, and have to have it fairly quickly. EVE is not that type of game. But for those who want to participate in some of the null sec warfare that hits the media, CCP is making the game more new player friendly. More importantly, important players in the game are taking note.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Another Look At EVE Online Subscription Numbers In 2015

As we approach EVE Online's 12th anniversary, the speculation continues about the game's subscription numbers. Admittedly, I contributed to the guessing game with a post three weeks ago speculating on what the subscription numbers1 were as of Fanfest based on the CSM election results dev blog. My post was a response to others who were touting divergent subscription numbers. While CSM member Mike Azariah was touting growth in the subscription numbers, ShadowandLight from the Legacy of a Capsuleer podcast was participating in (if not trying to start) a nasty whisper campaign, stating on EVE Radio on 26 March that an "inside source" told him that EVE was down to "146,000 subs."2 When I took all of the best information available, I came up with a subscription range of 319,000 to 342,000 on Tranquility.

The topic has also fascinated the writers at Massively Overpowered, the reincarnation of the site that closed in February. Brendan Drain wrote the second article on the site looking into the numbers provided by my post. While his numbers fall within the upper range of my estimation, we both come to the conclusion that the number of subscriptions has fallen 18% over the past two years.

While I only attempted to ascertain the basic facts on the subscription numbers, Drain put the numbers into perspective by attempting to compare what I had calculated and comparing the result to the industry as a whole. He pointed to a study done by SuperData, a company that provides "market intelligence covering the market for free-to-play gaming, digital console, mobile, PC downloadable, streaming media and eSports." The study, titled "MMO Market Report 2015", predicts that revenue for pay-to-play (subscription) games will fall to $2.3 billion this year, a 17.9% decline from the $2.8 billion earned by P2P games in 2013.

Comparing revenue and subscriptions is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. For example, dual and multiple character training, both introduced in 2013, had the potential of both reducing the number of subscriptions and increasing revenue. Other changes, like the institution of jump fatigue in the Phoebe release, possibly resulted in subscription losses not related in any way to a player's preference for free-to-play games over P2P games. But Drain's main point is still valid. In a shrinking market for P2P games, seeing a 12-year-old game lose subscriptions due to potential new players preferring F2P games over P2P games is expected. Seeing growth in such a market environment is remarkable.

In my opinion, CCP ended what I call the cult of the growing subscription in June 2013 when dual character training was introduced in Odyssey. In the era in which EVE launched in 2003, most games relied strictly on box sales and subscriptions for revenue, so the subscription number was a useful number for players to see if their game was thriving. After all, why invest in a virtual world that is in danger of closing? But in the modern age, with even subscription games having in-game cash shops and offering other services as micro-transactions, we can no longer judge a game studio's, or even a game's, health based strictly on the number of subscribers. For that, we know need to become accountants and peruse the quarterly, semi-annual, and annual financial statements of game companies, providing we have such access. CCP's financial statement for 2014 is due out soon and I'm anxious to dig into those numbers.


1. Some will say that accounts paid for using PLEX are not really subscriptions. For those people, replace the word subscriptions with the term "paid accounts", as paid accounts over 30 days old make up the voter pool in CSM elections.

2. ShadowandLight has since admitted he didn't know what the number he was spreading around actually meant, which leads me to believe he was just throwing mud around and hoping something would stick.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Lore Behind EVE's New Ship Skins

To say The Scope news video on CCP released on YouTube today was a bit surprising I think is an understatement. We now know the origins of the Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings, or SKINS. Would you believe Serpentis technology designed for smuggling operations? The main story of the video tells the story of the Caldari Navy capturing a Serpentis Rhea-class jump freighter, the Seeadler.

Other stories of note in the news scroll:

Imperial Armaments continue to deny research into antikythera element is for the purposes of weaponization.

CONCORD re-opens independant political organization identity registration after one year delay due to Inner Circle debates on interstellar political relevance of capsuleer entities.

Caldari Navy reports significant increase in Guristas pirate activity in Pure Blind and Lonetrek with military experts citing seizure of [SPC] Seeadler as probably cause. Narcotics and combat boosters to the value of 65 billion ISK destroyed by Caldari Navy after seizure from [SPC] Seeadler on April 1st.

