RMT = Really Making Trouble?
RMT - Real Money Trading.

Love it or hate it, it has arrived in the World of Warcraft, amidst shouts of horror, disgust, and joy.

What it means for you as a player (AKA a customer), is that you can purchase game-based amenities with real world dollars. Traditionally you purchased things in-game with in-game currency. If you wanted to trade some of your cold hard real world cash for in-game fun (aside from purchasing the game and paying a subscription), you would have to go do some shady business with a mysteriously falling-from-the-sky-dead-spelling-out-a-URL gold seller.

There are plenty of games out on the market that are technically F2P - meaning free to play. No cost for the game, no subscription fee. However, the game is massively improved upon by purchasing additions with real world money (think Evony... or don't. It makes me cringe - which is why I won't even link to it).

Where do you draw the line? When is a little RMT... too much RMT?

Everyone's talking about it... but I haven't. In fact, I've kept my mouth completely shut about it, because sometimes I'm simply not sure how I feel about it - other times I feel very strongly, but don't feel like getting flamed.

This is mainly due to the fact that I have a very solid rule about games and money. I pay for the game itself, and will not pay for anything else. I had to bend this rule for WoW, which is one of the main reasons I waited for years before I started playing it - that's how seriously I take my rule. I finally broke down and paid for the actual WoW game AND the subscription, and I figure that's enough. I draw the line at purchasing anything else, which is why I have never, and most likely will never, change servers. The only other exception I made to this rule was when I purchased a Lil' KT for my fiance for Christmas... and I debated over doing that for weeks. I decided that since I wanted to buy him something anyway, I would make the exception - the money was going to be spent regardless.

When it comes to F2P games, I absolutely do not purchase any extra amenities... it's against my rule. I am not, however, opposed to these F2P games charging for the real meat of the game. They put in the effort and time and money investing in their product, and therefore it makes sense they they find a source of compensation for that. I am, at heart, a capitalist. I take issue with Evony for other reasons I won't go into here, but I think most F2P games are great in principle, and have nothing against them.

So then, let's bring this back to WoW. There have always been ways to pay for in-game services, but they weren't necessarily sponsored or legal in Blizzard ToS terms. I know several people who sold characters via ebay, and the gold-sellers need no explanation. The only semi-sponsored in-game items you could "purchase" with real world money up until the pets were available via the Trading Card Game. It wasn't easy to get a mount TCG card though... and if you wanted one, you more than likely how to shell out quite a bit of money on ebay to buy one.

For as long as I can remember, you were permitted to change your character to another server, provided you pay a fee.

Later, a new service was added where you could change the name of you character, as well as the sex (for a fee).

Then you could change your faction (for a fee).

And then the whole world exploded, because Blizzard started selling very nice in game pets for 10 dollars each. To soften this blow, until the end of this past December, half of the money you paid for your Pandaren Monk pet would be donated to a worthy charity. Call me a cynic, but what a great PR move. I said screw that and donated 20 dollars directly to a charity myself. That having been said, my only real beef with this item was that it counted towards your plenty of pets achievement.

And now for the next tier... Bornakk has announced that Blizzard will hopefully soon be offering a new "premium-based service" that will allow people to access the Auction House via their mobile device... for a fee.

To be honest, I don't really know how I feel about this yet. I don't know what all Auction House abilities players will have via mobile device. I don't know yet what they will do to prevent scams and gold farmers from making great use of this. And I love my iPhone, and I don't know how much the app will cost. I also don't know what will be available for free (hurrah!!) and what will be "premium based" (boo) but if I had to hazard a guess, I would agree with Matticus' theories. So, will it be a one time charge? An additional cost to your subscription? Does it even matter?

I do know that Blizz has stated in the past that while they are breaching the realm of RMT, they have limitations - they want to implement RMT "in a way that won't disrupt the gameplay experience". They do not want a player who pays more money to gain advantage over one who pays the basic game+subsciption fee.

I've already stated that I'm a capitalist. I believe that RMT is hitting the gaming world by storm, and Blizzard wants to stay competitive by branching out into different money making approaches. I'm not necessarily opposed to this addition.

But I do have a question: Who decides what is the marker of the "gameplay experience"?

Is gameplay only competitive raiding?
Is gameplay all about making gold?
Is gameplay the pursuit of more achievements?
Is gameplay the pwning of opposite factions in PvP?
Is gameplay all about having your ideal RP toon?

