Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 2013 Final Rankings

This week I look back on 2013 and the popularity of MMORPG's as played by the Xfire community.  One striking figure is 60.7%.  That is the drop in the time recorded by the Xfire community in playing the twelve most popular MMORPGs each week from 30 December 2012 to 22 December 2013.  I would argue that is a factor of the increase in competition for Xfire (see Steam and Raptr) as well as a weak year for MMORPGs in general.

Games have a tendency to see players drift away as they grow older.  2013 stood out as the year of the free-to-play conversion.  While the dropping of subscriptions helped the popularity of many games, I wonder how long that popularity will last. Will new games like Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar, and EverQuest Next Landmark produce a rise in the numbers in 2014?  Possibly.  But one thing I think we will see is a shake-up of the Digital Dozen.  One thing I do know is that gamers like new things to play.

The ranking for the year was calculated by taking the Digital Dozen score for each week and taking the average.  If a game was not among the top 12 games played for a week it received a score of 0.  The average score is listed after the name of the game.  Those looking for the normal weekly rankings for Sunday can find them at the bottom of the post.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Predictions For 2014

We are at the end of another year.  A time to look back and a time to look ahead.  When the subject is what I am doing in EVE Online my year doesn't coincide with the calendar.  But for everything else I pretty much stick to the calendar of this ball of dirt we call home.  Since this is the time for bloggers to make predictions about things that won't come true, I'll do my part and come up with some prognostications for the upcoming year.

The Subscription Model Is Not Dead Yet - I predict that both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online will remain subscription games throughout 2014.  However, the possibility exists that sometime in November or December that ESO could announce a change to a free-to-play model will occur sometime in the first half of 2015.  If I had the courage of my convictions I'd make it a prediction, but I'll chicken out this time.  Well, at least about the announcement.

PLEX-Type Systems Mixed Reception - I think that the news about companies attempting to duplicate CCP's success with PLEX will be mixed in 2014.  I expect Jagex to come out and state that, despite some over-hyped news in 2013, that bonds have not had the desired results and that new systems are needed to deal with Runescape's bot and illicit RMT problem.  On the other hand, after a rocky start, Carbine will announce some success with its C.R.E.D.D. system.  The financial figures will speak for themselves and another AAA MMO in development will announce going to a sub plus PLEX system sometime in the last quarter of 2014.

For EVE Online players, I'll predict that the Jita price for PLEX will make 1 billion ISK worth $26.50.  That is 660 million ISK for a PLEX using in-game currency.

World of Warcraft Does Well, But... - Yes, when making a post about predictions about MMORPGs I do have to include World of Warcraft.  I think that WoW will experience a year that all other game companies would envy.  I think that we will see the new Warlords of Draenor expansion sell 2.4 million copies in the first week and the number of subscribers hit between 9 and 10 million.  Of course, these numbers will have critics exclaiming that WoW is dying and on its last legs.

The expansion will foster controversy with the new offerings in WoW's cash shop.  I don't know what the nature of the controversy will involve, but I expect a backlash from some of the veteran players stating that WoW has gone pay-to-win.

Also, I do expect WoW to suffer another major hacking attack in 2014.  Of course, given WoW's history, the brave prediction is to predict such a security breach would not occur.

Guild Wars 2 Expansion - ArenaNet was pretty firm in 2013 about not needing an expansion for Guild Wars 2.  I think they will stay true to that and not publish an expansion in 2014.  However, I do expect ArenaNet to announce this summer an expansion in the first half of 2015 to coincide with the end of 2014's Living Story.

CCP - I expect that 2014 will prove a bad year for the Icelandic game company.  The number of subscriptions for its flagship game EVE Online will decline for the first time in the game's history (assuming that the number of accounts did not decline in 2013).  CCP will continue to resist pressure to release a "Jesus feature" in 2014, waiting until 2015. 

DUST 514 will continue to limp along throughout 2014.  However, the game will not break the 7,000 concurrent user mark unless CCP stages some sort of marketing event at one of the trade shows like E3.  With a less than expected rush to play, I expect no conversion announcement from the PS3 to the PS4 and layoffs in the Shanghai office at the end of 2014.

The one bright spot is EVE: Valkyrie.  CCP will have the game ready to ship at the time that the Oculus Rift is ready to ship to the public.  The game will receive high marks from players, but the good news is offset by the low penetration of the Oculus Rift into the gaming market.  Also, don't expect the Oculus Rift to release before the fourth quarter.

Star Citizen -  I'm not sure the game actually qualifies as an MMORPG, but I have three predictions.  The first is that the game will reach the $65 million mark in funds gathered in 2014  I would name a higher number but I also predict a major story about the RMT scene surrounding the game will make its rounds amongst the mainstream gaming press and that will depress the donation numbers.  Finally, I predict that during 2014 that Chris Roberts will announce a launch date in the second half of 2015.

Biggest Surprise - I think EverQuest Next Landmark will break out as the big surprise game of 2014.  I know that Landmark is developed by SOE, but given that no one even conceived of the possibility of the game until August 2013 I would rate a successful year a surprise.  Given the popularity of Minecraft, Landmark will emerge as the building game with the best graphics.  I think that could make Landmark a very popular game indeed.

I will make more predictions tomorrow as part of the final Digital Dozen roundup for 2013.  I should add that I hope I am wrong about the negative predictions I made in this post.  I just have the feeling that the gaming industry will not see calm seas in 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Take-A-Ways From Yesterday's Space Hangout

I watched most of Ali Aras' Space Hangout yesterday.  At the end the broadcast experienced some technical difficulties so I didn't watch the final 20 minutes.  Still, that occurred after CCP Dolan left the conversation so I don't think I missed CCP's side of things.  Here are some points I was left with.

The style needs changing.  I don't really think the CSM has that much to complain about with the delay.  That belief comes from Trebor's statement that the CSM does not want to censor itself so puts as much as possible into the minutes and then lets CCP cut out whatever is necessary.  That style means that the CSM takes longer to produce the rough draft of the minutes as well as ensures CCP needs to take longer to review the minutes.  I think the date quoted on the stream for when CSM finished the minutes was 4 November.  That's right, 66 days after the end of the summit.  At that point, publishing the minutes before the release of the expansion was impossible.  In my mind, the time sensitivity vanished at that point and the minutes are just a historical document.

But my point isn't just about the length of time the CSM took to produce the minutes.  Even if the CSM was perfect about not including NDA'd material, CCP can't trust that.  They need to thoroughly check themselves.  I have to wait until I actually read the minutes, but CCP Dolan's proposal of having a summary of what CCP presented followed by the positions taken by each of the CSM attendees (if differences existed) sounded like a needed improvement.

