Tag Archives: PLEX

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:

Does PLEX Work Anywhere Besides EVE Online?

CCP introduced PLEX, the Pilot License EXtension item that could be bought for real world cash and sold on the in-game market of EVE Online or consumed to extended your EVE subscription by 30 days a little over five years ago.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

It was very much an experimental move by CCP who proceeded with caution.  As you can see from the five year old screen shot above, when introduced, PLEX was stuck in the station in which you claimed it.  CCP didn’t want it becoming a loss mail item on day one.  Later, when it became clear that players were going to accept PLEX as a thing, CCP loosened up its restrictions on PLEX… and hilarity ensued, with the first major loss being 74 PLEX in a Kestrel.

PLEX has had quite an impact on EVE Online. It has been a major tool in the war against illicit RMT for the in-game currency, ISK, by giving players a legitimate way to effectively buy ISK.

It has become a major indicator of the health of the in-game market.  I think people mostly track Catalyst hulls, tritanium, and PLEX these days. (just kidding)

It has been opened up so that you can use it to enable other services or currencies.  You can use PLEX to enable the training queue for a second character on your account or convert it to Aurum to buy clothes at the New Eden Exchange. (Need more/better hats!)

It has allowed some players to play for “free,” where “free” means exchanging time for ISK and then ISK for PLEX. (If you think anybody is actually playing for free, please go read up on the time value of money.)

Through the simple math conversion (Real World Money to PLEX, PLEX to ISK) it has given people a dubious way to assign real world value to losses sustained in EVE Online, so now every huge battle report that makes the headlines at the BBC must include an obligatory dollar amount which gives people the false impression that you buy ships in the game for real world money or some similar nonsense.

(I am kind of disappointed that Edward Castronova, who spent so much time writing about the EverQuest economy, never spent much time writing about EVE Online where things have gotten at least a little closer to his virtual economy vision.)

And, of course, PLEX loss is a staple of loss mail porn as people unwittingly, to be charitable, try to transport billions of ISK in PLEX in ships that cost a million ISK or less.  Of course, every PLEX destroyed during such a loss is a win for CCP as that is a promise for 30 days of game time they do no longer have to honor.

I think we can safely declare PLEX a success.  Certainly, CCP has not suffered from having it, and the game has continued to grow since its introduction.

Success, of course, attracts imitation.  Since then a number of PLEX-like items have popped up in other MMOs.  We have:

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

Did I miss any?

The thing is, I have no real sens of how well the various PLEX-like currencies have worked in these other games which, even if they have a comparable player base to EVE Online… and you would need a lot of smoke and mirrors to make Darkfall or Anarchy Online appear to have a tenth of the subscriptions… they do not have the single, unified market of EVE, being chopped up into distinct servers, each with their own economy.

I have been peeking at the Krono market as I have been playing EverQuest II lately.  There seem to be about two dozen on the market at any given time, with the low end hovering around 3,000 platinum coins for one Krono.

I currently have 300 platinum coins, and feel quite well off for having that much.  But I am also playing a level 70 character and remember the days when earning your first platinum coin was a big deal and having 300 gold coins made me feel quite well off.

At 3,000 plat, the market seems somewhat static.  The number of Krono for sale does not fluctuate much from day to day, so I have to wonder how much traffic there really is. (Though, granted, the trade channel is where you go if you want to sell something RIGHT NOW, but it is also so spammy that I tend to keep it off.)  And I am on the Freeport server, which is one of the high population servers, somewhere behind Antonia Bayle, where all the cool kids used to hang out, and Splitpaw in activity, so what I see on my server might not reflect what is happening on other servers.

But my gut is that Krono hasn’t had the impact on Norrath that PLEX has had on New Eden.  And with WildStar having problems keeping people subscribed, I am not sure there is a comparable case to EVE Online when it comes to PLEX… yet.

Because suddenly World of Warcraft hove onto the scene.  Last week Baishok put up a post about things coming to Azeroth in the new year which included this entry half way down the post, between garrison improvements and heirloom storage, under the innocuous heading of “New Ways to Play.”

We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold. Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system. A few other online games offer a similar option, and players have suggested that they’d be interested in seeing something along those lines in WoW. We agree it could be a good fit for the game, and we look forward to any feedback you have as we continue to look into this feature.

Everybody paying attention immediately saw this for what it was, PLEX comes to World of Warcraft.  This was met by various levels of excitement of despair, depending on various rational or irrational points of view and analogies.

Ages ago I wrote a post wondering if the World of Warcraft in-game economy could support something like PLEX in the way that the EVE Online economy has shown in can.

On the plus side, World of Warcraft does have a more vibrant economy than most of its peers.  There is a lot of gold floating around looking for places to be spent, given the number of alliance choppers I have seen running around since they went up for sale.  With the unification of economies across Horde and Alliance on servers, there are no more economic ghettos where one faction hugely outweighs the other.

Finally, here is a game that has an illicit RMT problem of epic proportions and which really needs a legitimate way for people to buy gold since it has become crystal clear over the years that people are going to buy gold no matter how many horror stories you tell them about account hacking and credit card fraud.

Plus, once you’re selling level 90 characters, what other taboo is there left to transgress?

On the down side, even with economies unified on servers, and across servers when it comes to the co-joined, merged in all but name servers, there are still a hundred or more individual economies to look at.  Servers that had 8 hour queues when Warlords of Draenor dropped might fare differently than servers that never even got to a medium population load on opening night.

And then there is Blizzard’s tentative nature.  World of Warcraft is the goose that lays golden eggs, quarter after quarter, and they are justifiably nervous about screwing that up.  So, even after having had five years to look at how PLEX has worked out in EVE Online, two years to observe Krono over at SOE, and having run their own “cash to item to gold” experiment with the guardian cub three years back, Blizzard is still “exploring the possibility” of the whole idea.

I know I mock SOE from time to time for jumping into ideas with both feet before they have thought things through… and then being forced to adapt and change in front of a live studio audience.  But here we are at the other end of the spectrum, where Blizz probably has all the data they are ever really going to get and they are out there being coy about the whole thing.

Yes, this could just be a trial balloon to see if the people who actually pay attention to these things explode at the idea.  And yes, the whole real money auction house plan in Diablo III, which worked out so badly in the end, does loom over this, a point many people in the forum thread are quick to compare this to.  However, I would argue that the RMAH in Diablo III, which allowed people to buy in-game gear directly for real world money and, more importantly I think, allowed people to cash out and walk away with real money profits, was a different and beast altogether and lead to problems people were calling out during beta.  Furthermore, even the in-game gold auction house was a serious problem, leaving real money aside,  Blizzard didn’t just close of the RMAH, they closed down both sides because both sides were killing the game.  The auction house as a whole was the problem, not just the real money aspect.

World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has existed with an auction house for a decade at this point.

None of which gets around to answering the question in the title.  I really have no concrete feel for how something like PLEX does affect a game aside from EVE, which remains unique in many ways in the MMORPG ecosystem.

I don’t think a PLEX-like item is a done deal for WoW either.  Blizzard is very cautious about its main source of revenue and, as we saw over the last year, would rather sit and do nothing than do something that might go wrong.  Add in the stink left over from Diablo III and my gut says it is only even odds that Blizzard will adopt something like this in 2015.  We certainly won’t see it until the summer if they do.  But that timing might make it a good hedge against another content drought.  People might stay subscribed longer if they could just pay for their subscription out of the giant pile of gold they have accumulated in their garrison.

Do you think PLEX-like items in other games are working out?  Do you think something like that will work in WoW?

Others on the idea of a PLEX-like item in WoW:

The PLEX Idea Continues to Catch On as Darkfall Introduces DUEL

We have another entry in the PLEX-like game item arena, this time for DarkfallAventurine has been busy revamping Darkfall: Unholy Wars… or Darkfall 2.0 or just Darkfall, since the original isn’t around anymore… with class overhaul, a cash shop, a presence on Steam, and a rework of the UI.

DFLOGO B-450

And with the latest update, Aventurine has joined the ranks of studios offering an in-game item worth subscription time that players can buy and then trade for the in-game currency.  Called DUEL (Or as they style it, D.U.E.L, with three periods because… why?) it can be purchased with Selentine (is that the in-game currency or the cash shop currency?) and then used to wheel and deal with other players.

This scheme has been seen before with SOE’s Krono, Carbine’s CREDD, Funcom’s GRACE, and, of course, CCP’s PLEX, which was introduced into EVE Online back in 2009.

It will be interesting to hear how this works out.

As I have said often in the past, this sort of thing works in EVE Online because the in-game economy is not optional.  If you play EVE, you have to buy in sooner or later or just stop playing.  With the other games on the list… the economy is optional, which has always left me wondering if their economies could support such a scheme.

