Tag Archives: PLEX

WoW Tokens Five Years Later

The WoW Token turned five years old earlier this month.

The WoW Token highway has no exit

You can tell when I have started doing my month in review post as I am suddenly all about things that happened five or ten years ago, and such is the case now.

Way back on April 7, 2015 I posted about the launch of the WoW Token.

The purpose of the WoW Token, and other like items such as EVE Online’s PLEX or Daybreak’s Krono or Anarchy Online’s GRACE, is to fight illicit RMT, which has all sorts of fraud and theft issues associated with it, by giving players a legitimate way to buy in-game currency that both gives the developer a cut of the money and doesn’t dump currency into the economy.  The company is merely the agent between players trading the in-game currency for subscription time.  It is RMT, but “good” RMT so far as the developer is concerned.

That Blizzard and CCP and other companies have done this, and kept up with it over time, must mean that it is working for them somehow.  If nothing else, it is another revenue stream in a world where a monthly subscription is often a barrier for players.  Whether it has made a serious dent in illicit RMT I cannot tell, though it was interesting that some gold sellers seemed to revive with the coming of WoW Classic, where you cannot sell a token for gold.

And, of course, it isn’t any sort of panacea that will save a game.  WildStar built its plan initial business plan on their CREDD idea and that didn’t save it from going free to play then shutting down.

In WoW the idea itself took a while to grab players, at least in North America.

North American Prices – Apr 2015 to Apr 2020

When it launched at a starting price of 30,000 gold per token there were some people who declared that now was the time to jump in, that there was nowhere to go but up!

And then the price dropped immediately, landing below 20,000 gold in the first month.  It revived eventually, getting back over 30,000 in September, then starting to really climb come 2017 and peaking in 2018.  But there was an initial stretch there where it wasn’t all that attractive relative to illicit RMT.  Over the five years:

  • Avg Price – 109,057
  • Median Price – 117,552
  • Max Price – 238,572 on Jan 31, 2018
  • Min Price – 18,296 on May 3, 2015
  • Current Price – ~120,000 as I write this

The NA start was in some small contrast to the EU token prices, which started at 35,000 two weeks later and only went down a bit before beginning a fairly steady rise.  I am sure that says something about the two markets, though I am not sure what.

European Prices – Apr 2015 to Apr 2020

  • Avg Price – 173,225
  • Median Price – 180,158
  • Max Price – 401,827 on May 17, 2018
  • Min Price – 30,352 on Apr 25, 2015
  • Current Price – ~180,000 as I write this

Still, even though the token prices vary, the pattern of the prices over time looks remarkably similar when charted.  And no doubt they probably ought to in reaction to outside events, like when you were able to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 with WoW Tokens, which accounts for that peak price in 2018.

I am curious as to how people feel the advent of WoW Tokens have affected the game over the last half decade.

I, personally, have been only somewhat attached to the game over the last five years, playing it to see the game but not getting that deeply invested in it.  I have been a casual WoW player during that time for certain, and it was only the advent of WoW Classic that got me really back to Blizzard.

I have purchased two WoW Tokens.  My daughter pleaded for one so she could buy some RP gear for her RP guild when the price was around 100,000 gold and I bought one for myself one day when I was logged in and saw the price was around 220,000 gold and thought I might never see that price again.  But then the game sort of rains gold on you these days… going back to get flying in Battle for Azeroth I was shocked at how much gold I was given for random things when in WoW Classic I am grubbing for silver coins still… so I have earned more gold since just playing than I bought. (Mostly during Legion.)

My closest experience with something like WoW Tokens has been PLEX in EVE Online.

There I don’t buy it to activate game time but just to get a ship SKIN now and then.  But I’ve seen people who get pretty caught up in the idea of “PLEXing” their accounts every month, which becomes a mania with some people.  People who “crab” a lot… mine or run anomalies for ISK… are often suspected of being in it for RMT purposes.  And they often are, but not for illicit RMT and supplying ISK sellers and such.  They need to make the ISK to buy the PLEX in order to pay for their subscription.

The big nerf that hit last week with the Surgical Strike update will break the game for some people because they are invested in super carrier ratting… super carriers were pretty much invulnerable up until last week as they could kill small groups of subcaps and could survive to be rescued from larger groups… and with the changes they won’t be able to PLEX their accounts.

Azeroth is a lot different than New Eden however.   I know people who obsess about earning gold in WoW, but I am not aware if it has reached that level.

So how do you feel about WoW Tokens five years in?  I’m okay with them, but I am also out of the loop enough to not see or care much about the impact they might be having.  I’ll even put in a poll here.