Legion of xXDeathXx loses significant ground in Geminate as sovereignty drops in seven systems.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

About That 80 GB Download

I received an email from Zenimax offering me access to Elder Scrolls Online this weekend because I participated in the beta. Now that the game is buy-to-play, the thought did interest me, although the game is $60. Given my experience of the game making me nauseous, that price tag was enough to drive me off.

Another item designed to drive me off was the size of the download mentioned in the email: 80 GB. Yikes! Did I really want to download an 80 GB game? Heck, I might not even have time to play ESO, what with the war with Noob Farmers in EVE and the double XP week in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Double-XP week? That's right, from today until the 22nd, SWTOR is holding a double-XP week. With a level 39 currently on Hoth, would I really want to divert time away from leveling my agent to the level cap?

Then, fate jumped in. I was laid off yesterday, although my official last day isn't for two weeks. But, I left the building for the last time yesterday. So, while I wait for a bunch of paperwork to process (including recommendation letters), I have some time to kill. I'll do the traditional things, like cleaning the house, updating my resume, etc., but I really don't feel like doing much right now. Working in the same job for 18 years will do that.

Now, I'm not in any financial crunch to get a job right away, although that is my preference. I'm getting a 26-week severance package, so except for purchasing my own health insurance, nothing really changes for me through the end of October. Then again, if I can quickly get a job, I'll definitely have the money to go to Fanfest next year, plus pay off a good chunk of my remaining mortgage, with a couple thousand left over to get a top-of-the-line gaming rig. But that's if everything goes perfectly.

So, last night, I just decided to download ESO, play Flappy Titan, and listen to the latest episode of Crossing Zebras. And this weekend I'll just try to relax and lose myself in trying out a new video game along with a couple of old ones. And cleaning the house. Can't forget cleaning the house.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time To Reread The Empyrean Age

"Goonswarm 2015: We are not here to ruin your game, but to ~enhance your immersion~"
The Mittani

Yesterday TMC published the latest Goonswarm Federation Alliance Update. Not very much news was proclaimed, really. Just that the name of the coalition was changing from the Cluster Fuck Coalition to The Imperium. And that the coalition will withdraw from Fountain and Cloud Ring before the new sovereignty system hits Tranquility on 2 June. Oh, and Get Off My Lawn and The Bastion will occupy Vale of the Silent while Executive Outcomes moves to Branch. I suspect that means that the GSF's rental alliance, Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere , will soon disband to make room for the regular members of the coalition.

But for me, the big news is the The Imperium's first campaign:
"The first act of our new Imperium: we formally declare our undying loyalty to the True Emperor of Amarr: Maximilian Singularity VI, First of His Name. Anyone in New Eden declaring for the False Empress Jamyl will be violently disabused of their heresy and their territory forfeit. Until the CONCORD-protected zones declare for the True Emperor, we'll have to content ourselves with enforcing the True Emperor's truth across Providence the moment that Fozziesov goes live. We grant Providence the opportunity to reflect upon their sins and seek redemption by bending the knee, just as I have." 
Sure, The Mittani and his leadership team plan to use Providence as a testing ground for evaluating new tactics in sovereignty warfare. But the way The Mittani has couched his coalition's actions almost forces CVA to put up a fight. Sure, Empress Jamyl violated the doctrine of Sacred Flesh and had herself cloned in order to survive the defeat of her champion during the Succession Trials. But Maximilian Singularity VI, First of His Name, is not one of the heirs of the five royal houses.

Of course, The Mittani, or more likely his diplomatic corp operating in Maximilian's name, could argue that the Sarum family has forfeited its place to rule the Amarr Empire, much like what happened to the Khanid Family after Garkeh Khanid refused to commit Shathol'Syn following the ascension of Heideran Kador to the throne in 22762 AD. Just as the Tash-Murkon family replaced the Khanid, so could one argue that the house of Singularity should replace the Sarum.

Does anyone think that CVA will meekly stand back and watch The Mittani place a successor onto the Amarr throne? Even if CVA buys into the legal precedent that if a heir of an Amarr royal house fails to commit Shathol'Syn, then the house is stripped of its royal titles, I would expect that they would want to place one of their own on the throne. At that point, I can foresee an "Amarrian" civil war, with CVA encouraged to persevere by the realistic belief that Goonswarm will eventually tire of the war and move on to bigger and better things.

Quite frankly, I hope both sides fight just to see how CCP handles the situation. The possibilities for future The Scope news updates is endless. But in the meantime, once I finish my current book, I think I'll reread The Empyrean Age and Templar One again. Something tells me I may need to brush up on my Amarrian lore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Locator Agents

Our second war with Absolute Defiance ended, but a new war started with Noob Farmers began at 0109 EVE time today. That means another corporation is paying CONCORD for Eve-Scout Enclave to deliver hugs in high sec. But unlike Absolute Defiance, Noob Farmers appears to move around some. So the question is, how can we ensure the delivery of the hugs Noob Farmers so desperately needs in a timely manner?

The answer is fairly simple. Locator agents. Locator agents are agents that not only give out missions, but can track down players as long as they are not located in a wormhole. The better the standings a player has with certain NPC corporations, the better the quality of the agent available. That's right, doing PvE in order to increase standings can help in PvP situations, especially war decs.

All players have access to the basic level 1 locator agents. These agents can instantly locate a player in the same system and locate a player in the same constellation withing 1 minute. If the player is in a station, the agent will even disclose the station the player is docked in. However, the location the agent gives is the player's location when the search began. Not a great difference for level 1 agents, but a factor in the better quality agents.

The agent does charge for the information, but will name the price before disclosing the location. In the case of the level 1 agent, the agent will ask for 1,000 ISK if the player you are searching for is in the system or 5,000 ISK if the player in in the same constellation. Just obtaining the price from the agent can tell a player some information. If the player is not located within the constellation, then the agent tells you that the agent is outside the area and does not charge for the information.

Level 2 locator agents are better than level 1 agents due to the fact the level 2 agent can search the entire region, not just the constellation. Level 2 locator agents, just like mission agents, require a standing with the corporation or faction of 1.0 Like a level 1 agent, a level 2 agent can locate a player within the same system instantly and within the same constellation within 1 minute. But the level 2 agent can find a player within the same region within 8 minutes. The required payouts are 5,000 ISK if the player is located within the same system, 10,000 ISK if the player is in the same constellation, and 25,000 ISK if the player is within the same region. If the player is located outside the region, the agent informs you the player is out of the search area and does not charge you for that information.

One final attribute I have not touched on is the cooldown period in which you can ask an agent to search for a second player (or the same player a second time). Both level 1 and level 2 agents have a 5 minute cooldown period. However, that is only if you pay ISK to find the location of a player. See the loophole in the system? But I'm not sure how often someone would cycle through 20 players to see which ones are in the system, especially since local is available to do that. Perhaps finding players in the same constellation is more useful.

Level 3 locator agents are available with corporate or faction standings of 3.0. Level 3 agents not only can find players located anywhere outside of wormholes, but can find players in the same constellation or region faster than the lower level agents. Level 3 agents can find players within the same constellation within 30 seconds, the same region in 4 minutes, and anywhere else in 8 minutes. However, the agent asks for 10,000 ISK if the player is in the same system, 25,000 ISK if the player is in the same constellation, 50,000 ISK if the player is in the same region, and 100,000 ISK if the player is outside the current region. The cooldown to reuse the agent, at 15 minutes, is also greater than the lower level agents.

Finally, the level 4 agent becomes available with corporate or faction standings of 5.0. The search times drop to 20 seconds if the player is in the same constellation, 2 minutes if in the same region, and 4 minutes located outside the region. The offset is the increased cooldown time (30 minutes) and the increased costs (25,000 ISK / 50,000 ISK / 100,000 ISK / 250,000 ISK).

For those just starting out, getting access to level 2 agents isn't that hard. Just train the Connections and Diplomacy skills to improve standings and the Social skill to improve standings gain. Then again, saying that gaining standings for myself is easy. Both Rosewalker and Wandering Rose have access to all the Minmatar and Gallente level 4 location agents. I also have an alt that has access to all the Caldari level 4 agents and is only 0.15 away from having access to all of the level 4 Amarr agents as well.

I will add that I got a lot of faction standings from running COSMOS missions. So if you really want to go on a standings grind, I'd suggest training Social up to 5, then run the COSMOS missions while you train Connections. Just getting standings up to 3 with one faction will help a great deal. Plus, unless you are only interested in PvP, high standings unlocks so much in EVE.

Hopefully this explanation helps a little bit in understanding how locator agents work. And who knows. Perhaps one day you can provide the intelligence required to hug a war target.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Checking The Price Of Illicit WoW Gold

Last week, the big news in the MMORPG genre was Blizzard's introduction of the WoW Token, a PLEX-like in-game object, into World of Warcraft. News outlets like VentureBeat, PC Gamer, and Eurogamer covered the obvious first-day story, the huge drop in the value of the WoW Token. While some articles have mentioned the problem in passing, an article on tried to address the influence of illicit RMT on the cost of the WoW Token.

I think that my biggest complaint about the TMC piece actually revolves around the source used for obtaining the prices of WoW gold on the secondary RMT market. Because he used WOW Gold Rates, the author of the piece came away with a bit of a distorted picture of the price of illicitly marketed WoW gold. That price colored the rest of his piece and may have led him to judge Blizzard more harshly than the game company deserved.

The prices listed for 12 April 2015 seem a bit high
Looking for review sites of virtual currency sellers is good and shows that a writer is making an effort to look for an authority with expertise in the field. I did the same thing when I first started out, using MMOBUX as a source until I grew confident enough in my knowledge of the ISK market to branch out on my own. But among the interesting tidbits I've collected over the course of writing about secondary RMT markets is that a lot of old, outdated RMT-related websites are lying around waiting for an eager researcher to trip over them. Apparently, WoW Gold Rates is one of those sites.

Whenever I look at a virtual currency seller, the first thing I check is that the site is still in business. I guess that's a result of watching so many ISK sellers quietly leave the market without turning off the lights. So I did the same with the WoW gold seller review site and checked out the prices for the Horde-side market on the Earthen Ring realm. I think the results would surprise the author.

Of the seven gold shops listed, GameGoody and MySuperSales are no longer in existence. Another, OffGamers, is not a WoW gold seller. The closest the website comes to selling WoW gold is offering 60-day WoW game time cards. A fourth seller, IGE, no longer directly sells WoW gold. The site IGE redirects buyers to currently sells WoW gold at $18.99 / 30,000 gold, or almost 78% less than is listed at WoW Gold Rates. As for the other three shops that actually do sell WoW gold, MOGS sells for 41.2% less, Bank of WoW 66.0% less, and Guy4Game sells for 68.5% cheaper than is listed on WoW Gold Rates. No wonder the author of the TMC piece thought that Blizzard was really trying to undercut the illicit gold sellers; his source was using outdated information.

I've pointed out why the source the author of the TMC piece used was bad and how someone could check the validity of the information. But what should a writer who is interested in the subject do to find out the price of virtual currencies on the secondary market?

For those looking to quickly gather up a set of prices, I'd suggest either MMOBUX or Player Auctions. MMOBUX makes a good starting place and even has history graphs, although I would advise clicking on each of the shops to make sure they are still active. Player Auctions is more a marketplace of several sellers, but for those games that don't have a lot of websites selling their in-game currency, then Player Auctions is the next best place. The downside is publicizing those places and driving gold buyers to those shops. Something a small blog like The Nosy Gamer can do, but something a site with a lot more traffic like TMC might want to shy away from.

The other way is a method I used with ISK sellers and am now establishing for monitoring the secondary RMT market for World of Warcraft.  I established my own index of gold/ISK sellers and recorded their prices every Sunday. Or, in the case of WoW, daily, at least for now. The selection criteria is simple. In the case of WoW, I used the search term "buy WoW gold" and recorded the links of all the websites I found that showed up in Google Ads. I only got ten, so I added four more from the search. I missed a couple of the cheaper sites and picked up one clunker, but I think I can drop two of the sites and have a pretty good index going forward.

I realize that not a lot of people write about real money trading to the extent that I do. I don't want to discourage anyone from writing about the subject, either. Let's just say that I urge anyone writing about the subject to go in with eyes wide open. Oh, and that I think bloggers may have an easier time. After all, we're not really under any time constraints. We can take our time and really develop the story. I may actually have one ready on changes in the price of illicit WoW gold in a couple of weeks. My editor doesn't mind waiting.