Because paying to purchase pets affects achievements. Paying to switch servers affects competitive raiding. Paying to change name and sex affects RP. And paying for premium out of game AH service affects gold most of all, but every other facet of the game indirectly.

Blizzard built a rich alternate universe in which there is some aspect of the game that could entertain most everyone. I hate PvP, but I have nothing against those that enjoy it. I don't RP, but I don't make fun of those who choose to do so. Gevlon is the king of gold-making, and it is obviously something in which he finds pleasure and entertainment. It's not my thing, but it's also not my 15 bucks a month - if someone wants to sit around all day and take screenshots of me dancing naked with Power Infusion, who am I to tell them that it's dumb? It's not my money, it's theirs, and as long as it does not negatively affect the aspects of the game that I enjoy, I really don't care.

Therefore, when you say that on principle you want to implement paid services "in a way that won't disrupt the gameplay experience", then you are asking for trouble. Don't kid yourself. It all affects gameplay. When you suggest that it doesn't, it is an insult to the people who enjoy one aspect of gameplay over another.

But I have a bit more faith in Blizzard. I also know enough about their forum announcements to recognize how they usually prefer to tell us about something when it is already implemented - not long before hand. When they announce something like this, I interpret it as their desire to receive feedback on it before implementation. Like it or not, folks, AH access outside of the game is coming. The details, however... the nitty gritty... perhaps that is not completely determined yet. Perhaps they have yet to decide for sure what will be free, and what will be a "premium-based service".

I'm going to take the Coco-line here and say this much: Don't become a cynic. Whether or not forum trolls want to recognize it, Blizzard does listen to their customers. They do not always directly respond to each individual, but they are reading what the masses say. The proof lies in my Blizzard IP-traced hits from my post about why Oculus is a failure. They are listening, my friends. Business is business, but it is in the best interest of their product and their bottom line to listen to the players and find the optimal way to make money (i.e. retaining customers) which also requires a reasonable attempt to keep their players happy. It doesn't mean you're gonna get a pony - but it does mean that they want your feedback. The trick is to provide it in a constructive way.

Despite my reservations and my personal rules, I'm not sure how I feel about the RMT trend in WoW. I do want to hear your thoughts.

But I think Blizzard wants to hear them even more. Onward to ye forums! This doesn't mean I encourage you to go out and get nasty and banned from the forums - but tell Blizz what you think. Are you as excited as Matticus about this? Are you on the fence like me? Are you completely against it like many others most assuredly will be? Do you think it represents a slightly frightening trend? Tell Blizz, but do it in a constructive way - and then link your forum post in the comments!

ETA: The Green Armadillo has posted a very interesting... uhm... post... about the AH services on the horizon. I invite you all to go read it! He touches on many of the same things about which I've wondered here. Except, you know, less TLDRish.
12 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    I've never been very fussed about the fact that you have to pay a small fee for changing servers/names/etc. In fact I have used the name change option a couple of times for alts whose names just didn't feel right, making me not want to play them. (Now if they could just allow you to change class, then I could finally do something with that lvl 70 priest that I levelled up to experience shadow before dual specs).

    Anyways, with the pets I never really saw the point of the fuss. Yes, they can boost your count for the pet achievement, but you could spend real money on doing that (and the mount achievement) before through TCG cards (as you mentioned). So to me the pets were completely vanity items.

    My husband spotted the news about the AH last night just before bed (we're in the EU timezone) and we ended up having a really odd conversation about it.

    His view is that it will allow people how have the money (or the willingness to spend the money) to get an in-game advantage over others. I just don't understand that - to me it's just the AH. I can't even see myself using it outside the game unless it was a scenario along the lines of having to work late, need to buy some flasks on the go as I won't get home until just before raid time. But even so, portalling to an AH, buying some flasks and HS-ing back to Dal takes like 2 minutes at most.

    I guess I must just not understand the AH well enough. :-)

  2. Kurnak Says:

    As long as the offered services or goods don't impact the real gameplay (buying gold or epics from Blizz with real money) it's ok for me. I also did the same exception as you and got Lil'KT and Pandaren Monk, but other than that I won't ever pay a server or race change. Same for the AH access. If people is desperate enough to need total access anytime to AH to live, then it's good they have to pay.
    My big concern with this is that opens a lot of security exploits and jhackers will have more ways of cracking your account. In theory should be as secure as loging into your account on the website to check your invoices, change credit card info, etc, but that's in theory. If I were Blizz I'd force everyone to use a Blizz authenticator in order to use this new service. And it would be a good Marketing move too: include the authenticator in the initial fee (or just give it out for free if you contract this service, that's even more attractive for customers) and then no one use the service unless the account is bound to the authenticator. Everybody would win then.
    Back on the topic, if Blizz ever offers some gold/gear selling service then it will be the sign to pack up and move to greener pastures, because then the game will be totally dead.

  3. Kayllnn Says:

    I see your point Jess. But I think it is no big deal, at least for me as long as it doesn't give someone an edge in either pvp or pve. Maybe changing servers allows people to play on a server that doesn't crash as much, but none of these services is like those free games, where you have to buy gear with real money. If blizzard ever went this far, I would definitely quit the game. If you are the type of person who plays the game for achievements, then I really feel bad, because selling pets with real money is not fair to those people.

    So for me it is no big deal, but I could definitely see how for others, who play with a different focus, could be upset.

    As far as security, this new app sounds like something for iphone no? Well everyone with iphone has the ability to get a completely free authenticator, which can be a pain to use, but seems to be a hack proof way of playing WoW.

  4. Matt Says:

    The way I understand it, Blizz cares less about not affecting gameplay and more about advantage. Yes, technically a player can gain an advantage in raiding by switching servers and joining a top end raiding guild, but paying that money gave him no direct advantage, it simply gave him access to people who he would otherwise not. He hopes that this will give him an advantage in raiding, but even if it does he is experiencing no more benefit than people who happen to be on that server to begin with. What I mean is, what Blizz is trying to avoid is giving people who are willing to pay advantage over those who dont. I think the end of that sentence is an important distinction. You are saying that RMT actually does benefit people in whatever aspect of the game is important to them, and I agree with you. However, the benefit they obtain does not give them advantage over other players, meaning that those who play and those who don’t are still able to achieve everything equally well. The line would be drawn then, by doing what a lot of F2P games do and charging for the best equipment. In that way the players who pay will always be at an advantage to those who don’t. For WoW, this would apply only to the pay for pets, because those who pay really do have an advantage for getting the achievement over those who don’t. but, you could make the argument that the advantage is slight, and the achievement is still quite difficult, meaning that the pet is primarily for vanity, and secondarily for earning for the achievement.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I hate it. All the money-related aspects of the game have a lot of problems already - scammers, gold-sellers, hacked accounts - and I don't think this is beneficial for gameplay at all.

    Gameplay for me is experiencing the world that has been designed for you, the . Hacking your way through hordes of monsters, grouping with like minded heroes and socialising with friends. Buying shit is not fun.

  6. Chawa Says:

    Firstly, I must say that this was very well written! Bravo! I absolutely loved your point about defining “gameplay experience”. Excellent point! And I’m very interested to see what the answer will be from Blizz when they have it sorted out.

    I agree with tufva's hubby! If the premium service allows certain players to buy items/post items of the AH outside of game, it is definitely giving those people an advantage over those without the same access! Honestly, I don’t see how it couldn’t! Perhaps my opinion has been developed because I do dapple on the AH to make a little extra gold however, I’m not a hardcore AH player.

    Look at the economics of WoW – with extra gold, certain aspects of the game are made easier. You can level your professions quicker and easier. You wouldn’t hesitate to buy the Darkmoon Card Greatness nor the Kirin Tor rings, or any piece of BoE gear from the latest instance! Need Epic riding skill on an alt, no problem!

    However, I’ve got to wait and see what the final product/service will be because I boo Bliz down.

  7. Chawa Says:

    *** Edit to the above: ***However, I’ve got to wait and see what the final product/service will be BEFORE I boo Bliz down.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    This topic leads to Walls of Text.

    Simply put...for *me* - some of the RMT offerings that Blizzard has provided are allowing me to enjoy the game *more*. Faction and Race Change in particular.

    So far they're extending my ability to play the game the way *I* want to - and doing it in a way that doesn't seem to be hurting anyone else.

    The AH thing...I'm taking a wait and see stance with it.

  9. Blizzard does listen to their customers, but it also watches to see how many of them back up their words with their wallets. My guess is that very few players, if any, actually went so far as to cancel their accounts and leave them canceled over any of the items on that slippery slope. The ones who were willing to give up the entire rest of the game over, say, two pets in am item shop, can't have been that happy with the game to begin with.

