The team at CCP dove fully into the in-game currency selling market with EVE Online a while back with their 30 day CONCORD Pilot License Extension program, or PLEX.
For $35 you can buy two PLEX which you can then sell to people in-game for somewhere between 250 and 400 million ISK. (Planning and patience can be worth 150 million ISK!) You get your ISK, another player gets 30 more days of play time without laying out any cash, everybody is happy.
But what I really like about this is that it gives people a baseline value for ISK and things bought and sold with ISK.
A friend dropped me a note about the game. He is starting off and while he likes the game, he is more interested in *pew* *pew* and less interested in the sometimes grindy acquisition of ISK. (I’ll admit, mining is an acquired taste, and all the more so when mineral prices are down.)
He was wondering about buying ISK. He had looked around and found some 3rd party seller looking to unload ISK at a rate of $70 per billion. There is the wonder of EVE again, where 10,000 ISK and 1,000,000,000 can both be meaningful and meaningless in the right context.
Anyway, I pointed out that if you get caught buying from such a source, CCP will take it away from you. That and a warning seems to be the standard for a first offense.
But I also did the math.
Even as a quick, low end sale, $35 buys you two PLEX which will get you 500 million ISK, so $70 would get you a billion and it would be risk free. Potentially though, played right, that $35 gets you pretty close to the billion mark. So the best case scenario would be paying the same price for a greatly increased risk.
That pretty much cleared up the situation for him on that front.
Then later I was IM’ing with another friend who mentioned that a corp mate sold one of his characters. This is also legal in EVE Online. You can sell a character for ISK. You cannot sell your account however, nor can you sell your character for real world currency under the rules of the game. But transferring a character for ISK is perfectly acceptable and CCP has a process that protects both buyer and seller.
Anyway, the selling price for the character in question was 8 billion ISK, which seems like a lot. Just a billion of anything is a lot to me.
But then I did the calculation. 8 billion ISK buys you 26 months of game play, using the safe middle ground number of 300 million ISK per PLEX. 26 months of play is, at most, if you pay by the month, around $390. And if you pay by the quarter like I do, it is down closer to $340. That isn’t enough for me to want to sell either of my long term characters, assuming that I could even get that much money for any of them.
Not that you can actually cash out, because you end up with ISK or game time, but it gives you a sense of the monetary value of that transaction or really any transaction in the game, including making 3rd party ISK sellers look a bit silly at time. You may view that as a good thing or a bad thing, a real measurement you can bring home or a breaking of immersion, but there it is.
Now the whole PLEX thing works in EVE Online with its single server (but regional markets and no instant delivery) and economy where everything can be bought for ISK, but where ISK is not really a measure of success.
But then you wonder, what other games could support something similar to PLEX?
Which economies are robust enough to support that sort of thing? You’d think with the constant talk about illicit gold buying, (and how it will never go away) that there would be some games with enough currency flow to be able to practically implement something like PLEX.