If you cannot see the poll above this line… well, your web browser and ad block settings are keeping you secure.  I cannot argue with that, but you don’t get to vote unless you use the browser on your phone or something.

Data for this post cam from WoWToken.info and WoW Token Prices.

The latter has nice charts on their front page, while the former wouldn’t let me see any of their charts even with ad block off and security down.

Seriously, I am looking at the ads but they still won’t show the charts

The latter site pointedly makes reference to this if you have ad block on.  But the former has all the historical data available as a .csv file, which I was able to download, so I have to give them credit for that.

There is also data for the WoW Token markets in Taiwan, Korea, and China, but I did not dive into those as there are different dynamics in play there that I am even less aware of.

CCP to Pay Out Remaining PLEX for Aurum

CCP announced earlier that after downtime today those who had less than 1,000 Aurum when New PLEX went live back on May 9th would be getting the PLEX owed them.

The New PLEX in New Eden

You can find the announcement here, but it is short enough to quote:

We are happy to announce that all pilots who had Aurum balances outstanding from the PLEX changes have now had their converted PLEX balances delivered as of downtime May 23rd.

In order to protect the market and value of PLEX during the transition, all pilots who had less than 1000 Aurum in their wallets did not have this converted to PLEX when the changes were deployed on May 9th, and were notified that they would receive their Aurum balance in PLEX three months after the deployment of the PLEX changes.

After careful consideration and close monitoring of the market, we have decided to reimburse these PLEX earlier.

Today’s daily downtime was extended slightly in order to allow for a reimbursement script to be run, and all pilots should now have their outstanding PLEX balances reimbursed.

As it turned out, the market did not need much in the way of protection.  The price of 500 new PLEX (needed for the 30 days of game time that a single old PLEX would grant) went up after the conversion and has remained up.  This wasn’t all that surprising to me.  It seemed akin to a 500 for 1 stock split, and the price of a stock almost always goes up after such a change. (If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t have done the split.)  And new PLEX can be used for more things (even if character transfers are no longer on the list) so more demand, and an accompanying rise is price, seemed likely.

That means ISK is effectively cheaper if you want to sell PLEX.  If you are buying PLEX to pay for your null sec Rorqual mining alts in the face of nerfs and low mineral prices however, this might be a painful time.  I will be interested to see what the monthly economic report for May and June will show.

Anyway, I will have to check in and see if I have 42 more PLEX on the accounts that had the 300 gift PLEX.

Day One of New PLEX

With yesterday’s YC119.5 update the previously announced change over for PLEX showed up, so I had to log in and see the change.  We now have new PLEX.

New PLEX in-game Description

Foolishly I forgot to note how much Arurum I had on my main, I was carrying a balance of over 1,000, but I couldn’t recall exactly how much.  But I had 195 PLEX listed for him when I opened up the New Eden Store, so it was likely somewhere around 1,365.

Then I checked my alt.  He had the usual 300 Aurum, so did not get that converted.  However, I am not sure what became of it either or if I will ever see it again.  He did have two old PLEX sitting the station at Jita 4-4.  Those did get converted to 1,000 new PLEX, which was sitting in the station where the old PLEX had been.  He wasn’t in Jita, but I found the new PLEX using the search option in Assets.

Right-clicking on it in Assets listed the option to move it to the new PLEX Vault.  I had to actually read the description of PLEX (above) to be reminded where the PLEX Vault was.  I started by looking for yet another button on the Neocom, but it is actually part of your inventory listing.

It says PLEX Vault…

However, the option to move PLEX to the PLEX Vault does not appear to work remotely.  I tried the option a few times, but nothing changed.  It is bad design to give the user an option and provide no feedback, and I saw no errors while trying to do this.  Still, I figured out that I needed to be in the same station and clone jumped to Jita.  From there I was able to move the 1,000 PLEX to the PLEX Vault.

In the PLEX Vault

The PLEX vault is very much oriented towards selling PLEX to players naturally enough.  PLEX operations are in three small boxes, but buying PLEX covers four larger boxes with bright piles of PLEX shown, as if it were a physical thing, which can be expanded into even more PLEX purchasing options.

We have PLEX in the quantities you want…

The nature of the beast when you have a cash shop, as we have seen in every other MMORPG that has gone that route.  As more money comes from it, the more important it becomes.

And somebody out there is probably buying PLEX in $500 increments, but it sure isn’t me.  That would be about 40 billion ISK at the current market price, less transaction fees, or 900 days of game time.

