Krono – Maybe It Will Work… Maybe It Won’t

I mentioned SOE’s new Krono item previously, though really only in reference to an oddity in its pricing.  It is SOE’s version of EVE Online’s PLEX, an item that can be redeemed for 30 days of game time (or premium game time, in the case of SOE’s free to play model) and which exists in-game and can be sold to other players for the in-game currency.

All About Krono

(Krono screen stolen from The EQ2 Wire because we love them.)

I had wondered previously if WoW could support something like this, back when they were indulging in their half-hearted, and I would say ultimately failed, kitten economy experiment.  But now that SOE is attempting to emulate the PLEX model directly, I am very interested to see how it works out.

Currently Krono is only in EverQuest II, though there are plans to bring it to EverQuest and Vanguard should things go well.

But will things go well?

I have been watching pricing of Krono on the broker on a couple of servers and it seems to be all over the map.

Now, there are a couple of problems that cause this.

To start with, unlike EVE, EQII has no buy order mechanism built into the broker.  In EVE, the ability to set a buy order sets an effective floor on the price of anything.  No matter what you have to sell in EVE, there is somebody somewhere who will think, “I’ll take n of those if it gets down to the right price.”

Sometime buy orders are really low.  There is always somebody who will do a region-wide buy order for light missiles at half an ISK each.  Reprocessing them or reselling them near a low level mission hub will allow the buyer to turn a profit.

But in trade hubs like Jita the buy orders and the sell orders begin to converge and you can determine the real market price of an item, minus the geographic convenience multipliers.

Since you cannot do that in EQ2, sellers are flying blind.  Let’s say you buy a Krono and put it on the market for 700 plat and it sells.  Is 700 plat the real market price?  Did you simply price the Krono too low?  Did you just find a fat cat in a hurry?  Were you simply the lowest price at that moment on the broker?

None of that tells you what the real price should be.  It is one of the flaws of the EQII broker.  I certainly hope buy orders are on the list of features for the tentatively sandbox-like EverQuest Next.

The second issue is that there simply were not that many Krono for sale on the broker.  People seem tentative, and rightly so, about diving into this latest SOE scheme.

So on one server I saw about a dozen Krono up for sale.  They were priced between 700 and 2500 platinum, and except for the couple at the bottom of the price list, who were clearly in a price war, there were pretty wide gaps between the listings.  Anything with a commonly accepted value should be clustered pretty closely for the most part, with a few outliers looking for suckers.

This says to me that most of the people selling Krono on the broker are trying to sell at what they feel should be the right price.  This is how much plat they think $17.99 should bring in.  This, again, goes back to the whole lack of a buy order mechanism thing, as there is nothing out there to help determine a real market value.  Without that a seller cannot make an informed pricing decision, so we get stuff all over the map.

Meanwhile, I saw several people on the trade channel at various times trying to sell Krono for between 500 and 600 plat.  This is an off-shoot of the fact that the broker in EQII, unlike the market in EVE, is a completely optional feature.  You can go through years of playing and never buy anything off the broker and never feel the worse for it.  After all, the best items in the game cannot be bought or sold.  You have to go slay some beastie or another, or complete some epic quest to get that.

And unless you have a gold account, you cannot even use the broker to its fullest.  That is how non-essential the broker is.

So the deck isn’t somewhat stacked against outright, unmitigated, obvious success.

And I am not even including the calculations from old hands like me who remember the days when selling something for a gold… 100 gold is 1 plat… seemed like a major economic victory.  Something selling for hundreds of plat seems crazy insane, because I do not thing all my characters, if they pooled all their coins, could come up with 200 plat.  But I am still playing in the mid-tiers of the game, in content from 2005, so have no real sense of how readily available plat is when you are in the 90-95 zone.  The price of Krono might be quite reasonable to somebody at that level.

But there appears to be at least one wild card in favor of the whole Krono scheme, and that has to do with the RMT gold selling sites.

I went to check some of those sites just to see if I could get a sense of the street value, such that it is, of plat coins in EverQuest II.

The basic response from most of the sites I visited was, to mix a reference, “Screw you and the crappy SOE game you rode in on!  We don’t serve their kind in here!”

Okay, maybe they were not quite so up front.  It was more like “We do not currently serve this community” or “We are currently out of stock and cannot foresee a time when we will resume sales” when it came to EverQuest II.

I went through six sites I found via Google before I was directed by one to a seventh site that actually had EQII plat for sale.  And they didn’t even have plat for all of the servers.  But on those that they did, it looked like $16.99, the cheapest price for a Krono, could get you about 300 plat coins.

Krono Pricing

Which, in the world of RMT versus PLEX, is mondo bizarre.  Go look at Nosy Gamer’s chart.  In EVE, you are paying nearly a 50% premium to get clean ISK via PLEX when compared to RMT.  In EQII at the moment, where I checked, you could be getting a 50% premium when buying clean plat via Krono.  Being legit pays, for the moment.

Of course, the problems I mentioned about the EQII market apply.  There is no saying if this will be the price range next week, or the week after, or the month after.  There is no way to get a sense of the demand, absent the buy order mechanism, so we are still flying blind when it comes to pricing on any given day.

Which is kind of a shame, because I would really like this to work.  And, I think in EverQuest, where inflation has led to people having huge stacks of plat coins around, it might be a viable way to spread out some of that wealth that is just sitting in banks doing nothing, to the betterment of the game.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

What do you think?  Is Krono, a good thing or not, and will it succeed?