Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Slippery Slope

Okay, so after opening my eyes and actually seeing that SOMERblink engages in RMT activity, I would think that sometime before the end of the year that CCP would seize the assets of the Cognative Distortion alliance and permanently ban the alliance executor, Somerset Mahm.  With GTC seller Markee Dragon having sold over 1 million EVE time codes, it is entirely conceivable that SOMERblink has made over $100,000 as an affiliate. That $100,000 figure I gave represents slightly over 57,000 time codes sold over two years.  Is it possible that SOMERblink has referred an average of 1,200 GTC sales a month to Markee Dragon over the past two years?  While I have no hard sales figures, I can believe that 5% of Markee Dragon's sales have come from SOMERblink.

UPDATE: 27 October 2013 -The link to the article on the CCP site, as well as a video put out by Markee Dragon himself, both refer to Markee Dragon as having sold over 1 million GTC.  But a source indicates that the 1 million is the number of GTC sold by Marcus Eikenberry the person, not Markee Dragon the website.  This seems to be confirmed by a story Mr. Eikenberry told in a video about helping to fund Goonswarm's wars.  I'm pretty sure he was referring to Goonswarm during the Great War, when Mr. Eikenberry was still with Shattered Crystal.

Also, a source at Shattered Crystal revealed that during SOMERblink's first 32 months, when it was an affiliate of Shattered Crystal, that SOMERblink received approximately $135,000 for GTC referrals.

But will that happen?  That entirely depends on CCP's relationship with SOMERblink.  The most important part of that relationship, at least for this argument, is what was Somerset Mahm told was allowable when first starting the enterprise.  If Somerset Mahm was told that this GTC for ISK scheme was allowable, I don't see how CCP can enact punitive measures for past actions. If that is the case, I think the most that could happen is for SOMERblink to stop the RMT offer.

If CCP told Somerset Mahm that the GTC for ISK scheme was allowable, it would not be the first time that CCP had told players to do something that violates the EULA and/or ToS.  Anyone remember the cache scraping controversy?  Yes, cache scraping is not allowed, but because a dev many years ago told players cache scraping was okay (and CCP subsequently put in features to make cache scraping easier), CCP is not enforcing that portion of the EULA.  Here is the statement from CCP Peligro concerning the use of cache scraping...
"After consulting with CCP Legal and Team Security, we are not prepared to amend the EULA at this time to address your concerns. However, your comments are good ones, and we will consider incorporating them with the next scheduled update to the EULA (expected this fall, 2013).

"In the meantime, CCP confirms that we will only impose penalties on cache scraping if used in connection with other illegal activities in the game (i.e., botting). We will not take action against cache scraping for other uses."
The same holds true for the use of ISBoxer.  Anyone remember this statement by CCP Stillman concerning section 9c of the EULA?
"Some of the multiboxing software out there is powerful enough to count as “client modification” if used for that purpose."
That's a direct reference to ISBoxer.  But because devs had ruled that the use of ISBoxer was okay, or at least that people wouldn't recieve a ban for using it in the past, that CCP would not enforce this part of the EULA concerning ISBoxer.  The funny thing is that someone who is detected running a bot using Inner Space is not banned for botting, but permanently banned for client modification.  Using Inner Space to run ISBoxer, however, isn't currently a bannable offense even though the same client modification is performed.

Let's take a look at CCP Stillman's entire statement on the ISBoxer question...
"This extends to multiboxing software. Some of the multiboxing software out there is powerful enough to count as “client modification” if used for that purpose. Our stance on third-party software is that we do not endorse such software as we have no control over what it does. As such, we can’t say that multiboxing software isn’t against our EULA. But the same goes in this case, that unless we determine that people are doing things beyond “multiboxing”, we will not be taking any action. We only care about the instances where people are messing with our process for the purposes of cheating, and running multiple clients at the same time is not in violation of our EULA in and of itself unless it involves trial accounts."
So as you can see, CCP has set precedents over the past year allowing players to break the EULA as long as they don't do "bad things".  Of course, I maintain that RMT is a bad thing.  But the precedent exists for CCP to rule that what SOMERblink is doing does not qualify as bad and to allow it.  I think that would be a huge mistake, but the player base has spoken loud enough on other issues to force a bending of the rules.  What's to keep CCP from doing the same in the case of SOMERblink?

UPDATE: 24 October 2013 - Darius JOHNSON (the former CCP Sreegs) left this comment on Facebook that's relevant.
""So as you can see, CCP has set precedents over the past year allowing players to break the EULA as long as they don't do "bad things"." - Correction... VERY junior members of CCP have gone on record in the past year and prior to that regarding EULA violations. In most cases VERY junior members of a company don't get to decide which portions of their legal contracts a company is going to honor." 