Unfortunately, I do not play any of the other games offering this sort of item, so I have to go by what other people are saying.  CREDD seems to have been a good investment in WildStar if you got in early.  Some Krono shows up on the market in EverQuest and EverQuest II, but seems to be more active on the Trade channel where it can be used for barter for specific things in addition to being traded for the in-game currency.  And GRACE hasn’t been in Anarchy Online long enough for it to have settled down.

So I am left wondering if Darkfall has the critical mass of players and an active enough economy to make something like DUEL viable.  I was interested to see that, despite its hardcore nature, Aventurine opted to make DUEL unlootable when you kill another player.  No headline comedy.  Of course, CCP started off with PLEX being stuck in stations, so maybe DUEL will change later.

And my final question is, what does DUEL stand for?  That isn’t listed in the FAQ or the forum patch notes.  They are clearly using it as a cute acronym.

PLEX stands for Pilot License EXtension

CREDD is the awkward Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development

GRACE is GRid Access Credit Extension

So what does DUEL stand for?  Darkfall Unholy wars Extended Living?

I think SOE might have been smart to just go with a name rather than an acronym.

And one question past my final question; who will jump on the PLEX-like bandwagon next?

PLEX and its new Daughter, GRACE

I do not pay much attention to Anarchy Online.  Well, I don’t pay it any mind at all, really aside from the occasional industry lore aspects around things like rocky starts (“nearly unplayable” -GameSpy) and longevity. (It turned 13 just about a month back.)

AnarchyOnlineLogo

But some people do still pay attention to it.  There was a post up over at Massively announcing that the game had announced a new aspect to their subscription plan.

Called GRACE, for Grid Access Credit Extension, it is an in-game item that can be traded or sold between players that, once redeemed, turns into 30 days of game subscription time.  There is a FAQ.

Basically, this the AO version of EVE Online PLEX.

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

PLEX itself has been live in EVE Online for just about five years at this point, where it has been a success thanks in large part to the in-game economy which is all pervasive in New Eden.  There are a lot of aspects of the game you can avoid, but if you want to play you are going to be part of the economy.

The economy is such a big deal in EVE that I was curious if MMOs with much more optional or fragmented economies could really make something like PLEX work.  World of Warcraft, with its large player base and need for gold sinks, seemed like it might be able to, even with the economy sliced up into three markets on hundreds of different servers.  And Blizzard dipped their toe in the water… sort of… with the kitten economy idea.  But they haven’t done much since.

It was left to Sony Online Entertainment to give the PLEX idea a try in the fantasy realm, introducing Krono to EverQuest II about two years back and then expanding it to their other games.

All About Krono

All About Krono

I really have no idea how Krono has worked out.  They still have Krono as an option, even after the big consolidation of game subscriptions into the new All Access plan back in April, but I have never seen more than a couple on the market when I have bothered to check, and the prices seemed wildly different on different servers, so I cannot tell if they just don’t get used or if they are so popular that they sell out quickly to the platinum barons of Norrath.  And the fact that the game is free to play complicates things.

Moving on, earlier this year we had two new MMOs announcing that they were all-in on monthly subscriptions.  First, The Elder Scrolls Online made its position clear, and then WildStar joined the subscription only parade as well.  But their business model also included something called CREDD, which is how they spell PLEX on Nexus I gather.  Because it was that PLEX model again, an in-game item worth game time, which Carbine seemed to be using as a loophole to claim some sort of free to play status since, technically, after you bought the game, you could find a way to play for free if you earned enough in-game money to buy CREDD.

In Carbine’s world, you can play for free so long as they get paid.  But to their credit, I don’t think they have overplayed their definition of free to play… yet.

My first thought when they announced their business model, including the CREDD bit, was whether or not it had worked for SOE by that point.  That seemed like a reasonable question.  Yes, a shiny new game sporting a subscription-only model with a brand new, out of the box in-game economy might not be the best parallel, what else was I going to compare it too?

The question is still unanswered at this point as far as I am concerned.  The idea works in EVE, but I couldn’t tell you if it was worthwhile elsewhere.

And now Funcom is throwing its hat in the ring with Anarchy Online, which doesn’t help my understanding at all, because I am not even sure what their business model is.  I think it is mostly subscriptions, but they have had this short-term “Free Play” option that shows you ads in game since… what… 2004?  So does that make it free to play?  And how many people even play?  The late Game Data site tracked them as peaking at 60K subscriptions just after launch, dropping down to 10K by 2006, but nothing after that.

So who is out there playing Anarchy Online?  What do you think GRACE going to do for the game, if anything?

Or, for that matter, how about CREDD in WildStar or Krono in SOE games?