CCP Dolan is not superman.   I think the new guy bit off more than he could chew.  Actually, since CCP Dolan is new, I don't think he wanted to show weakness by saying he needed help when he took on the job.  The help he needed was in the form of a backup in case he got sick, which happened.  Also, stuff happened (Terms of Service, SOMERblink, etc) in which CCP Dolan wound up as CCP's point person.  I don't know if a backup would have gotten the minutes approved by the various teams any faster, but a reminder or two sent out couldn't have hurt.

Unclarity of purpose.  Perhaps I just misunderstood, but I think that CCP and the CSM have slightly different thoughts on the purpose of the minutes.  Then again, CCP Dolan desire that the dev blogs published before expansions should contain more information so that players don't need to reference the minutes is a good one.  Of course, if players don't need to reference the minutes, I doubt very many people will really take the time to read them.  But if the style of the minutes is changed so we don't see 100+ pages, perhaps more people will read them anyway.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Late Details On Space Hangout About CSM Minutes

I should have checked yesterday, but Ali Aras posted an update on the Space Hangout she will host on Google Plus today at 1900 EVE time.
"Folks may have noticed that the space hangout this week has been delayed. Why? I've been working on getting the CSM 8 minutes out, and scheduling with CCP Dolan to have him on.

"The CSM 8 summer minutes were delayed for a long, long time. That's frustrating for the CSM, for the community, and hurt people's confidence. CCP Dolan wants to overhaul the minutes as CCP has overhauled the voting system and stakeholder process (both successful). In this hangout, we'll be talking about the minutes process and what the minutes mean and do for the community, in order to make sure those functions are preserved and hopefully improve them.

"We'll be talking a bit about what went wrong this go 'round as well, but I want this to be a constructive conversation. Space will be a bit tight with CSM8s and CCP Dolan on as well; I'll initially leave the hangouts open as usual, but if it fills up, I'll have the Q&A system on for questions/comments and will bring people in from there. If you're just listening, this is a good one to watch on youtube or the G+ page instead of from inside the hangout."
If you go to her page you will see a Q&A button on the player.  I believe that is where people can post questions ahead of time.  Also, for the time conversion challenged, it looks like Google Plus will convert the time to your local time.

 
 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 24 December 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 22 December 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.1 13,668-9.0
22Guild Wars 212.73,856-7.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.72,640-8.8
44Final Fantasy XIV7.12,142+21.6
56Aion4.91,472+5.6
65EVE Online3.81,149-25.7
78Tera3.41,0350.0
8--Planetside 23.41,016+72.5
97Neverwinter3.3998-11.1
109Lord of the Rings Online3.1936-0.4
1111Maple Story2.4728-7.5
1210RIFT2.3686-15.9
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 30,326
 
On the last Sunday before Christmas, the Xfire community did some last minute shopping as the number of hours it spent playing the most popular MMORPGs declined by 5.5% over the previous week.  The game with the biggest drop in playtime was World of Warcraft with 1357 fewer hours played than the week before.  The games bucking the negative trend were Planetside 2 (+427 hours), Final Fantasy XIV (+380 hours) and Aion (+78 hours).

Optimized Result - Planetside 2 stormed back onto the Digital Dozen after a one-week absence Sunday.  The 72.5% increase in playtime was based on another optimization patch released last week.  Or possibly the chance to shoot snowmen.

Another Patch:  Last week Square Enix released patch 2.1 for Final Fantasy XIV.  Despite an extended downtime of 24 hours to deploy the patch and a housing system panned as too expensive, the Xfire community spent 21.6% more time playing the game compared to the week before.

Leaving Jita:  EVE Online suffered the largest percentage decline of any game on the list in time played on Sunday.  But this isn't new territory for CCP's flagship game.  Last year on the Sunday before Christmas, EVE Online suffered a 14.3% decline in time played, which was the second largest decline that week.  Do EVE players just wait until the last minute to do their Christmas shopping?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The War On Bots & Illicit RMT - 2013 In Review

To tell the truth, I did not expect to write a review post this year.  I was surprised at the amount of news on the subject that actually came out over the past 12 months.  Last year I just included "War on Bots" in the title and just put in illicit RMT as a side issue.  This year covering the illicit RMT trade makes up a good chunk of the the news in 2013.  Also, I started covering the secondary RMT market in other games.  In some ways that was in response to the sheer magnitude of what I saw.  But more importantly, the games industry is starting to look at what CCP is doing to combat the illicit RMT trade and copying elements of CCP's strategy.  In particular, the adoption of PLEX-like objects by Jagex into Runescape (Bonds) and Carbine into the upcoming sci-fi MMORPG Wildstar (C.R.E.D.D.) show how other game companies view CCP's PLEX strategy.

But what about the news from 2013?  The year started out with many ISK selling sites raising prices due to CCP's efforts in the fourth quarter of 2012.


Between 23 December 2012 and 13 January 2013 eight web sites increased their prices an average of 25.1% with six companies raises prices by 20.4% between 6 January and 13 January.

The news in January was not just about the efforts of Team Security.  When the CSM 7 Winter summit meetings were published, an initiative came to light to get better information on players.  In order to gather that information, CCP would need to link users across multiple accounts.  While that demographic information is useful for game designers creating content and tracking the economy, the information would also make it easier to track down botters and ISK sellers to ban more of their accounts when discovered.

In February New Eden saw the great EVE University market bot scandal.  A member of EVE University was detected using a market bot, received a 14-day ban, but did not have any ISK gained from the activity confiscated.  The player then donated 317 billion ISK to EVE University and apparently bio-massed the character and quit EVE.  EVE University then petitions the donation and CCP confiscates the ISK.  What made the story a scandal was a member of the Council of Stellar Management going public and questioning the integrity of Team Security.  Once facts about a ban usually held private were revealed the scandal slipped away.

Also in February an amusing incident occurred involving an ISK selling company and a web designer who left the debug option active.  The resulting errors that displayed for days when attempting to access one website showed the connections between 3 ISK selling sites.  The lesson is that those engaged in illicit RMT aren't above a little trickery to increase sales.

March was an eventful month that saw Team Security add checks for known botting software and other hacks.  The first target was an application called Red Guard.  Red Guard is designed to spoof CCP's digital fingerprinting software so if a botter is caught that Team Security does not ban all of the botter's accounts.  This actually resulted in a call by Red Guard users to restrict access to the public.  Six days later Red Guard went from freeware to a $25 application with an additional $25 for updates.