18 comments:

  1. It stands to reason that considerably more than 5% of Marquee Dragons referrals come from Somerblink. How does Marquee charging the same retail price a seller like Amazon.com make itself the number one re-seller by such margins? The only way it is possible is if there is an advantage to buying from Marquee and an operation like Somerblink is that advantage.

    Now you can understand where they got the funds to do this ---- http://jestertrek.blogspot.com/2013/10/sponsor-and-gamble.html

    And note that Jester won't say whether their kickback scheme is RMT. Wonderful what industry lobbying can do.

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  2. Just to follow up a bit more .... Jester puts a estimate together than Somerblink gave out 600 Plexes during the event in Vegas. We then goes through a conversion to ISK but doesn't make the obvious one --- 600 Plex is $10,500 if you are buying them from CCP at the highest discount rate (28 Plex for $489.86).

    Somer had a presence in Vegas second to none. Airfare, lodging, meals, and the lobbying promotions with the PLEX ---- this is not small potatoes, Vegas is an expensive place.

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  3. Underlying thread - does the activity of Somberblink negatively effect The Game as a whole? The way it is done is using the way the mechinic was allowed?
    If the RMT sites actually did what Somberblink did to make money, there would be a lot more benefits contributed to eve as a whole.
    I think many people are trying to justify what they are doing by standing next to a beneficial to eve operation like SomberBlink is. My opinion.

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    1. My vague impression is that BLINK is a source of excitement and added interest--not to me, personally, but certainly to some players. "Bad," from the point of view of CCP's investors, would have to add up to "net negative subscriptions." I'm not sure how BLINK qualifies.

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  4. I think CCP will allow SOMERBlink to continue. Keep in mind that CCP sees RMT as a _bad_thing_ mostly because it undermines their ability to make money out of their game. RMT that actually makes CCP _more_ money (selling GTCs)... well, they might turn a blind eye to that. I think they will.

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  5. I don't think CCP will shut down SOMER.

    Traditionally in law numbers don't matter much. It's just as illegal to steal $10 as to steal $100,000.

    Is it wrong to receive real money from affiliate schemes? No, clearly not, there are dozens of sites that get money from such schemes.

    Is it wrong to give isk away to customers? Very tricky this one, if they declare in black and white that it's wrong and immoral they go on dangerous grounds. For instance they themselves give out valuable items to customers all the time, eg Gnosis. TMC pays writers in isk for a site that is likely to one day be sold for real world money.

    I really think the best solution is just to move along.

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  6. Is it relevant that players don't pay for the isk directly? You spend just as much money buying through SOMER as not. It is an isk bonus for buying through a certain affiliate.

    SOMER might argue they don't receive money for isk. They receive money for selling GTC and reward/entice customers with an ingame bonus.

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  7. CCP will not drop SOMER Blink. CCPBLACK will be banned. If people ask why, CCP will just say he was not "official affiliate".

    And you know what's really ironic here? Kicking out SOMERBlink would be a perfect PR move for CCP right now - everyone is still pretty mad about the secret and not-so-secred giveaways of unique ships worth billions, so if CCP right now said "Guys, this is all wrong, sorry, we will drop our relationship with all lottery sites and only give in-game rewards that have no market value form now on" CCP Seagull would be hailed as second coming of Jesus.

    But they won't do it. Even though it would benefit the game AND their business, they will still not do it.

    I am pretty disgusted with CCP right now.

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    1. I would be pretty disgusted with CCP if they kicked out SOMER.
      Regarding somergate: the mistake was CCP's in offering rare ships to be raffled off (and possibly in not making these donations more public) or do you blame SOMER for accepting the scorpions?

      There are no in-game rewards that have no market value. Everything can be monetized and translated into isk, even the PR/traffic/interest boost from a compliment or even a negative blog post that leads to increased awareness about a subject.

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    2. @Raziel - So you are not bothered by the RMT that SOMER is conducting?

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    3. I don't really see it as RMT, if I did I would be bothered by it.
      I do think SOMER is on a slippery slope but they haven't stepped over the line. You simply draw the line a bit higher up on the slope.

      Buy GTC through reseller, convert to PLEX, convert to isk and get 1,2 billion isk.
      Buy GTC through SOMER, convert to PLEX+blink credit, convert to isk and get 1,4 billion isk.

      Buying GTC through SOMER and converting blink credit to isk takes a little more work for the user and he ends up with a little more isk. What is the difference between the two?

      In both cases I spend $ and end up with ISK. Perhaps I am missing something.

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    4. "There are no in-game rewards that have no market value."

      Sure there are. The ones you can't trade to other players have no market value, especially if they are destroyed during a character transfer.

