Monday, December 24, 2007

Tobold Versus Raph Koster on rmt

Tobold is having a bit of an online barney with Raph Koster about whether or not real money transactions (rmt) should be encouraged. The venerable Tobie proposes two hypothetical games and asks readers to choose between them. In one game the economy is constrained in order to minimise rmt (lots of bind on pick up items, blind auction house, ban on grossly asymmetric trades) and one in which rmt is "legalised" and encouraged (legal rmt exchange, bind on equip epics. To be honest I choose neither. In my humble opinion both models suck and here is why:

I want a game with a vibrant and unconstrained in game economy. For me the economy and the emergent behaviour that develops is a vital part of enjoying an mmo. Let people sell epics, let people sell levelling services. Shucks I want a game where you can hire other adventurers to go out and do missions for you like the "runners" in Guild Wars. I want all of this just as long as it is for "in game currency".

If you put contraints on the economy you will kill all kinds of interesting behaviour. Why shouldn't people be allowed to sell epics for a high price. Why shouldn't some people be allowed to become "professional" dunegeon runners collecting loot to sell to others? As long as it is all done for in game currency I think this is great. I am against a blind AH because it deprives buyers and sellers of information. Any economist will tell you that lack of information is one of the key causes of market failure.

On the other hand I want to discourage rmt as much as possible, not legalise it. I don't want games to become a real life money pit. Legalising it will only encourage players to buy gold and will increase the amount of rmt. Eventually it will become almost essential for players to spend real cash to keep up with the game.

Don't legalise rmt - make it even harder than it is at present. Start banning the customers of gold sellers. Those tools Tobold talks about for preventing assymetric exchanges could be used to spot likely transactions with gold sellers. To a gold seller a ban is a professional hazard. To a player a ban is a game ending nightmare. Ban the gold buyers I say. A few high profile bannings might work wonders to create a climate of fear about buying gold.

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