Tobold and Raph have been having a cross-blog discussion re: RMT that has went over all the common territory very thoroughly and relatively concisely, I think. My own views on RMT kind of fall between the two extremes, but instead of going into all of that, I thought I would instead muse a little on what really drives the entire RMT controversy.
I’m skipping a lot of supporting narrative here, I admit. If necessary, I’ll add it later. Also, I know a lot of this is obvious to most MMO players… but I think sometimes people forget certain aspects or overlook specific points. It may be helpful just to talk through the various reasons RMT does create controversy, if only to help identify situations that a particular proposal would not truly deal with.
Time vs. Money
Cutting to the chase, I really feel that most of the RMT controversy boils down to simply preserving the primacy/superiority of available time to play over available money to spend.
That is not all bad, nor even as bad as it might sound. For example, there is a modicum of knowledge and skill required to play these games as currently designed. Try returning to a WoW or EQ2 character after a 2 year absence and run straight out to your old hunting grounds… what does that “blue glowing hand” icon represent again? Which of these 4 slightly different lightning bolt icons is my best attack spell again? What order should I be using these abilities in? The skills and knowledge required are not exactly rocket-science/brain-surgery level cognition, no… but they are significant nonetheless.
Spending some amount of time will teach most people the necessary skills to succeed… money does not confer the same benefit. Current designs are built to subtly favor time expenditures over raw money expenditures (in multiple ways, actually)… and I doubt most current players would care to change that.
Which leads us back to RMT and some of the criticism it provokes. RMT in it’s various forms suggests the possibility of supplanting the time commitment with one involving money instead. (I’d guess this is one of them that really sticks in Tobold’s craw, based on certain comments in his post. Obviously, I could be very wrong.)
Currently it is generally only used to supplant the more mundanely time-consuming aspects of the game: attaining a specific item, or amassing enough gold/credits/etc. to purchase such an item, for example. However, the existence of power-leveling services and character selling (services I actually feel are far more pernicious than mere gold selling, setting aside the disruptive nature of ”farming” operations) begins to truly impinge upon the time vs. money question… and who really knows at present where it could potentially go from there?
In Tobold’s arguments (there are actually several posts on the topic over the past week or so, I only linked the most recent), for example, you can find several references to a potential future wherein RMT sales would start to drive the game design for the developer. This is an indirect reference to the conflict above. Such changes would likely create a very different game, and one that would possibly be unappealing, if not completely inaccessible, to many current players.
If this made more profit for the developer, even (or especially!) with fewer players, does anyone reasonably think that development resources would not become focused on that style of game? Given that, does anyone think there would be much remaining concentration on development of the current style of MMO any more, the type that current players obviously enjoy (despite forum rants to the contrary)?
These are companies after all. Subscriber numbers and simultanous user counts are nice, but the true bragging rights come from a different set of numbers: Gross Revenues, Gross Profit, and Net Profit (After Taxes).
Speaking of bragging rights: another common argument against RMT that boils back down to time vs. money is somewhat typified by the statement “I spent 3 months, hundreds of hours, building this character, and he buys one for $500 bucks on e-Bay and expects to be treated equally?”
Setting aside the skill question already touched upon, reaching max level or obtaining certain rare items equate to a certain amount of prestige in these games. RMT rather cheapens the overall impact, and in this case it impacts _everyone_, not just the person doing the buying. (Did he actually _earn_ that Sword of Terrible Wrath, or did he just buy it for $149.95 on GoldFarmers.com?)
Right, wrong, or indifferent, the prestige effect is real. It needs to be considered.
I just want to mention this one, simply because it may be the “exception that proves the rule” (I hate that old saying, actually. Exceptions don’t prove rules.)
Anyway, as everyone is well aware, one of the older complaints related to RMT actually derived from one of the incidental side effects of the practice, the fact that certain areas/mobs were known to be more “productive” than others, and that gold farming organizations would sooner or later move to dominate those areas, in some cases effectively preventing the remaining player base from ever using them.
I almost hesitate to list it, because there are so many ways it could potentially be addressed without “major” changes to the basic common designs. It is something to be considered, if only because it reinforces the point that every decision (aka spawn rates and loot tables in specific areas) in these designs impacts everything else (the entire economy of the game) in myriad ways… to the point that almost no alteration can be called “trivial”.
Ugh. Duty calls… what reasons/impacts did I miss?