      Delete
  8. I’m not sure why people are all over Somer? They aren’t doing anything different come other sites like EN24 and TM.com both of which make real world money and pay the contributors in ISK.

    They are turning ISK into cold hard cash.

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  9. I see a problem there but it isn't Somers business model but the model of affiliate program it self.
    As you pointed out some times already you get more isk per $ if you go the GTC way instead of buying plex from CCP directly. So there is an GTC Seller who is profiting from the sell. And he has enough profit on it to give away another 5% to affiliate websites.
    If I buy two plexs from CCP I have to 17,50€ each. I could get that plex through GTCs at the same level from European vendor or exploit the $ to € exchange value and get it even cheaper. If the trader of this codes can make such large profit from this kind of transaction to pay 5% to advertising websites, I start wondering how much money ends up in CCP pockets. Obviously not the 17,50€ from the beginning.
    GTC Vendors wouldn't like that step but CCP could reduce the cost of GTCs by lowering the profit margin of the middle man (aka the GTC vendor). Currently the middle man has such a large profit that he can handsomely pay another person for advertising. And this topic is going to get even more complicated if you start tinkering with legal conditions for affiliate programs, if you want to change them or restrict them some how. I'm not a lawyer but I'm sure that this stuff is going to make a lot of trouble. It's a discussion about who gets how much money, and once money is involved it will soon get ugly.
    Somer just have the unfortunate role of being the straw man taking all the flak brewing around this business model, the core problem lies way deeper. And it is far more a society problem than a mere gaming problem. It lies with the creation of value, and whether a mere middle man (like vendor or a bank) should make equal amount of money as the creator of the value.
    If all the GTCs and PLEX changing hand around EVE had been sold directly and solely from CCP, how much more money would they have to develop our beloved game? With the kick starter websites there was a step in the direction of getting rid of the middle man. Reducing the overhead of bureaucracy and other cadgers getting money on processes they don't add any value to. The GTC selling and looping over another affiliate is a step to more overhead instead of less.

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  10. The post title is a slippery slope ---- Here is what we have to look forward to in Eve now that GTC selling with bonus raffle tokens and ISK incentives are apparently legal:

    https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=289554

    You will now have a legitimate method of cashing out your ISK, items, and characters for real money. Essentially, as long as you don't do a direct trade of cash for ISK absent CCP support through GTC re-sellers you are going to be legal.

    I can't see how Somer is allowed to do it but no one else will be. The plan listed differs only from Somer in eliminating the gambling aspect ... throw in a raffle and it is 100% the same.

    If this process is legal under the terms CCP allows then all hell will break loose. Further --- any alliance with the assets to do so could legally RMT to their own members through GTC referrals and cash out at the highest level --- suddenly all those paranoid conspiracy theories become the status quo --- imagine the scams you could run now --- only with real money instead of ISK.

    BUY GTC'S THROUGH ME AND I'LL DOUBLE YOUR ISK --- COMING TO JITA SOON !!!!

    DINSDALE PIRANNHA WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG --- PRAISE HIS NAME.

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    1. You make a similar offer as SOMER.
      Seems legit.
      As long as you can deliver the isk you are not a scammer. Seems legit. (Scamming in eve is legal, but since real money is involved it might not be if you don't deliver.)

      Of course getting a reseller to partner with you might not be easy. Getting a reseller to partner with Goons? They will fight for the right.
      Though I assume Goons just point people to the existing arrangement through TheMittani.com. They don't even have to offer any additional isk incentives, they already get their dollars. Offering an isk incentive will just draw more players.

      Is it RMT if CCP condones it?
      Cache scraping won't get you banned without any additional infractions either. Both are on that slippery slope.

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    2. CCP is in a pickle to be sure. They have come out time and again as being against RMT. Hell, they created PLEX to specifically combat RMT.

      If they now choose to allow GTC sales to become a vehicle to legally RMT, then they lose a ton of credibility.

      I'm willing to give CCP the benefit of the doubt that CCP simply missed this RMT vehicle for all these years. Now that its out in the open, however, I don't think I could ever respect CCP again if they let this slide.

      I've gone through long periods of time where I've basically stopped playing EVE for months at a time, yet still continued paying my subs instead of letting them lapse. I did this because even though I wasn't constantly playing the game, I wanted to support CCP for the great game they have provided me over the last 8 years and because I had faith and trusted them to make the game better with the money I provided.

      The only time I stopped was during the Incarna fiasco when I said fuck it after shooting the monument for a day, and let my subs lapse until after Crucible. If CCP condones the Somerblink RMT method, then I can't see how I can maintain faith in CCP afterwards.

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete