Monday, January 6, 2020

Real Money Trading Banned On Shroud Of The Avatar Forums

I saw a story on MassivelyOP last week about a game named Shroud of the Avatar. The game, developed by Portalarium, was billled the spiritual successor to Ultima Online, complete with the involvement of Lord British himself, Richard Garriott. With a Kickstarter held in 2013, the game fully launched in March 2018.

The reason for writing this post is the unusual decision Portalarium made concerning real money trading. RMT is allowed in Shroud of the Avatar. The developers posted their reasoning in a forum post at the end of January 2018.

Greetings Avatars,

Since the very beginning of online games there has been what is known as Real Money Transactions (RMT). These are activities where players exchange real currency (US dollars, Euros, etc.) for virtual goods (in-game gold, in-game items, virtual property, leveling services, etc.). The first big news of this was with, of course, Ultima Online in which a castle sold on ebay for thousands of dollars. At that time 20 years ago we made the decision to not prevent these exchanges for multiple reasons, but the biggest one was our assessment of the resources required to enforce the policy versus the impact (virtually none) it was having on the player experience.

Fast forward to our current game Shroud of the Avatar and we decided to treat RMT exactly the same as we did 20 years ago for many of the same reasons:
  • RMT will happen no matter what we do to enforce it
  • Enforcing RMT prohibition will consume enormous resources (i.e. large amounts of backer money) which means less resources to make the game itself
  • RMT prohibition will just move RMT transactions to hidden places, making it harder to find and enforce real issues like exploits and farming
  • RMT allows users who have spent money on the game, but are ready to move on to new experiences an option to divest themselves without requiring Portalarium to refund their money. More importantly, there is no time limit to this option (as there will/would be with any refund policy).
  • Shroud is an instanced game with multiple play modes so there is no competition for resources in shared spaces

So our position is that all RMT activity (gold, items, services) is allowed in Shroud of the Avatar, as long as it follows a few simple rules:
  • It does not use any exploits / botting
  • It is worth noting here that all botting / exploits are bannable offenses anyway regardless if they are used in relation to RMT, so technically this was already covered elsewhere
  • It can only be advertised in the Player Marketplace section of the main website forums. Never in game or in any other section of official community areas (including the game’s Discord channel, social media pages, Steam, and other areas of the main website and forums)
  • Portalarium (and our partners) are not liable for any of the transactions
  • All goods can be delivered immediately (i.e. don’t sell stuff that will be made later like Episode 2 content)
I can see why during development Portalarium did not want to divert funds from making the game to fighting RMT. I should point out that allowing the trading of real life money for virtual currency and items isn't exactly cost free. The company that purchased SotA in October, Catnip Games, didn't take long to make changes to the policy.
As mentioned on streams and posts before, we are ending ALL real money transactions here. Starting on January 1, 2020, roughly 2 days from now, no RMT (real money transaction) will be allowed in our private forums. Existing posts for RMT will be deleted. New posts will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be moderated or banned.

This does not mean that we will not allow RMT, simply that you can't use the forums to do. As discussed in multiple places, this is a support headache for us and gives the wrong impression of the game to new players. You may post a link to a website that does RMT but please do not call out the RMT nature here. Also, please do not "Bump" your post or spam post it. Once a week or less is acceptable.

Ok, and after having to lock the thread due to some people angry they won't be able to RMT, I just want to remind you that you will be able to RMT just not HERE.
The decision to allow real money transactions on the official game forums were "a support headache" and "gives the wrong impression of the game to new players". Those are real costs. The "support headache" meant additional customer support costs that the new company either could not  or didn't want to incur. The wrong impression to new players is important. From that, I gather enough new players were turned off by a game allowing RMT that lower retention rates were noticeable.

While I don't like RMT and think the practice brings problems to games, the game belongs to Catnip Games. If they don't mind RMT, who am I to argue? What I don't like is the deception inherent the the post. "You may post a link to a website that does RMT but please do not call out the RMT nature here." In other words, "Let's not let the new players know about the buying and selling of items for real money until they get hooked on the game." 

Oftentimes I write a post to go back to. With so few game companies allowing secondary market RMT, I try to make a note of them. Besides, turns out trying to accomodate RMT wasn't so harmless after all.

1 comment:

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