And speaking of market price, while there were opportunities to make some easy ISK early after the PLEX transition (as SynCaine did), by the time I logged in later in the day the markets seemed to have settled down.  As I noted yesterday, PLEX was about 1.3 billion ISK per before the transition, so I estimated that it would settle around 2.6 million per for the new PLEX out of habit if nothing else.

In Jita you could grab a PLEX for a little less than that.

May 9, 2017 PLEX prices in Jita

In Amarr the price was a little higher, but not dramatically so.

May 9, 2017 PLEX prices in Amarr

So the new PLEX era is upon us.  We shall see how the price goes from here now that it is the universal RMT currency.  Prices in the New Eden Store have been adjusted for PLEX.  SKINs, which is all I ever buy from there, seem to run from about 40 PLEX for a frigate SKIN to 200 PLEX for a capital version.

Now to figure out where that 300 Aurum ended up and if I will ever get the ~42 new PLEX it ought to yield.

Others writing about PLEX:

The EVE Online YC119.5 Update Brings PLEX Changes and More

First, I have to get on my soap box about CCP and its naming scheme for patches.  Last year I assumed that the number after the decimal point (the 5 in the title of this post) indicated the month of the year.  And then the YC118.7 update came out in August and I was told that the number only indicated which patch number for the year, something that CCP kept up consistently through YC118.

Now we are in YC119 and we are getting the fourth patch of the year, but it is called YC119.5, no doubt because it is May, the fifth month of the year.  Make up yer freakin’ minds CCP!

That aside, today’s patch brings the big changes to PLEX which CCP announced a while back.

Some sort of PLEX graphic, also you can see my alliance logo next to Brave’s

After downtime today old PLEX, along with the Aurum currency, will be gone, replaced with new PLEX.  All PLEX listings will be removed from the market.  Then…

  • Any old PLEX you have will be converted to 500 new PLEX.
  • If you have Aurum in excess of 1,000 units, it will be converted to new PLEX at a ratio of 1 PLEX for every 7 Aurum.
  • If you have less than 1,000 Aurum, likely the 300 free Aurum that CCP gave you at some point, that will be converted at a later date.

Items in the New Eden Store will be priced in new PLEX.  There will be a new thing called the PLEX Vault that means you will never have to fly around with PLEX in your cargo hold… but you know people will do it anyway.  And your estimated total wealth might drop considerably because the historical value for new PLEX will zero when the game comes back up.

Old PLEX was running at about 1.3 billion ISK each when I last looked, so new PLEX should have a valuation of about 2.6 million ISK each.  But with the transition, some chaos and comedy will no doubt ensue.  Look for some individual units of new PLEX to be listed in Jita at the old PLEX as people try to take advantage of those not paying attention.

The original and follow up dev blogs cover these changes in detail.

Meanwhile, I am going to have to find a new generic PLEX graphic, as my old one will finally be totally out of date.

And old price for old PLEX… PLEX that couldn’t even leave the station!

Also showing up with today’s update is the addition of Blood Raider’s ship yards.

Look for the Blood Raiders logo of quality

This new NPC complex (there will only ever be one active at a time) will drop capital ship blue print copies for the Dagon force auxiliary, the Chemosh dreadnought, and the Molok titan.  The new NPC AI that comes with the ship yards will respond to attacks with forces in measure to make any assault difficult.  Here are the bullet points from the patch notes:

  • Blood Raider Shipyards are Sotyios, built and owned by the Blood Raider faction. Only one can exist at a time.
  • They can be found in Blood Raider 0.0 Space (Delve, Querious, Period Basis).
  • They Blood Raider Sotyio does not show up on the tactical overlay, nor can it be probed down. The best way to find them is to try following a Blood Raider hauler (Bestower or Impel), coming to pick up minerals from a mining operation. There will always be a mining operation in the system with the Blood Raiders Shipyard.
  • The Blood Raiders will viciously defend their Shipyards. They use advanced fleet tactics (Tactical Warps, Logistics, Electronic Warfare Support) with powerful ships, including Dreadnoughts.
  • The Blood Raider Sotyio only has a single 24hr reinforce cycle. Once into reinforce, it can be seen as per any other Upwell structure.
  • Destroying the Sotyio will leave a wreck, which has standard Sotyio loot (salvage and minerals), and may also drop rare modules and capital blueprint copies for the Dagon, Chemosh and Molok.
  • It takes some time for the Blood Raiders to build their first Sotyio. You can find it on Thursday (2017/05/11)

Given the tales I’ve heard comping from practice runs on the test server (400 cruisers dropped on a battleship force and effective dread bombs dropped on super capitals) I am not sure if this is a gift to null sec or just a clever way for CCP Larrikin to fulfill his wish to see more dead capital ships.  Anyway, I expect comedy to ensue until we figure it out.

