Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Going Farther Down The Rabbit Hole

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
Sometimes I look back up at the entrance to the rabbit hole that led me to my present day expertise on the subject of real money trading. When I started playing MMORPGs in 2005, the vast majority of players considered any form of RMT in their games as an evil game companies should not allow. Then the free-to-play business model, led by Dungeons & Dragons Online in 2009, hit the west in a big way, bringing player acceptance of game developers introducing RMT into virtual worlds. When I began blogging about CCP's War on Bots in 2011, one of the fascinating facts that led to my descent further down the rabbit hole is that CCP punishes botters more harshly if the botter is tied in any way to illicit RMT activity.

I won't bore the reader with another summary of my definition of real money trading. I'll just point out that The Nosy Gamer currently hosts nearly 100 posts marked with the tag "illicit RMT." With my history of covering the subjects of botting and RMT, I could easily fall into the trap of looking at any subject involved solely through the lens of RMT.

The latest imbroglio in the EVE Online metaverse concerns the practice of some Twitch partners to conduct either subscriber-only giveaways using in-game items or grant subscribers to channels a weighted chance to win in-game item giveaways. A lot of people view the practice as another form of RMT. On EVE-Radio's Open Comms Show last night, host BigCountry asked me if the practice is RMT.

A simple yes or no question, right? If I answer yes, then people will pick up their torches and pitchforks. If I say no, then everyone will assume I approve of the practice and I'll begin to hear cries that I am a sellout to Big Twitch. But what if no just means the giveaways are not RMT, not that the practice doesn't violate any of CCP's rules or policies?

Real money trading is just a subset of the activities that players conduct to monetize (or attempt to monetize) the intellectual properties of the creators of the virtual worlds we all play in online. These efforts cross the gamut from Capsuleer, the first major EVE Online iPhone app, to Rixx Javix' artwork, to Wollari's efforts to raise money to upgrade Dotlan. To this list we can now add Twitch streaming.

I think my trip down the rabbit hole is about to get a lot more complicated and require more nuance. The illicit RMT hammer served me well for many years and will continue to do so for a long time to come. But in my research so far into the world of Twitch streaming I found I need to wield a scalpel, not a hammer. I expect in my future posts on the subject I will manage to upset both sides of the debate.


  1. I think a pretty good measuring stick for it works like this: Are you trading in game items, a chance at in game items, or giving an advantage to win in game items above and beyond others to people who hand you actual real life money? If there is a direct, or somewhat re-directed flow of cash and isk, you've got some form of RMT. Illicit? We can argue that point for a while, but you're trading real money, illicit or not.

    Somer got burned for giving blink credit (which only gave players a chance at collecting in game items) as RMT and was given a cease and desist. That C&D could have easily been a ban except for the poor judgement of certain devs that now work at Riot giving glowing endorsements of the service while they were conducting the practice.

    People can claim "murky TOS" all they want, but that's your smell test. If you're on twitch and in some way trading in game items for subscriber $$ or donation$, that's RMT. The only thing murky is how it gets dressed up and figuring out if there's a connection between money and game item flow.

  2. I listened to you on BC's show on Tuesday night and you had a lot of really good points. The real question is, what is CCP going to allow?

    After reading your response, I think I may need to start using the terms "sanctioned" and "unsanctioned". It would probably help if CCP were a little more open about the rules for Twitch streamers and their giveaways. I'm trying to be careful, because SOMERblink's first ISK laundering scheme actually followed CCP's rules. Players just didn't know what those rules were. Kind of like now.