Wednesday, March 27, 2019

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: How Much?

Sometimes, I hear things said about the black market in EVE Online and just shake my head. I don't want to throw water on people, because pointing out the problems involving secondary RMT markets, no matter what game, is usually a good thing. I at least don't want to dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

That said, sometimes I just have to cringe at some things I hear. In this case, I will go back a month to the 25 February episode of Talking In Stations. Matterall had a quest on to discuss the January 2019 Monthly Economic Report. Somehow, the -95.4 trillion ISK listed as the month's Active ISK Delta was transformed into CCP seizing 140 trillion ISK from botters and ISK sellers. I remember hearing the figures live and the show notes still list that as the figure. In fairness, that number may have declined down to 60 trillion ISK by the end of the show, but the number is still way more than I believe possible.

But how do I dispute such a figure? I guess I could point out that according to the data I collected from buyer reviews, the game currency site Player Auctions hosted 41.8 trillion ISK in sales for the entire year of 2018. CCP seizing between 1.5 and 3.3 times the ISK from ISK sellers as that in a single month? Highly doubtful. I collected some tears in January, but not that many.

Or I could point out that 140 trillion ISK (or 60 trillion ISK for that matter) is way higher than the highest known seizure of virtual assets in EVE history, August 2014, when CCP seized an estimated 32.7 trillion ISK from Somerset Mahm. Including assets like alliance tournament ships, the value of the seizure was as high as 41 trillion ISK.

CCP's asset seizures, 2014
Both the examples cited above list why I believe why the estimates don't pass the smell test. But the clincher for me occurred on Saturday during the keynote presentation at Evesterdam. CCP Burger, the creative director for EVE Online, revealed that over the past 30 days, the security team had banned 2100 accounts and seized over 1 trillion ISK in assets. For the small team involved in dealing with bots, along with all the other security issues, not a bad amount. But the prominence CCP has given to the issue, including this mention near the beginning of the presentation, leads to a question. If CCP had really seized 60 trillion or 140 trillion ISK, wouldn't they have boasted about the fact? Instead, the ban numbers quoted by CCP Burger are on par with the 4100 accounts banned for botting activities listed half-way through the first quarter in the security dev blog published in February.

Honestly, I would love for CCP to seize tens of trillions of ISK and assets from botting and black market operations. But I don't believe CCP can, even with the best of intentions and pouring more resources to combat the practices. I honestly don't think the market is big enough for that. But if CCP does hit the ISK sellers that hard for one month, so many people will get banned the word will get out that buying ISK is like playing Russian roulette with your EVE accounts, except with 4 rounds chambered instead of only one.

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