Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jagex Joins The PLEX Parade

Has anyone noticed just how many game companies are turning toward CCP's PLEX system?  In August 2011 En Masse introduced Chronoscrolls into Tera as a way to fight gold sellers.  In October 2012 SOE followed with the introduction of Kronos into EverQuest, EverQuest 2 and Vanguard but only advertised the new object as a method of payment using in-game currency.  Last month Carbine made the surprising choice of not only going with a subscription model for its upcoming game Wildstar but introducing the PLEX-like CREDD.

What CREDD Does
The latest company to hop on the bandwagon is Jagex, makers of Runescape.  The browser based game has a long history of problems with bots and grey market gold sellers.  In 2011 the company banned over 9 million accounts for botting.  On "Bot Nuking Day", Jagex banned 1.5 million accounts and in the following week was banning 9,000 accounts every minute.  In January 2012 Jagex won a lawsuit against Impulse Software, the maker of the iBot in a Boston court, for copyright infringement, circumvention of technological protection measures and computer fraud.

But Runescape's bot and RMT problems continued.  In an announcement yesterday, Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard stated that so far in 2013 that over 1.1 million botting accounts were banned and 3.7 trillion gold pieces seized from gold farmer accounts.1  But that has not slowed down the botters too much.  Jagex identified 150-170 billion gold pieces injected into the game's economy over the past few months.2  That's what they detected.  Who knows how much was produced that was undetected.

At the end of the video Gerhard announced the introduction of Bonds, an item that players can use to pay their membership fee.  The idea, like CCP's in 2008, is that players will use the approved method of purchasing in-game currency through the company and shun the gold selling sites.  According to a live stream on Twitch, the final straw that made Jagex create bonds was the discovery that 40-50% of their active player base (i.e. members) were purchasing gold from the grey market sites.

I've watched part of the live stream and I really think that Gerhard and his team have underestimated how fast and effectively a PLEX-type system will work.  I base this not only on CCP's experience with PLEX but with the ease of finding sites that sell Runescape gold.  When I went to put together a list of sites selling EVE Online ISK in July I first did a Google search on buying EVE Online ISK and found four sites through the Google Ads that appeared.  When I did the same for Runescape gold yesterday, I found ads for 13 sites.  Finding gold selling sites for Runescape, at least compared to EVE, is extremely easy.  If that many companies are actively advertising on Google, then business is probably good.

As I've written before, high ban counts don't necessarily mean much if the prices the gold sellers is not affected.  So what is the price of Runescape gold?  Looking at the sites advertising on Google, the median price was $41.11 for 100 million GP.  So that is the price players need to watch as the months go by to see if Jagex' efforts work.


1.  At the median price found from the RMT sites found advertising with Google Ads, the real world value is approximately $US 1.5 million.

2.  At the median price found from the RMT sites found advertising with Google Ads, the real world value is approximately $US 60,000 - $US 70,000 per month.


  1. IMO what all the game companies really should do is just make selling gold (isk or w/e) allowed... As long as it's through their system where they take a (say 10%) cut on every transaction.

    Of course with real money involved they'd probably have to start taking scams a bit more seriously.

    And if they use the exiting market to sell it they'd finally have to fix the retarded order entry system too... With real money involved it'd only take one typo adding 3 extra zeros to a buy price to cause a huge problem for CCP.

  2. So this company can announce how much RMT is taking place in their game, and it did not take you that long to sort out the value of the overall RMT market in that game. But with Eve, oh no, CCP can't announce how much ISK was confiscated, or what their estimates on how much ISK is involved, which would allow you to sort out real quick the scope of the RMT operations within Eve.

    So what is different between Jagex and CCP. Why can one company disclose generalities and overall numbers, while the other company is terrified to do so?

    1. You mean you didn't read CCP Stillman's presentation that I linked to on Monday? He didn't have a slide with a specific figure, but from January to August CCP had seized approximately 1.8 trillion ISK. That comes out to be roughly between $50,000 - $60,000. If you go back to last year, from May 2012 to August 2013 the amount seized was approximately 5.6 trillion ISK, or roughtly between $170K - $190K.

      I don't think that CCP is terrified of disclosing the numbers. I think that CCP legitimately does not know the extent of the problem. If there is a difference, it is that CCP has driven the activity way underground and in Runescape botting is so accepted that people do it pretty openly, despite the bans. Or Jagex is fooling itself and the problem is much worse than they think.

    2. I just checked Twitter, and this is what CCP Stillman said:

      Me: If an MMO company states that they are detecting 90% of bots then I question if they know what they are doing.

      Stillman: That's why we don't state such things. If we knew that we caught 90%, it implies we know of the last 10%. Many don't get this.

      Jagex claims they are catching 90% of bots. I took it that they catch 90% of botters. Darius JOHNSON pointed out that it could mean they can detect 90% of the bots being used. Either way, I don't think Jagex really can tell how big the problem is, except to know how much they've actually seized.

  3. @ NoizyGame: I read the slide show, but missed the amount of ISK confiscated.
    So if I am understanding what you are saying properly, in 7 or 8 months of 2013, CCP seized about 50-60,000 US dollars worth, but they are not saying what percent of the RMT market that represents, because they don't really know.

    1. Correct. Just because the amount confiscated and number of bans has gone down doesn't mean the activity has gone down. Even the activity I've seen on the RMT sites doesn't mean the activity has gone down. It could be that the botters are selling their ISK on botting forums & player auction sites. I've found a couple and I think the price there is going up as well.