With Team Security adding software detection to its anti-bot algorithms the question then arose on whether the multi-boxing software ISBoxer was no longer allowed.  This became more likely as CCP had made a ninja edit to a page on the old forums that Lavish Software was using as part of its marketing efforts.  According to bot developers, CCP was only trying to detect two Inner Space extensions, DirectEVE and ISXEVE, and not anyone using Inner Space.  CCP also later announced that ISBoxer users would not receive bans as long as the software was only used for multi-boxing.


Partly as a result of Team Security's increased anti-botting measures activity on Tranquility dropped 8.2% from 21 February to 14 March.

The month ended with a change in the penalty for botting.  Instead of a three strikes policy, botters would receive a 30 day ban for a first offense and a permanent ban for the second offense.

In April, the news focused more on hacks affecting the client rather than directly against bots.  For the first time cache scraping was explicitly declared a violation of the EULA but that CCP would not enforce penalties against those engaging in the practice.  Also, 2350 players received a 30 day ban for using an autopilot warp to zero hack.  While the hack involved client modification the decision was made to only impose a 30 day ban because of the lack of enforcement in the past.

May and June were fairly quiet although two events did occur in June that I did not write about.  The first occurred on 2-3 June as EVE Online was the target of a DDoS attack.  Tranquility and associated websites were taken down as a precaution against hackers using the attack as cover for another type of attack.  Later in June Blizzard's Mobile Armory was hacked and hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts stripped of gold.  That the hackers were able to bypass Blizzard's vaunted authenticator system is a warning to CCP for when it opens up the CREST API to 3rd party developers.

Events remained quiet until the end of July when CCP Stillman and the official EVE Online Twitter account released a graphic demonstrating a drop in bot bans.  CCP Stillman attributed the drop in the changes to ice belts and null sec rats introduced in Odyssey.


The drop was not allowed to last as three days later CCP Stillman tweeted about CCP Peligro instituting a new ban wave.  The effort continued throughout August, with ISK selling sites showing the effects in late August as between 18-25 August 9 of the 12 ISK sellers on my watch list raised prices by an average of 17.9%

September was another busy month as companies besides CCP made headlines with their efforts against the illicit RMT trade.  Square Enix, the maker of Final Fantasy XIV, seized 367 billion gil, worth between $2.5 and $4.2 million, in a three-week operation in the second half of the month.  Jagex, the makers of Runescape, acknowledged that banning 1.1 million accounts in 2013 was not enough and instituted Bonds, a PLEX-type instrument.  While Jagex claimed Bonds have nearly eradicated gold farming, I'm withholding judgement until more data is available.



But September was also a significant month for ISK sellers as well.  The upwards trend of the price of ISK on the secondary market peaked on 22 September as the median price on my watch list exceeded that of the price obtainable from purchasing PLEX directly from CCP and selling the PLEX in Jita.  At that time, two major secondary market virtual currency sellers, IGE and MOGS, dropped out of the EVE Online ISK market.

The subsequent drop in the price of illicit ISK due to less companies fighting over the available supply was overshadowed by the SOMERblink RMT scandal.  The scandal began with DNSBlack going on the EVE Online forums and declaring his intent to RMT money, items, and characters legally.  While his scheme fizzled out, one enterprising capsuleer managed to become an affiliate of Shattered Crystal and set up shop on the EVE Online forums using the same process as SOMERblink to eventually RMT 188 billion ISK

The loophole involved using the EVE Time Code sellers agreement to override the EULA.  That allowed SOMERblink to give those who purchased game time codes from first Shattered Crystal, and later Markee Dragon, 200 million ISK for purchasing each ETC.  The exact amount of ISK laundered in that fashion is not known, but the real world value was $135,000 when SOMERblink was an affiliate of Shattered Crystal.  As a result of the uproar CCP's legal counsel Bill Winter sent all ETC sellers a letter announcing a closing of the loophole and giving the sellers until 7 November to make sure any player affiliate complied fully with the EULA in these matters.  SOMERblink then poured fuel onto the outrage of its critics and held a liquidation sale right up until the deadline.


On the secondary RMT market prices declined throughout October and November as additional companies stopped selling ISK.  The site Safe EVE ISK let its domain lapse in late October/early November.  And two other websites, In Game Delivery and IGXE, stopped selling ISK in mid-November.

Team Security did try to open up a new front on the War on Bots in November with efforts to silence the spambots in the trade hubs.  But the spambots did return and those spotted two weeks into the effort are still present and spamming.

December's main news came from an unexpected source: the latest document leaks from Edward Snowden concerned the efforts of U.S. and British intelligence to infiltrate and spy on Second Life and World of Warcraft.  Since virtual worlds could provide a way to launder money, I looked at a popular player auction site to look at the potential size of the secondary RMT market.


Just based on a one day snapshot the market for WoW gold is just so much larger than all other games combined.  Those wishing to hide any laundering activity could use the secondary WoW market to launder money without leaving much of a trace.  I should add that the size of the market is very volatile, as the amount of ISK for sale at the site jumped from 1.8 trillion ISK to 10.9 trillion ISK in the course of 24 hours this weekend.

In the end 2013 was a rather eventful year when the subject was botting and illicit RMT.  While I write rather extensively on the subject, I hope that next year sees a decrease in the amount of newsworthy activity.  I wouldn't mind writing less.  Honest.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Minutes Are Coming?

For those interested in the CSM 8 Summer Summit minutes, your wait may finally come to an end next week.  I saw some interesting Tweets from CSM 8 member Ali Aras yesterday.

And later...


As far as I know the time and date is still up in the air, but CCP Dolan has committed to attending.  For those who can't attend live, the Space Hangupsouts are posted on Ali's Google Plus page.  I'd suggest either visiting the Google Plus page or following @ali_of_space on Twitter for more information.  Oh, and perhaps on the Eve-O forums, but I think the social media is possibly more reliable.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Poking My Head Into Middle-Earth

Sometimes I read something and become inspired to do something.  Last week I read two posts by Wilhelm on The Ancient Gaming Noob about the new offer by Turbine to allow players to purchase a level 50 character in Lord of the Rings Online.  The first took a look at not only that offer but offers by Blizzard and SOE to sell near maximum level character in World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2 respectively.  The next was a response to a post by a blogger taking issue with people criticizing Turbine for offering to sell a level 50 character.  That got me to thinking that maybe I should play LotRO.  If you look at the latest Digital Dozen, I've played most of the games in the top 10.  But for some reason I've never visited the virtual Middle-Earth.

Over the weekend I finished my big Sisters of EVE loyalty point grind.  That's right, I now have 375,000 SoE loyalty points.  That's enough for two Astero, two Stratios, 4 Sisters probe launchers, 40 core probes and 40 combat probes.  Yes!  But I needed a break for a couple of days.  So for the past few days I've played LotRO.

First, let me say that I am not going to try to play the game without paying any money.  I went ahead and bought 600 Turbine points so I could get premium status.  That status is important as I get a third character slot, a raise in the money cap from 2 gold to 5 gold, and limited mail privileges.  The mail is important for transferring items among my characters for crafting.  I'm not sure if I will use the Turbine points for a fourth character slot (595 points) or on something else.

I have created three characters: an Elven Champion, Elven Minstrel, and Human Lore Master.  I fully intended to make my Minstrel my main character, but the other two classes played really nicely also.  I realize I'm only at levels 6 and 7, but they all feel good right now.  I made the Minstrel an Explorer though, so that is probably the class I'll play the most.  The Explorer is able to not only make light and medium armor but can also collect all the crafting materials in the game.  The reason for not creating a Hunter for that role is that the Minstrel is the main healing class and I want to play a healer.

I do want to complement Turbine on creating a game with such a nice beginning.  Based on the elves and humans having different starting areas I'm assuming all four races have their own starting areas.  After all, if the hobbits don't start in The Shire, then something is seriously wrong.  That's a feature that I hope all the upcoming games like EQ Landmark and Wildstar incorporate.

Also, I really appreciate the fact that the female characters are actually clothed.  When I play an MMORPG, I tend to create male characters when I plan on interacting with people a lot and female characters when I don't.  For example, in EVE Online, my female character is the CEO of my personal corp and the two combat characters that could join other corporations are both male.  Of course, I created a female wood elf in EQ2 as my main because I wanted to play a wood elf but the females just looked tougher (in my opinion) than the males.  The newer games I've played put the female characters in skimpy armor.  LotRO, as an older game, actually gives the characters useful looking armor.  At least so far.

I'll probably get serious into EVE again starting tomorrow or Saturday.  I have some vague plans on what I want to do next, which includes starting to sell things on the markets.  I also want to start exploring again, which I spent very little time doing while doing the SoE grind.  I actually miss the hacking mini-game.  But if everything continues going as well as it has the past couple of days I may have found a second game.  Well, at least until Wildstar comes out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Blogger Writing About The CSM 8 Summer Minutes

I have to admit I don't really understand the way that the Council of Stellar Management works.  So perhaps the fact that the CSM 8 Summer Summit minutes are not out yet means the world is about to end.  Or maybe not.  But the way that some people are acting this is not only a crisis but a scandal of epic proportions.  Since I can't explain why the lack of minutes is important I thought I'd take a crack at figuring out why the minutes are still not released instead.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 17 December 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 15 December 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 46.8 15,025+0.7
22Guild Wars 213.04,174+2.1
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.02,896-7.3
44Final Fantasy XIV5.51,762-4.9
55EVE Online4.81,546+0.5
66Aion4.31,394-3.5
78Neverwinter3.51,123+15.3
87Tera3.21,035-13.2
99Lord of the Rings Online2.9940+0.2
1010RIFT2.5816-10.5
1112Maple Story2.5787+15.6
12--Infestation: Survival Stories1.8593+11.3
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 32,021

Sunday saw a slight decrease in the amount of time the Xfire community spent playing its most popular MMORPGs.  The 0.9% decline was led by a 228 hour decline in the time spent playing Star Wars: The Old Republic while Neverwinter led the pack with a 149 hour gain in popularity.  Infestation: Survival Stories is making its first appearance in three weeks while Planetside 2 dropped off the list this week for the first time since July.

Pre-Patch Blues? - This week Planetside 2 fell out of the Digital Dozen for the first time in 20 weeks.  But I don't expect the absence to last longer than a week.  The second patch in Operation: Make Faster Game launches today.  The response to the first step of OMFG was positive, with the Xfire community spending 20.8% more time playing PS2 the first Sunday after the patch went live.

Rolling Along - Over the past few months the trend after a game has experienced an expansion or major patch, the Xfire community has played the game for a week and then the playtime falls.  But two games, Neverwinter and Maple Story, are bucking the trend.  Both experienced 15+% gains in playtime this week and have seen steadily increasing playtime since 24 November.  The only other game on the Digital Dozen that can make that claim is World of Warcraft, which has experienced increases in play in five of the six weeks since BlizzCon was held on 8-9 November.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Global War On Illicit RMT: Player Auctions

Last week I posted an article discussing the possibility of terrorists using virtual world like Second Life and World of Warcraft to launder money.  I think that some people were shocked at the size of the estimated value of $2 billion1 of both the primary and secondary RMT markets in 2007.  A question that came up was: how much does EVE Online ISK contribute to the illicit secondary RMT market?

I don't think anyone really has a good estimate on the size of the secondary RMT market, both for EVE Online and as a whole.  However, I do know of a website, PlayerAuctions.com, that facilitates the trading of virtual currency for real world money.  The site was referenced in an academic paper about gold farming and RMT written in 2009 so the site has operated for at least four years.


I conducted a survey of the amount of virtual currency for sale on Saturday, 14 December 2013.  I found auctions for 46 games2 totaling $34.7 million.3  Only three games, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and RIFT had more than $1 million worth of currency for sale.  Two other games, Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, had currency worth more than 1% of the market for sale.

So what about the other 41 games?  How much was for sale for each game?  I have a Google document with all the games listed for those curious.  The top 10 games in the "Other" category are:

Dungeons And Dragons Online:          $162,000
EverQuest II:$161,568
Runescape:$141,269
Lord of the Rings Online:$102,986
The Secret World:$88,130
Aion:$87,373
Star Trek Online:$52,861
EverQuest:$52,430
Dungeon Defenders:$50,545
Dragon's Prophet:$34,908

So where is EVE?  The game ranked 16th with a sell value of $26,040.  That represented 0.07% of the value of the virtual currency for sale on PlayerAuctions.com. To compare that amount to the primary RMT market in EVE Online, the 1.82 trillion ISK in sell orders on PlayerAuctions.com almost matched the 1.84 trillion ISK that was spent purchasing PLEX in EVE Online's main trade hub of Jita on 14 December.

Is the activity on PlayerAuctions.com representative of the secondary RMT market as a whole?  Probably not.  But the site is a major player.  How big?  That will involve making an educated guess on the inventory turnover on the site.  Inventory turnover is a measure of the number of times inventory is sold or used in a time period such as a year.  I have to imagine that the inventory turnover on PlayerAuctions.com is at least once a month.  That would mean that over $400 million worth of virtual currency is sold each year on the site.

But based on my observations so far of EVE Online ISK, the inventory turnover is possibly as high as 4 times a month.  Virtual currency is a very perishable commodity as games companies could seize the stock at any time so the dealers in illicit RMT have every motivation to sell the currency cheaply and move it out of their hands as fast as possible.  In order to stay conservative, I would guess at a turnover in the value of the virtual currency of 15 days.  That would result in an estimated value passing through PlayerAuctions.com of $800 million.  To play it safer, I would round the estimate to between $500 million to $750 million in sales per year.

I should add a caveat.  The above estimate is known as a WAG - Wild Ass Guess.  Basing this estimate on a one day snapshot is a very sketchy proposition.  If I wanted to come up with a better estimate I would need to take a lot of samples in order to get a better picture of the market.  But I think I can safely say that the site is the home of hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit RMT per year.

This analysis does not include the commercial sites and all the individual players who sell in-game currency on scattered forums throughout the world.  Also, PlayerAuctions.com does not encompass the Asian market.  Trying to derive the total market value of the secondary RMT market based on PlayerAuctions.com alone will not produce a viable result.

Finally, does the amount of ISK for sale on PlayerAuctions.com tell us anything about the effectiveness of CCP's efforts to fight ISK sellers?  But itself, no.  But combined with the number of illicit RMT sites that have stopped offering ISK for sale, the amount of ISK for sale is perhaps another indication that ISK sellers are having an increasingly harder time making a profit selling EVE's virtual currency.


NOTES:

1.  All prices listed are in U.S. dollars.

2.  Excludes Warhammer Online which closes on 18 December 2013.

3.  The value was calculated using the lowest sales price for the game or, in the cases of games with multiple shards, with the average of the lowest prices on each shard.

Friday, December 13, 2013

An Interesting Question

I haven't felt well the past two days, but I'm powering through.  I wasn't going to make a post today until I saw this tweet from Ripard Teg.


In connection with the revelations about U.S. and British intelligence implanting agents inside of select video games, that could explain why EVE Online was left off the list.  If someone is recruiting inside a game, it helps a person's stature, and thus effectiveness, if the person is good at the game.  But the recruiter also needs to be an attractive figure to the recruit to suck them from the virtual world into the real world.  So a softer, kinder atmosphere like World of Warcraft might prove a more fertile field for recruitment.  Well, that and region locked shards.  In WoW a recruiter is pretty sure where a potential recruit is from.  Helps streamline the process.

Of course, I'm probably way off base.  For this subject we should wait for someone like The Mittani to give an opinion.  While he's not a "professional", he does have a lot of experience in virtual world intelligence gathering, including the recruitment and handling of spies.

And as for the actual subject of Ripard's tweet?  Well, have I ever said I played EVE correctly?

EDIT:  For those who pointed it out, yes I know the "revelations" first came out in 2008.  I had a splitting headache when I wrote this.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why Harass High Sec Miners?

I just have a simple question.  Why harass high sec miners?  The answer is probably obvious but I'm just weird.  After all, I'm a low sec carebear.  My whole game is concentrated on being as unobtrusive as possible.  When I come to the attention of those who wish to relieve me of my current selection of internet pixels, I do my best to escape.  And yes, that does include belt and ice mining in low sec, although my mission to collect Sisters of EVE loyalty points currently means I only mine when I need kernite to complete storyline missions.

I also don't want anyone to think I want to remove suicide ganking from EVE.  I don't.  I would hate to turn any area of EVE into a safe zone, although I do approve of the rules for the rookie systems.  New players do need a bit of breathing room.  But I watched a video of miner bumping a long time ago and I couldn't understand why the people in the video thought it was so funny.

Now, I do occasionally read MinerBumping.com, so I know that some of the activity has role playing aspects.  Of course, in James315's case, the RP aspects just hide a sophisticated entertainment operation, but that just fuels the question.  Why do people consider the harassment of high sec miners so entertaining?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Follow The Money: Terrorism And RMT

"To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs."


I think that one's life experiences sometimes color a person's outlook at life.  I think we are seeing that in some of the coverage of the leak of classified documents by Edward Snowden about U.S. and British intelligence efforts targeting virtual worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft.  Some might think that looking for terrorists in a video game played by kids is foolish.  Others, more familiar with these settings, may wonder why anyone would want to conduct clandestine meetings where the game platform records conversations.

But then again, not very many people thought a group of terrorists would hijack multiple aircraft and fly them into buildings either.  In a world where the security apparatus wants to lock every threat down, people don't want to take a chance. To use an EVE Online analogy, would you want to explain to the President of the United States why a group of blood elves managed to suicide gank a high value target? 

However, since I'm older than Big Bird and never saw a game console until I was in high school, I have a slightly different perspective.  Having grown up during Watergate, I think back to that line from All The President's Men, "Follow the money."

Is there a money aspect to the story?  Of course.  Terrorists engage in money laundering to avoid the efforts of governments to seize their funds.  And what medium have criminals used for years to launder stolen money?  Virtual worlds.  So the fact that intelligence agencies are looking at virtual worlds is an old story.  In a paper presented to the International Cyber Resilience Conference in 2010, Angela Irwin and Jill Slay, both from the University of South Australia, looked at the possibility of terrorists laundering money through Second Life and World of Warcraft.  They concluded that...
"The constantly evolving nature of money laundering and terrorism financing requires that opponent’s strengths and weaknesses be constantly assessed at both technological and social levels as the degree of protection afforded to financial systems are merely temporary as investigators and anti-terrorism agencies continue to find themselves one step behind a constantly transforming adversary. The development of a practical typology, a strategic and tactical orientation, can guide homeland security professionals and investigators in identifying, assessing and defeating opponents. 

"Although real-world financial regulations do not currently extend to virtual environments, there is growing momentum for this to change. It can reasonably be assumed that, in time, virtual environments will be subject to the strict compliance laws and regulations faced by their real-world counterparts. Therefore, it is vital that pattern recognition techniques and suspicious behaviour maps, rule bases and models already be determined and systems designed to automatically detect potential money laundering and terrorist financing activities to ensure their transition into the virtual world is as smooth as possible."
I write extensively about game companies' war on illicit RMT, but thinking about governments joining the war is a little scary.  Yet, if we see the actions of the U.S. and British intelligence agents as a huge anti-RMT operation looking for a specific type of operator, I find the activities described in the Snowden leak as more logical.

The question some may wonder is: can RMT, whether through the use of Linden dollars in Second Life or the illicit secondary market for WoW gold, really fund terrorist operations?  In the scenario envisioned by Irwin and Slay, the process would involve credit card fraud.
  1. Acquire a stolen credit card number.
  2. Create a new account using a prepaid card on a massively multi-player online game with an active gold farming market, which allows both buying and selling of game currency.  It is important that the virtual goods can be bought and sold.
  3. Go to the gold farming sites and purchase the money with the stolen card and have it transferred to the new account.
  4. Log on with a second account that has been purchased with a different credit card or prepaid gift card so both accounts are logged on at the same time.
  5. Transfer the money from the first account to the second and then delete the first account.
  6. Now sell the money to a place different from where it was purchased and have the proceeds transferred to a new bank account.
That type of fraud would not stand out as unusual in today's world.  Back in January 2008, Sony Online Entertainment CEO John Smedly told Massively that credit card fraud and chargebacks had cost SOE over $1 million over the previous six months.  And Scott Hartsman, now the CEO of Trion Worlds, told Gamasutra in July 2011...
"Where you go buy gold from a disreputable gold site, and they say 'thank you' and deliver your gold, and sell your credit card number, or start registering accounts with your credit card.
"It's those kinds of things where people laugh and go, 'Oh, that never happens.' No. It happens. It happens a shitload. To the point where, over the last three or four years, I would dare anybody to ask an exec at a gaming company how much they've had to pay in Master Card and Visa fines, because of fraud. It happens a lot."
Just how much could a terrorist cell engaged in credit card fraud make in a money laundering operation involving MMOs make?  Marcus Eikenberry, the owner of the game time code selling site MarkeeDragon.com, related a story from 2002 of how the Russian mafia would use stolen credit cards to purchase Ultima Online 90-day game codes from the EA store and turn around and sell them at half-price to the general public.  He calculated that EA probably lost around $600,000 from the credit card fraud, meaning that the Russians probably pocketed around $300,000.

But is this story just an aberration or is the illicit RMT market just this big?  In 2007, the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology's Tuukka Lehtiniemi and Vili Lehdonvirta estimated that the combined primary and secondary RMT markets were over $2 billion, with the secondary market in the West valued at $285 million.

Based on recent events, the value of the secondary RMT market has probably increased over the past 7 years.  In an anti-botting/RMT operation conducted in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in September 2013, Square Enix seized 367.7 billion gil from botters/illicit RMTers worth an estimated $2.5-$4.2 million on the illicit secondary market.  And Jagex, makers of the browser-based MMORPG Runescape, also in September estimated that in-game currency with a secondary market value of $60,000-$70,000 was sent to the illicit RMT sites every month.

But is this enough to finance terrorist operations.  According to a report on the website of the Council of Foreign Relations, the answer is yes.  While al-Quaeda may have spent as much as $500,000 on the 9/11 attacks, the 2002 bombing of a Bali nightclub cost about $50,000, the 2004 Madrid train bombing cost an estimated $10,000-$15,000 to conduct and the 2005 attacks on London's mass transit system cost about $2,000.

So far no money laundered through an MMO has helped finance a terrorist attack.  According to the CFR report the biggest sources of funding for terrorist organizations are charities, the illicit drug trade and money laundering though legitimate businesses.  Also, the money laundering that does occur is in the more traditional forms of transfers as well as using the hawala system.

Am I too focused on the subject of RMT and ignoring such benefits to intelligence organizations as the identification of human targets to either flip or track?  Perhaps.  But I'm struck by the Pro Publica article that mentioned "Operation Galician," an effort that cracked down on a crime ring that had moved into virtual worlds to sell credit card information.  As that is basically the only solid benefit I saw while researching this article, I'll believe that a focus on credit card fraud is a valid approach to take. But taking my "follow the money" approach, I don't see any evidence presented of a link between MMOs and terrorism.  At most I see that some terrorists may like to play computer games.

Expanding beyond the financial angle, is this effort by U.S. and British intelligence agencies really designed to prevent terrorist acts?  While the people releasing the data have their own biases, the information available currently indicates the answer is no.  I see the effort as a fishing expedition with the fight against terror a handy excuse to justify more intrusions into people's lives.  If I had to reach into literature, I would compare this efforts to the early years of Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium series.  That, for those unfamiliar with Pournelle's work, is not flattering.  Then again, the desire to collect every bit of information on everyone on the off-chance the information could come in handy isn't exactly a pretty picture either.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 10 December 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 1 December 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 46.1 14,916+4.6
22Guild Wars 212.64,088-1.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.63,124-8.1
44Final Fantasy XIV5.71,853-0.9
55EVE Online4.71,538+3.9
67Aion4.61,444+25.5
78Tera3.71,192+17.8
811Neverwinter3.0974+65.9
96Lord of the Rings Online2.9938-21.6
109RIFT2.8912-5.0
1110Planetside 22.3730+18.9
12--Maple Story2.1681+40.7
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 32,390

Sunday saw an end to a six week streak of declining hours spent playing MMORPGs by the Xfire community.  The 3.7% increase compared to the Sunday before was led by World of Warcraft which saw a 653 hour increase.  The games showing the largest drop in play time were Star Wars: The Old Republic with 277 hours and Lord of the Rings Online with 258 hours.  Need for Speed World dropped off the list and was replaced by Maple Story.  This week is the first appearance for the Nexon game since 28 July.

Chuck Norris Was A Ranger, Right?  The most impressive comeback this week belongs to Neverwinter.  With a 65% gain over last week and the most time played since August, Neverwinter appears back after missing the list 4 out of the previous 6 weeks.  What caused the change?  The Shadowmantle module launched on 5 December, bringing with it the Hunter Ranger class.  The new content seems to have captured players' attention.

Seeing Red - Another game making a comeback due to an expansion is Maple Story.  The Red: First Impact expansion saw revamped classes and profession systems along with holiday events.  However, the game also saw technical issues which resulted in Nexon giving players compensation.  Of course, that could have inflated the numbers as one of the compensation events ran on Sunday.  But even after that issue was resolved two additional issues arose, marring the launch further.  I have to wonder if the momentum was destroyed and the players will drift away again.

But, But, Spaceships! - Star Wars: The Old Republic saw the number of hours the Xfire community spent playing drop by 8.1% Sunday.  That despite the Galactic Starfighter patch launching last week.  Of course, the launch wasn't for all players.  Only subscribers had access to Galactic Starfighter on 3 December, with Preferred Players getting access on 14 January and free-to-play players seeing the content on 4 February.

Monday, December 9, 2013

There's More To Life Than Watching RMT

When I left Iceland following Fanfest back in April I didn't see much of a future writing about botting and RMT.  Team Security had done a pretty good job containing the use of bots and I figured nothing exciting or of interest would really show up the rest of the year.  I thought I'd write maybe one post a month.  Ha!  The last 2-3 months has seen a lot more posts than that.  But I don't eat, drink, and breathe this stuff.