    The best example we have of this in action is over in EQ2, where SOE has been treating its slippery slope as an escalator for a while now. From experience potions to cosmetic items that vastly outclass player craftable items (especially furniture for in-game housing, which has an entire tradeskill devoted to it), each update has pushed the envelope further and further. Clearly, someone is buying the items, or they would not be spending the time to make them. Until the number of cancellations outweighs the number of item sales, they have no reason to put on the brakes. What are players going to do, go play some other game that they like less because they don't like the optional transactions?

    (In the long run, all of the items could make the game as a whole less appealing to the non-payer. Unfortunately, A) the non-payer is proportionally less valuable than the guy who is snapping up one of everything as it gets added to the item shop and B) developers don't seem to think they have the luxury to worry about that much of the long term, which, if they're not Blizzard, they might not.)

    P.S. I'm not sure I've ever had anyone link me for being LESS TLDR before. ;)

  10. Zan Says:

    The company for which I'm employed has been developing an iPhone app. Unfortunately we cannot provide it for free to our already paying customers. The app store requires the program cost at least 5 dollars, that's Apple's minimum cut. I think the company will give our customers a gift certificate for five dollars off their next purchase from us.

    I've considered getting an iPhone but they're ungodly expensive, as are the service plans that go with them. The people who have iPhones have (a good chunk) expendable income, they're good targets for these types of things.

    The "premium" cost may just be a one time fee of 10 or 15 dollars--5 dollars for apple's cut and 5-10 to cover the development of the application. I'd honestly say wait and see.

    I'd happily buy gold if Blizzard sold it. People can already 'buy' good loot with GDKP runs. I'd rather people get gold from Blizzard than supporting the douchebags that are hacking accounts and robbing guild banks. Bliz selling gold would potentially put RMT folks out of business (and thusly making us less of a targets of viruses and other nasties).

    I'd happily buy more character slots if Blizzard offered it.

    I'd happily pay a premium to be able to grant myself X number of levels or to start new characters at a higher level (55 or above).

    I'd happily buy items, provided they aren't from relevant content (T10 = current content). Stuff that has refused to drop for me after farming for so long (Judgement Belt, Tiger Mount), stuff that I got screwed out of (T6), stuff that I want to finish but lack the time to cat herd people into doing (farming the rest of the fragments for my Val'anyr, it could require you to have a fragment before you can throw money at the problem, and you'd still have to go do Yogg25 with the proper number of keepers).

    I'd like to see some free features such as level granting for veterans (grant one toon on your account X levels per each month you've paid for your account), making 'BoA' stuff look at your battlenet account (let me send BoA items from mywowaccount1 to mywowaccount2), letting us send 'BoA' items across servers.

    Don't fret RMT micro-transactions, I highly doubt Bliz will ever make the game totally unplayable for anyone not making such purchases.

  11. Roguewind Says:

    After reading this, I realized I had so much to say, I had to make my own post.


  12. Composer Says:

    Just offering a different experience here.

    I used to play on a Korean server, where GDKP raids are the norm. Seriously. You will never find a "normal" raid in any realm/faction you look. What this means is, even with how easy it is to gear up without ever stepping into a raid nowadays, Korean servers generally see a lot more gold moving around. Trinkets like Solace of the Defeated and Reign of the Unliving sell for 10k gold minimum, and even your average ToC 25m gear requires at least 1k gold.

    The plus side? You earn back all the gold you spend as you keep raiding after getting all your BiS gear. But this means that new 80s, especially brand new players, have little choice but to spend tons of gold if they ever want to see higher-end content, which is the reason many players play the game in the first place. I've known quite a few players (myself included) who, though decked out in ToGC and ICC gear, had yet to learn to ride 280% flying mounts. This has led to a significantly greater popularity for RMT in Korea, with even a few sites dedicated to RMT; not those shabby blizzardwow.com scam sites, but legit sites that openly sell gold and characters in a clean, organized fashion.

    Like Miss Medicina (crap that sounds awkward), I'm not really sure about all this; though I suppose RMT involving in-game currency is much more controversial than, say, fluffy little panda bears or ferocious liches back from the dead for God knows how many times. I honestly see no reason why anyone would engage in this in US and EU servers, but for Korean servers? I may not approve wholeheartedly, but I can certainly see why.

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