What Came Before PLEX?

CCP introduced PLEX, the 30 Day Pilots License Extension, to EVE Online back in 2009.

Look, old UI, old prices!

At the time it seemed quite the daring innovation.  PLEX was an in-game item worth 30 days of subscription time… this being back when EVE Online was all subscriptions all the time… that could be put on the market and sold for ISK… or traded for something else or whatever.

CCP was kind of cautious with PLEX at first, and it was a while before they removed restrictions on it, at which point the inevitable situation occurred and somebody lost 74 PLEX when their ship got ganked.  The game was on then.

But it was innovated on two fronts.  First, it let players finance their subscription through in-game play.  “PLEXing” ones account soon became part of the New Eden vernacular.  Second, it allowed a safe, legal way for new players to buy ISK, working around the ISK sellers.  It didn’t drive ISK sellers out of business, and they remain a plague on the game to this day, but it gave people who were going to buy ISK a legitimate path to do so.

And, reflecting on something I have been on about this year, it also effectively raised the price of a 30 day subscription.  Two PLEX cost $35, so that made 30 days a $17.50 ride compared to paying the usual $15 up front.  Nice work.

PLEX has been through some changes, most notably the 500 for 1 conversion back in 2017 when the decided to make it the RMT in-game currency, removing Aurum from the game.

That also successfully raised the price of a subscription, as 500 PLEX, the amount now needed for a 30 day subscription, was $20 in the store.  Some nice work there CCP.

And the game itself has been through many changes aside from PLEX, including a free to play options and the slippery slope of skill injectors/extractor.

But PLEX has most been successful, and no doubt profitable, for CCP, and other companies have copied the idea, from Darkfall’s DUEL to WildStar’s CREDD, to Krono in EverQuest and EverQuest II, to GRACE in Anarchy Online, and, most notable of all, the WoW Token in World of Warcraft.

There are probably other online games that have adopted the idea as well, those are just the ones I have taken note of in the past.

But this led me around to wondering if there was something like PLEX before PLEX.

This isn’t to cast doubt on CCP’s ability to come up with something different or unique… much of EVE Online stands as a testament to not doing things the way people might expect, and for years there has been a team dedicated to fixing a lot of that.

So this is an audience participation question.  I cannot think of anything that was like PLEX before PLEX, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some previous precedent, some game that tried out a scheme that at least mirrors PLEX in some way.

The minimum parameters are an item, purchased for real world money, that can be sold in-game for the main in-game currency that bestows some benefit on the buyer.  A subscription increment would be idea, but even something minor.  Blizzard’s pre-WoW Token experiment with the Guardian Cub, which you could buy in the web store and sell at the auction house for gold qualifies… or would qualify if it hadn’t come out almost three years after PLEX.

So that is my question for the day.  Did anything PLEX-like pre-date PLEX in the market?

And, if you’re stumped on that but just feel like doing some digging, what other PLEX-like items have come around since PLEX that I have forgotten to mention.  I think ArchAge had something and maybe Rift did as well?

2 thoughts on “What Came Before PLEX?

  1. David

    Kingdom of Loathing, a Free-to-play browser based game has long had an option where if you donate $10 you got an in-game item (Mr. A) that could be traded or sold to other players.

    The game also has an in-game store that has a rotating set of monthly and yearly items. Those items unlock unique content or give special buffs and are only available during their release month. The items cost Mr. A to buy. So this is effectively Plex.

    Looking at it, the first Mr. Store item was Nov 2004. I believe Mr A may have been implemented earlier.


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