So what am I doing in the realm of something normal?  Well, at least normal for a gamer?  Currently I'm reading Nick Yee's new book, The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us -- And How They Don't.  People may remember Dr. Yee from The Daedalus Project, which involved interviewing gamers.  When I heard the book was out, I downloaded it onto my Kindle.  I've only read the first couple of chapters but I plan on finishing it riding to and from work on the train.  He has included the results of The Daedalus Project in the book and I look forward to reading the results of his work.

Over the weekend I also decided to download Star Wars: The Old Republic again.  I had problems the first time I played, but between having a better computer and the game going free-to-play I figured maybe I'd give it another try.  But when I went to create a character I couldn't find a class I wanted to play.  I have the Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn on my bookshelf.  Maybe reading that will get me in the mood.

One game I don't have to get in the mood to play is Tropico 4.  The opening music just makes me feel happy and ready to play.  I started playing the game before Fanfest but only got to the 11th scenario in the campaign before EVE took over my free time for a few months.  I'm back to playing once a week and am now on the fourth game of the campaign.  I really want to finish this time.

One game I'm surprised I'm playing is City of Steam: Arkadia.  I read Blagpuss' initial impressions on the relaunch and then just had to take a look for myself.  I took a Riven gunner up to level 7 and an Ostenian channeler up to level 6.  The channeler is the healer class in CoS and I think I may stick with that.  One thing I noticed is that I had a choice of three armors to choose from and I don't think a correct choice really exists.  I'll have to play around more.  Yes, I had fun running through the tutorial.  Just don't expect help from a wiki.

Of course, I also played some EVE Online.  I am now up to 285,000 loyalty points with the Sisters of EVE.  My current goal is to buy 2 blueprint copies each for the Astero and Stratios plus 4 Sisters launchers and 4 sets of probes before going back to Minmatar space.  So I'm 80,000 LP away from my goal.  If I just sit down for an hour or so a night I can knock that out by Sunday.

So I have some things I might write about in the future that aren't related to RMT.  I still have one more RMT-related post I've tried to write for a few months now, but with any luck I can get back to some regular gaming posts.  Unless, of course, someone nukes some bots or illicit RMT sites.  That I'll gladly write about.


Friday, December 6, 2013

ISK Seller Odds And Ends

Sometimes my blogging life gets a bit interesting.  I don't know about other bloggers, but I occasionally receive offers and other PR emails from companies wanting me to put some of their content on The Nosy Gamer.  The latest offer was pretty amusing.
Greetings!

I work for                    .com, a price comparison engine for PC and Xbox digital games. The CD keys (Steam, Origin, uPlay, Battlenet) are almost 50% off the normal price. We compare all the best cd key sellers like GreenManGaming, GamersGate, GamesRocket, G2Play, mmoga, etc...

I am contacting you to discuss if you would be interested in a partnership with us, as we wish to sponsor a PC game giveaway for your site's visitors.

Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon!

If you get an offer like this, please decline.  In amongst some of the legitimate GTC sellers I found RMT sites selling ISK.  That wasn't really a surprise since MMOGA is an ISK seller that a reader brought to my attention.  The site isn't even very competitive with CCP, which is the reason I actually mentioned the site and didn't black out the site's name.  So sorry, no free game giveaways here!

However, while investigating, I did find a new secondary market ISK seller.  That was good, because over the past 10-12 days two more RMT sites de-listed EVE Online and no longer sell ISK.  Last week Guy4Game stopped selling ISK.  In the last few days a company called MMORun followed suit.  These companies could change their minds at any time, which is why I usually try to wait before posting about this.  But so far, so good.

And don't think that CCP doesn't know that ISK sellers are experiencing interesting times.  I saw this tweet from CCP Stillman yesterday.


He knows that he and CCP Peligro are doing bad things to the illicit RMT sellers, but doesn't really know how bad.  Either that or just wanted someone to bring it up because he's too polite to talk smack directly.  At least that's what I got from this tweet:


The rise in prices for a couple of sites I've seen doesn't impact the median price on my list as Team Security hit the ones with the lowest prices.  A good strategy, as the smaller the difference between the "official" price in Jita and that offered by ISK sellers, the lower the incentive players have to go to a sketchy secondary RMT site.  And some of the sites are shady.  I removed one site from my monitoring list based on MMOBUX warning that the site was repeatedly getting reported for fraud.  I don't care that the reports were possibly for another game.  I want to monitor sites players actually go to for ISK.

I should also address the desire of some people who would like me to make a regular post about RMT or at least about ISK prices.  I don't really want to do that, and not just because I'll wind up with more letters like the one at the beginning of this post.  Often I'll take two or even three weeks to figure out what is happening.  If I try to post the figures every week I'll have no idea what is really happening.  Trying to figure out what's happening in the shadow war between CCP and the illicit RMT companies is difficult enough as it is.  Trying to do so on a weekly basis is a disaster waiting to happen.

One last item of business.  If anyone knows of an active ISK selling site, please shoot me an email.  The way the business is shaking out, I may need a replacement to plug into my watch list soon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Global War On Illicit RMT: Charity Case

If I had to name a game whose economy has suffered the ravaging effects of botting and illicit RMT, I would name Runescape.  Despite banning 1.1 million bots and seizing 3.7 trillion gold pieces1 in the first nine months of 2013, Runescape suffers from a serious inflation problem.  Jagex introduced Bonds, a version of EVE Online's PLEX.  But Jagex still needed to institute additional gold sinks in order to absorb all the currency that bots had introduced into the economy.

In November, Jagex opened up the Well of Goodwill, which allowed players to turn in gold and bonds to raise money for seven charities.  And one of the benefits, besides helping worthy charities?
"A second benefit of adding the Well of Goodwill is that it will also act as a massive gold sink for the game: something we promised with the launch of Bonds that's still needed, which will have a huge impact on improving the game's economy."
That's right.  Jagex turned a charitable event into an event that could help heal the ravages of botting and illicit RMT.  But I won't knock the Runescape communities efforts, as they helped raise over $90,000.  The fact that players also donated over 544 billion gold pieces and 7,000 bonds also helped remove some of the excess currency that was injected into the economy by the bots.

Quite frankly, I'm glad that Runescape has an external page that I can do lookups of bond prices every week as part of my research into the effects of PLEX-type systems on the price of secondary market RMT.  If not, I would have had to actually start an account and start playing in order to get information.  When the game company puts out figures that 40-50% of players in any given month patronize a secondary market RMT site, that's a game I want to have no part of.  Hopefully Jagex's latest plans will help bring the RMT problem into some semblance of control.



Notes:

1.  Using Sunday's bond price, 3.7 trillion gp is the equivalent of over 19,700 years of game time.  In EVE that is the equivalent of over 237,000 PLEX.  As a comparison to EVE, in October and November of this year, 186,779 PLEX were sold in The Forge, home of EVE's main trade hub Jita.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rainy Days And Battleships

Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin' around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.


The lyrics to this old Carpenters hit didn't just pop into my head because the weather forecast calls for rain in Chicago today.   I started thinking this way after reading CCP Rise's latest post on the new Sisters of EVE battleship, the Nestor.  No cloak bonus, but I bet it will do a wonderful job running high-sec ghost sites.  And really, I think everyone knows we will see them used for that purpose.  Any bets cloaky ships will follow Nestor's around looking for an opportunity to call in a gank fleet?

But you will not find me among the victims.  I have over 250,000 loyalty points, enough for 2 Asteros, 1 Stratios and the associated Sisters Probe Launchers and probes to fit them.  I won't race to have 600,000 LP for when patch 1.1 comes out.

Once Rubicon launched I pretty much lost all desire to fly battleships.  I guess I really didn't like them before.  I've flown a Maelstrom for a couple of years running missions in high sec, but that's about it.  Considering how much I like staying in high sec to begin with, that's also not a lot of time over the past year.  I purchased a Typhoon last February but except for flying the ship out of the trade hub, I haven't used it.  I also still have a 2-run BPC for the Tempest Fleet Issue.  Getting the BPC was the fun part.  Actually flying one?  Meh.  About the only battleship I'm interested in flying is the Panther.  I still need to learn higher levels of Jump Portal Generation and Jump Fuel Conservation, but I can fly one.  In fact, I have the skills to fly every Minmatar sub-capital ship.

Anyone who reads the blog regularly knows I love the Prowler, with the Cheetah coming in second place.  I like fast, cloaky ships.  Battleships just seem so slow and clumsy.  I think I'll just stay away from them for awhile.  I'll train the rest of the racial battleship skills on my combat pilot eventually.  But for now I'll just concentrate on my frigate and cruiser skills.  They just seem a better fit for me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 3 December 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 1 December 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 45.7 14,263+0.4
22Guild Wars 213.34,163+5.4
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.93,401+16.6
44Final Fantasy XIV6.01,870-16.2
55EVE Online4.71,480-13.6
66Lord of the Rings Online3.81,196-17.2
77Aion3.71,151-13.5
89Tera3.21,012+11.0
98RIFT3.1960-4.7
1010Planetside 22.0614-27.0
11--Neverwinter1.9587+27.9
12--Need For Speed World1.7540+19.7
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 31,237

The slow decline in the amount of hours the Xfire community plays MMORPGs continued on Sunday.  The 1% drop in the number of hours played compared to the week before was led by Final Fantasy XIV, which experienced a drop of 463 hours.  Star Wars: The Old Republic led all games attracting players with a rise of 485 hours compared to the week before.  Need for Speed World and Neverwinter rejoined the list this week.  Need for Speed World made its first appearance in nine weeks.  Games dropping off the list were Infestation: Survivor Stories and APB: Reloaded.

Commercialism And Thanksgiving - Normally when a holiday comes around, SOE games see a rise in time the Xfire community spends in the games.  So what happened Sunday to Planetside 2?  Simple.  Instead of having an double xp weekend, Planetside 2 held Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  With no draw to play on a holiday weekend, the time played on Sunday dropped 27% from the week before.

Pre-Patch Boost - While EVE Online and Lord of the Rings Online both experienced drops before the launch of their expansions two weeks ago, Star Wars: The Old Republic is seeing a big boost.  With subscribers getting access to Galactic Starfighter today, SWTOR will probably experience another boost in interest next Sunday.

Friday, November 29, 2013

How The CSM Helped Me Win (A Copy Of) EVE

I'm sure a lot of EVE players have experienced this problem.  You've purchased EVE: The Second Decade Collector's Edition and, because you have two accounts, don't know to which account to apply the codes that come in the box.  I purchased the Collector's Edition but hadn't applied any codes because I play on both my main accounts a lot and didn't know which one I really wanted to mark as special.  I wasn't about to purchase a second Collector's Edition just to resolve the problem. 

My eyes lit up a couple of weeks ago when I saw that Raptr was going to live-stream a presentation on EVE with devs answering questions for 2 hours afterward.  Of course, the program occurred at the same time as the CSM Town Hall on 16 November.  And as any good EVE player would do, I went to the one offering loot.  Raptr was offering a Collector's Edition to the two people who submitted the best questions to the devs and 20 rookie pirate ships to people who submitted questions.

I figured I wouldn't win a Collector's Edition, but a rookie pirate ship would really look nice to fly around high sec.  So I decided to submit a question.  But since the Raptr event was probably going to overshadow the CSM event, I figured I'd throw in a second CSM-related question.  Here are my questions and the answers I received:
For all the devs: If you had to create a new character, what race would you choose and why? 

For CCP Xhagen: In all your time working with the Council of Stellar Management, who was your favorite member to work with?

CCP Affinity: "Since beta all my characters are Minmatar, I really like their backstory and ship design."

CCP Karkur:  "Is Jove a valid answer? Just because!"

CCP Eterne:  "Amarr victor!"

CCP Xhagen:  "Your question smells suspiciously like a trap! :) I'm going to take the diplomatic route and say that I made many good friends through the CSM and I talk with some of them still on personal notes, even though they've left the council. 

"And if I say that Trebor is my fav, will that make him not run again? :P"
A few days later someone from Raptr contacted me and informed me I won.  Turns out following the news and the CSM paid off.  I waited until now to write about the win because I didn't receive my copy of the Collector's Edition until Wednesday.

So while I didn't officially win EVE (I'm still logging in) I did win a copy of EVE.  Now to figure out how to apply the codes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

CCP's War On Bots: Spambots Two Weeks Later

Two weeks ago CCP Peligro and CCP Stillman made an appearance in Jita to witness firsthand the silence of the spambots.  The difference in the amount of chat traffic in Jita after Team Security implemented the anti-spambot traffic was striking.

The bans began on 12 November.

But the real question isn't the initial success of the anti-spambot measures or how many botters were banned.  The true measure is whether the changes are permanent or just temporary.  With the initial bans of the spambots ending on 26 November I decided to revisit Jita and see if the spambots had retaken control of local.