Also on the list is new stars.

One of the new star models and a Keepstar

CCP has redone the graphics for stars so they are now colorful balls of rippling plasma that come in 15 eye watering flavors.

CCP is also killing off the legacy scanning UI.  From this release forward you only have the new UI to work with.  Since I actually prefer the new UI, this sounds fine to me, but I imagine this will cause some pain to others.  Sorry man.

The YC119.5 update also includes:

  • Maximum duration of contracts changed from 3 to 4 weeks
  • Color coding of fighter health bars
  • Alliance and Corp logos on citadels, along with the leader’s portrait (pictures of The Mittani everywhere in Delve now)
  • Ship hangar lighting improvements
  • Promotional CONCORD ships Pacifier and Enforcer added to the game (but not yet distributed to Fanfest attendees)
  • Removal of ability to manufacture starbase (POS) compression, reprocessing, and assembly arrays along with labs as part of the transition to citadels and engineering complexes
  • New cinematic intro, which you can compare to past efforts at The Nosy Gamer
  • Lots more fixes and tweaks

Details for all of this can be found in the YC119.5 patch notes and the updates page.  The patch itself has gone live and is ready to explore.  There was an issue reported with single sign on, but that seems to have been fixed.

Finally, no update for EVE Online goes live without a new music track, so we have YC119.5’s theme, The Luminous Eye.

 

CCP Revises PLEX Plan to Reconsider Aurum

To cut straight to the chase, CCP announced in a dev blog that they are not going to gyp you out of your Aurum if you have a balance less than 1,000.  Last week they were going to draw a line at 999 Aurum or less in the name of the economy and I was dubious as to whether they would hold the line on that statement.  They’ve given out lots of penny packets of Aurum since it showed up and are worried that converting it all to the new PLEX would flood the market.

Honestly, I am never going to replace this PLEX graphic

While the design of the game may have started with the line “Death is a serious matter,” death is mostly trivial in New Eden, it is the economy that keeps the game going.  They can fix death, but if they screw up the market the game is done.  But the hew and cry about lost Aurum was loud enough that they had to listen.

So instead of doing the PLEX conversions all at once, those with Aurum balances under 1,000 will get their conversion three months after the fact in an effort to buffer the impact on the economy.  There is still no word on when the initial PLEX conversion will happen, so that will be three months from whenever.

Also, as part of that dev blog I learned, as no doubt many others did, that there are actually Aurum tokens in the game.  I’ve never seen one, nor bothered to look.

Look quick before they’re gone

Those will be coming out of the game when the change hits.

CCP has also said that they will be doing sales/promotions in the New Eden Store so that if you want to spend your Aurum before the change, there will be something to buy with what you have.  They also announced a new ship SKIN for Cormorants, Caracals, and Drakes, but that comes in at 800 Aurum per SKIN and you probably only have a balance of 300, so you’ll have to wait for another offer.

Not really sure who the IGC is, but they have a nice SKIN

Meanwhile, there is always a “somebody is going to get screwed” aspect to changes like this, and while people with low Aurum balances seem to be off the hook, those who have paid Broker’s fees in order to list PLEX on the market are now the ones who will be losing out.  In the first dev blog CCP promised to refund Broker’s fees when the conversion went in and all current listings were removed.   The new dev blog though says that isn’t going to happen:

…our team discovered that we don’t actually have the ability to refund fees at all. In EVE, fees are paid as a transaction when an order is placed and not tied to the order itself.

Oops.  The back up plan here is just to give you lots of advance notice that if you list a PLEX on the market and it is there when the change comes into effect, you can kiss that ISK good-bye.  Of course, as noted above, we still don’t know when this PLEX change is going to come into effect, so we don’t know how far in advance this advance warning will be.  And, of course, CCP doesn’t have a great track record getting the word out to people, though that doesn’t distinguish them from other MMOs.  As an audience, MMO players likely aren’t as engaged as you thing they ought to be.  If you’re reading this you are a special snowflake when it comes to actually paying attention.

Furthermore, I have to wonder if getting the word out is a good plan.  What happens when people stop listing PLEX on the market to avoid the possibility of losing their Broker’s fee?  Supply will shrink and prices will go up… and if they go up enough people will start listing again because the Broker’s fee loss will be covered by the price increase if only the person listing can sell some of their stock.  Because there is likely to be a price drop once the change has been made and a lot (but not all) Aurum is converted to the new PLEX.  Maybe?

What do you think?  Is CCP going to screw up the market here, or is there enough ISK going through Jita to buffer this change?

For those interesting in hearing more on this, Talking in Stations did a show that included a discussion of the topic with CCP Rise to help sort things out.

PLEX Shattering Proposal for New Eden

Yesterday CCP made public their intention to change PLEX, the in-game item that can be bought, sold, moved, blown up, redeemed for 30 days of Omega game time, and occasionally redeemed for Aurum or multiple character training.

This old screen shot may make PLEX look more expensive than reality soon

CCP wants to make PLEX the universal secondary currency so that you will only have ISK and PLEX… and LP if you’re into that, but that is a whole different thing.  To do this CCP wants to break a single PLEX into 500 units of PLEX, in which capacity it will replace Aurum, the unloved New Eden Store currency.

CCP also plans to introduce the PLEX Vault, wherein you will deposit your PLEX to be used and where your PLEX will be accessible to any character on your account from any station or citadel location you can use in New Eden.

The Proposed PLEX Vault

Anybody who has a PLEX right now will end up with 500 PLEX when this change goes into effect, while anybody who has 1,000 Aurum or more will receive 1 PLEX for every 7 Aurum they hold.

The logic behind the 1,000 Aurum cut-off is in the questions at the end of their post:

Q: Why are you only converting Aurum balances above 1000?
A: A large portion of the total Aurum stockpile is in small balances left over from past giveaways and by not converting those small balances we mitigate risk of oversupply in the PLEX market

Basically, if you have less than 1,000 Aurum you probably got it from us for free, so screw you we’re taking it back now that it might have actual in-game ISK value.  I will be interested to see if there is enough hew and cry about this to get CCP to relent on this front.

And, of course, the other big change here is that PLEX becomes a digital currency more akin to ISK, something that is in a wallet you can access where ever you go.  I suppose that makes a bit of logical sense, as opposed to PLEX being a physical object in your inventory.

This potentially means no more PLEX-tanked frigates worth billions of ISK being blown up… remember the first big loss, involving a pilot who could have kept his account going for over six years if he hadn’t stuff 74 PLEX into an unfit Kestrel and undocked… if people are smart.

The thing is, people are not smart.  That people, to this day, still move PLEX in rookie corvettes is proof of that.  There is almost no need to do this, as you can activate PLEX remotely and buy it via contract from anywhere in New Eden.  So I live in hope that stupid will out and that we will still see the occasional PLEX kill mail since CCP plans to leave in the physical aspect of PLEX if you want to take it out of the PLEX Vault.

And, if everybody does suddenly get smart, we still have skill injector losses.

So that is the plan.  There is even a video with CCP Seagull explaining the plan.

 

There is no announced date for this change yet, and even the UI proposal is tagged as a work in progress, so there is still time to head to the forums and howl over any aspect of this you do not like.  I fully expect CCP to relent on the 1,000 Aurum limit for conversion to the new PLEX, if only because some people will have residual balances less than that which they paid for.

But at some point in the future any PLEX you have… which could be worth as much as 1.2 billion ISK each…  will go away, replaced by 500 new PLEX worth as much as 2.4 million each.

As somebody who doesn’t use PLEX, the only change for me will be a lack of comedy kill mails I suppose.  But as somebody who has some Aurum and buys ship SKINs now and again, this will be a bit of a boon, since it will be easy enough just to buy new PLEX with ISK in the quantity I need for a given transaction.  This might make the New Eden Store more viable.

This may be the biggest change to PLEX since it was introduced over eight years ago.

Addendum: Official forum thread for feedback on this plan.

The Economy of New Eden Without Gambling

I don’t know the answer, but I want to ask the question; what happens to the economy now?

Gambling… at least third party gambling,.. will be leaving EVE Online come the Ascension expansion on November 8, 2016.  As I have said elsewhere, you can find the best telling of this tale over at The Nosy Gamer.

As you might have guessed by my own reaction to that announcement, the departure of gambling is fine by me.  I am not a fan of it in either real or virtual life.  Having a casino like IWI start throwing the weight of its ISK around in New Eden to broaden its power did nothing to warm me to gambling.

However, gambling sites have been part of the environment for a while now.  We know that their departure will have some minor impact on EVE Online related things outside of the game… streamers will no longer get an ISK stipend to advertise for casinos and sites like EN24 will have to find new advertisers (which they did almost immediately once Bobmon, the casino candidate on the CSM, stopped crying wolf)… but what about the New Eden economy?

The thing is, gambling does not create money.  It isn’t an ISK faucet.  If you look at CCP Quant’s monthly economic charts, there isn’t a line item for “gambling.”  Gambling in New Eden just serves as a conduit that moved ISK from the wallets of gamblers to the wallets of the various casinos, because in the long term, the house always wins.

And some of those casino wallets have been drained as the CCP security team confiscated RMT tainted ISK.

So this will actually end up with there being less ISK in the New Eden economy.  And while that ISK is measured in the trillions, it was idle in banker’s wallets so its absence probably won’t influence the market in Jita.  Certainly, some individuals whose wallets were found to be stuffed with dirty money were feeling the pinch once CCP removed that ISK, but that hit a very tiny slice of New Eden.  The average capsuleer should hardly notice the difference.

But then there is PLEX, which in its way made this whole casino business viable.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are around 1.2 billion ISK in Jita

I have heard on a number of occasions that some of the gamblers using the EVE Online casinos are just that; gamblers.  Which is to say, they were not EVE Online players.  Instead, they created EVE Online accounts, bought PLEX, sold it for ISK, and used the ISK in the casinos.

I do not doubt that this has actually happened, that somebody has bought PLEX just to gamble.  The only question in my mind is how prevalent this sort of things really is.  If this sort of thing was only a tiny minority of the people who used the EVE Online gambling sites, then the impact of the passing of gambling probably won’t hit the price of PLEX.

If those gambling for ISK were a significant factor in these casinos, if people were not simply tossing away their ratting and mining ISK but were buying PLEX to support their gambling habit, the end of the casinos could user in another spike in the price of PLEX. (And things with prices that are effectively pegged to the value of PLEX.)

Of course, as noted up at the top, the gambling sites officially go away with the launch of the Ascension expansion on November 8th.  That expansion introduces Alpha Clones, which will allow people to play EVE Online without a subscription fee.  This is CCP’s free to play move.

Should this see the initial success that such free to play gambits generally achieve… lots of people should come give the game a try, or come back to take a look… is CCP counting on them to take up the slack in PLEX purchases?  Is this why CCP waited until last week… just four weeks before the launch of the expansion… to move against IWI and ban people who, in some cases, they had banned earlier this year?

In a game where the economy is absolutely essential, where nobody can avoid it, I imagine CCP is trying to tread carefully.  But I still wonder where this will lead.

Meanwhile, as The Mittani and DBRB were smugging so hard I am surprised they didn’t injure themselves, I Want ISK has been vacillating between telling people that IWI 2.0 was never meant for New Eden and how they are removing lines of code that were part of the IWI 2.0 connection to EVE Online.  It sounds like they have decided to become a straight-up online casino.  I am sure that will end well.  And, finally, over at The Nosy Gamer there is a further look at the legal aspects of all of this and why CCP may have chosen to act.

Addendum:

Stabs takes a stab at what happens to the economy when gambling goes away.

To PLEX or not to PLEX, That is the Question

I have something of a philosophical question.

I mentioned more than a year back at this point that my other blog, EVE Online Pictures, had been accepted as an official fan site by CCP.  It is listed over on community page for the game.

Somewhere between Japan and Poland now...

Somewhere between Japan and Poland now…

Aside from that listing, one of the benefits of running an official fan site is that you get a free account.  So long as I remain in this program I will never unsubscribe from EVE Online because I am playing for free!  FREE!

Well, “free” as in not having to pay any money.  I still have to keep my site up and active.  But that isn’t such a big task.  I tell people I literally pay for my account by taking screen shots.  A pretty sweet deal, no?

Anyway, as I said a year back, you can consider me bought and paid for by CCP, though I doubt you could detect any difference in my posts since I got the whole fan site thing.

But there has been a change.  Fan sites were recently sent an update regarding the program that included this offer:

We are currently planning to change the rewards that we are currently offering to Fansites. Firstly, we are adding the option that will allow you to get PLEX rather than gametime. Anyone taking up this offer will be granted three PLEX per quarter (for a total of 12 PLEX per year). If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please email me or file a support ticket.

On the surface, this seems like a bad deal.  I would be trading an option where my account is free 365 days a year (366 on leap years!) for an option that gives me only 360 free days every 12 months.  I might have to pay for those extra 5 (or 6) days eventually!  Oh noes!

The thing is, as a human, I am not always a fully logical being.  Far from it.

For me, a subscription to a game I play actively is no big deal.  I just pay it, or put a credit card on auto-repeat and it gets paid automatically, and think no more about it until I stop playing.

Basically, in my world, subscriptions are easy, which makes them about the polar opposite of cash shop items.  Leaving aside immersion issues and not having anything worthwhile to buy, the biggest problem I have with free to play… or perhaps it is the biggest problem free to play games have with me… is simply getting me to buy the special in-game RMT currency, be it Station Cash, Turbine Points, or Aurum.

I think World of Tanks might be one of the few exceptions to that, and I didn’t buy much from them.

The only time I tend to accumulate and use an MMO’s RMT currency is when I opt-in for their subscription plan, and that plan includes a currency stipend.  This is how I ended up with a pile of Station Cash… which I think is now Daybreak Cash… and Turbine Points.  And while I have noted the problem I have with a lack of offerings in some games, I have ended up spending my Turbine Points in Lord of the Rings Online fairly freely.

So my theory is that if I went with the PLEX route, I would be more likely to do things I have considered from time to time, like buy ship skins or activate another account for a short time at need or consolidate characters from a couple of accounts onto a single account or enable multiple skill training queues, which might make the game more fun or interesting, because I can use the PLEX I have been given.  Or I can sell it on the market if I need some ISK, or I can just use the PLEX and cover 30 days of account time.  (See How to Use PLEX on the official site.)

I get more flexibility, and it will take a while for those five (or six) days to catch up to me anyway.

Like I said, this isn’t logical.  I could do these things by just putting up the cash, but my history says I will not do that.  But paying for a subscription?  I won’t think twice on that.

So, as I said above, to PLEX or not to PLEX?

CCP Copies Blizzard’s WoW Token Idea

I suspect that the headline above is how some World of Warcraft players will react to PLEX, should they ever hear about it or the existence of a game called EVE Online, now that Blizzard’s WoW Tokens are going live in North America.  That is the way these things tend to go.

But $20 will apparently get you 30,000 gold in WoW a some point today.  (There is even a video to show you how it all works.)

The WoW Token highway has no exit

The WoW Token highway has no exit

You and I though, we know better.  We know that EVE Online has had PLEX for over five years at this point.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

And we know that, after CCP introduced PLEX into New Eden other MMOs adopted similar currencies to allow their players to exchange real world money for in-game currency.  So we have:

  • KronoEverQuest & EverQuest II and maybe other titles.
  • CREDDWildStar
  • GRACEAnarchy Online
  • DUELDarkfall
  • REXRift
  • APEX – ArcheAge

Interesting experiments, with a mix of subscription-only and free to play titles to observe.  But those are all small time compared to WoW, with populations totaled all together barely matching a small percentage of the 10 million players last reported in Azeroth.

With WoW Tokens, the PLEX idea is hitting the big time and, going forward it will like be the benchmark system against which all others are compared.  PLEX may have come first, but WoW Tokens will likely be the biggest such item for a long time to come.

Of course, Blizzard is taking steps to cover itself on the WoW Tokens front.  The WoW Token market is setup region-wide, so they have populations larger than EVE Online to keep the prices stable.  And should stability be an issue, they have setup a system where they can control prices.

I will be interested to see where the prices go over time.  30,000 gold for $20 seems like a reasonable price, enough to steer people away from illicit RMT.  We will have to see if, over the longer term, 30,000 gold is worth 30 days of game time to the richer players in game.  That joke about CREDD might come true for some in WoW.  And I do find it interesting that, while the starting price for WoW Tokens is 30,000 gold, the intro video I linked above shows a payout of nearly half that.

15,864? Where is my 30K Gold?

15,864? Where is my 30K Gold?

I am waiting for somebody to setup a site to track the pricing and compare it across regions.  It will be interesting to see what sort of split, if any, ends up being necessary to support pricing sufficient to fight illicit RMT.  How much gold will Blizzard have to inject into the WoW economy in its own version of quantitative easing?

Will WoW Tokens have the same effect that PLEX did in EVE Online, where suddenly everything can now be converted to a real world value, where we know how much a titan is worth in dollars and euros and yen?  The mainstream press obsesses over that conversion when it comes to EVE Online because dollar amounts make for better headlines.  I am waiting for the WoW addon that converts all gold values to real world currencies.

Also, now that WoW gold will effectively that have a real world monetary value, we can examine the exchange rates between currencies in various games.  Right now it looks like about 27,000 ISK in EVE Online will buy you 1 gold coin in WoW, which feels about right I guess.  That would give me about 200,000 WoW gold worth of currency in EVE Online.  More than I have in WoW, but ISK is probably more important to me in New Eden than gold is to me in Azeroth.  Necessities versus luxuries.

And, finally, I am now waiting for some site (like maybe The EVE Onion) to start valuing the cost of battles in EVE Online in terms of WoW gold.  So that 75 billion ISK brawl in Pure Blind the other day, that was worth nearly 2.8 million gold!

Hrmm, I might need to put together a conversion spreadsheet to track that exchange rate.

Anyway, others writing about WoW Tokens on their launch day:

And, from the comments, a site to track the price of WoW Tokens.

WoW Tokens – PLEX with Price Supports

Well, they went for it.  I was predicting against it due to the frenzy of bitterness left over from the Diablo III real money auction house fiasco, but it looks like there will be a PLEX-like item from Blizzard, as was previously brought up, that people can buy for real world money and then convert into in-game gold in World of Warcraft.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are ~800 million ISK in Jita

Called WoW Tokens, Blizzard will join the other games that have followed EVE Online and its PLEX model to help combat/sate the pressure some players feel is on them to buy the in-game currency in order to get what they want out of the game.

The WoW Token highway has no exit

The WoW Token highway has no exit

While Blizzard is not the first to take their cue from CCP on this front, though they do appear to be one of the few, aside from SOE, to avoid a cute acronym.  And even Krono (as in “Chrono” as in “Time”) strikes me as a bit cute.  But for WoW it is just a token.

Past versions of PLEX from other companies include:

  • KronoEverQuest & EverQuest II and maybe other titles.
  • CREDDWildStar
  • GRACEAnarchy Online
  • DUELDarkfall
  • REX – Rift
  • APEX – ArcheAge

Avoiding a cuteness however is not the only thing that sets Blizzard apart on the PLEX-like front.

Process diagram

Process diagram

First off, the WoW Tokens are good for one sale and one sale only in-game.  You cannot buy one from another player, then hang onto it until the market price goes up in order to resell. This avoids speculation and investment buyers that have been driving up the price of PLEX in EVE now and again.

Then there is the gold you get for your WoW Token.  As World of Warcraft has over 500 servers outside of China the last time I looked, the market would seem to be fractured in the extreme.  Yes, the more recent server pairings have reduced the effective number of servers by joining them in every way short of a full-on merger, there are still a lot of servers out there.

The Blizzard plan appears to be to join WoW Token sales into unified markets based on regions.  These regions will be:

  • Americas, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Europe
  • Taiwan
  • Korea
  • China

This should prevent the low population server problem, like Daybreak has with their Krono, where prices can vary wildly because of demand on a given server.

Within these markets, you will get a price quote up front when you list your WoW Token for sale.  I find this to be the most interesting bit, as within this special marketplace, it really looks like Blizzard wants to be able to inject gold into transactions to keep the market stable.

Blizzard is setting up a region-wide, cross server, cross faction market, with no fees, promising a specific amount of gold up front, and not necessarily matching up buyers and sellers directly the way it works in the auction house, all with an eye towards stopping illicit RMT.  It does not seem like very much of a stretch for Blizzard to step in now and again and complete outstanding orders now and again when the buy and sell prices get out of alignment.

That makes complete sense if you view this as Blizzard attempting to apply a topical antibiotic to the festering sore that is illicit RMT.  For this service to have any impact, it needs to feel like a viable alternative to the gold sellers.  So I suspect that, when this service goes live, you may end up buying a bit of your gold directly from Blizzard.  I suspect somebody diligent like Gevlon will watch this market and will be able to “prove” at some point that Blizz is kicking in some gold now and again.

All that is left is to set the price of a WoW Token.  Blizzard has left that in the TBD file, but the price has to be more than $14.99 to cover the additional overhead that this program will entail, but I doubt the price can exceed $19.99 per token if Blizzard wants it to succeed.

And then we will have to see what the in-game market will bear.  A quick Google search shows gold sellers going down to fifty cents per 1,000 gold.  Now Blizzard doesn’t have to match that price, since they offer a safe and legitimate method of buying WoW gold, but they can’t be off by a huge factor either.  So I couldn’t see a WoW Token for selling for less than 30K gold given a high estimate price of $19.99 per token.

Which doesn’t seem that bad I guess.  Blizz might not even have to get into the price support business to aggressively at that level of pricing.  But how that will play out in the longer term will be interesting to watch.

Anyway, you can read the sum of all knowledge on the topic over at Blizzard’s site.

And, of course, this being a WoW related topic, lots others have opinions.  It is big enough news that my wife caught it on a Yahoo headline.  A few posts from the local blogesphere you might care to peruse: