Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Legal RMT

One other thing came out of the Hel scam that I thought was very interesting.  A lot of people contacted me to say variations on "PLEXes don't have a real world value because CCP owns them."  When told that I always highlighted the following, which nearly always made the person stop and say "Ohhh.  Hm."
Nvidia Graphics Cards for PLEX - sold out!
reported by: CCP Phantom | 2012.04.12 18:55:39

We would like to thank everyone for their great interest in our Nvidia Graphics Card for PLEX Offer.

The limited stock of 100 cards was sold out after the amazingly short time of 1 minute and 48 seconds!

We would like to congratulate the new owners to their NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 cards.
PLEXes did have a real world value.  For one minute and 48 seconds, a PLEX grinded up in-game was worth about $10 U.S. and RMT was completely legal.

Which only serves to make the lines even blurrier, don't you agree?  Those slippery slopes, they are a bitch.

33 comments:

  1. Not really a slippery slope.

    CCP owns all of the content of Eve Online and is thus allowed to engage in real money transactions with regards to their property (subject to the RL laws, ofc). They can offer to "exchange" it for RL items - such as video cards or Fanfest tickets - as they so choose, at any time, without assigning any ownership of in-game content, incl. ISK, to the players.

    What makes 3rd party RMT illegal, at all times, in Eve Online is the fact that CCP has *not* authorized anyone else to sell in-game items - incl. ISK - for real money. In fact, they have explicitly forbidden such transactions.

    You cannot sell something which belongs to someone else, and for which you are not an authorized seller. This is theft.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Except:
    "To take advantage of the offer it is necessary to have 20 PLEX available in your account’s redeeming system. "
    Which afaik is only the case after you buy plex for cash?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use reverse-redeeming all the time, simply to keep rarely used accounts instantly accessible (Account Management -> renew subscription -> Pay with PLEX). Buy the PLEX from the market, right-click, select "Return to Redeeming" or some such.

      Delete
  3. Aaaand i was wrong about redeeming thing. You can delete both comments ;P

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  4. I am OK with this experimental deal, since it was a fairly limited pool of goods trading hands.

    It would have been interesting if there had been an auction for the graphics cards though; I suspect the true price of a redeemed plex would have been even lower in a 'free market'.

    The other things PLEX has been used for (charity, fanfest tickets, character transfers etc) cannot be (realistically) resold on the open market. This is the first case I know of where someone can use PLEX for something with transferrable real-world value.

    The speed at which the cards sold out indicates that CCP must be very careful about any plans it may have to accept payment in PLEX for physical goods from the Eve store, limited-run or otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In fact, I'm a lot more concerned about the amount of plexes in-game than the amount of isk in the Eve economy.

      Sure, CCP already got the money from these plexes, but a reliable cashflow is extremely important to any business.

      Delete
    2. What we are seeing is CCP playing with microtransactions some more.

      They could have done the same with Aurum. This is a good thing imho, because they have the sense to run far away from Aurum.

      If I could buy an EVE-optimized laptop for 100 PLEX or whatever, I think it's something I might consider and CCP would essentially be earning the business that some other computer sales would be getting.

      This also means that players will be less hesitant to buy PLEX because they PLEX they buy will have more utility that just in game isk and game time.

      I think this is a good thing, far better than isk for in game clothing (POOOO!)

      Delete
  5. Yea, by doing that offer CCP is putting the whole game at risk. But thankfully no governments have noticed yet.

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  6. Wasn't there also the ability to go to Fanfest through plex? I'm not certain on that but if so then that was a previous point where Plex held RL value.

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    Replies
    1. Fanfest itself, the Sisters of EVE adventure tour, and the Hangover party at the Blue Lagoon: all payable with PLEX for the last few Fanfests.

      The difference is that these are services provided in Iceland, as opposed to a durable good delivered to your doorstep.

      Delete
    2. Even still, i would count it as Plex being used in place of real money. Now if those services were only accessible via Plex, it'd be a different story.

      Plex at times has a RL value even if only for certain events/promotions. Which is what I believe Jester was attempting to suggest.

      Delete
  7. Now comes the part where CCP waits to see what proportion of those cards end up being used by the account that bought them. nVidia won't care: a sale is a sale. CCP should care, since "1 per account" is a stupid limit that I can work around with 1 PLEX and a pile of buddy invites.

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    Replies
    1. Nope. I asked about that and was told that it would be considered an exploit, if you set up the extra accounts just to get the cards (like the Christmas giveaways).

      I was also told that giving the PLEX to your in-game pals and asking them to get the extra cards for you is also considered an exploit (albeit a difficult one to track).

      In other words, if you did the crime and got away with the goods - don't brag about it.

      Delete
  8. In my opinion, plexes for charity is also a bit of a blurry case. Sure, the donator player doesn't see the money, but that's not really a concern for anyone receiving the aid.

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    Replies
    1. Nope, PLEX for charity do not result in you receiving a real world commodity that can be taxed.

      Delete
    2. Question is, can you take a deduction for charitable giving? If so, how much would you take?

      Delete
  9. Legally speaking, CCP did not "sell" the cards.

    They gave the cards away, for free, to the first 100 players who met the necessary in-game criteria (ie. willing to give up the PLEX). This applies also to Fanfest tickets.

    CCP could just have easily made the criteria: "The first 100 players to self-destruct a Titan." Personally, I would have found this to be much more amusing.

    PLEX for Charity is not a blurry case. You are not donating money; CCP is donating money. You are just offering to allow CCP to remove some of your in-game items (ie. PLEX) from the game database.

    PLEX has no real value, simply because you cannot *own* PLEX. As an in-game item, all PLEX are owned by CCP, just as they own all of the ISK, ships, modules, etc.

    As a paid subscriber, you are merely entitled to play the game, with the PLEX, ISK, and other in-game items. You own absolutely nada.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not according to CCP, the original Dev Blog states specifically that players can convert their in game wealth into a real world commodity.

      Also the fact that it is considered a gift is irrelevant from a tax stand point. If you got one such card then STFU about it unless you want your tax agency sending you a letter saying, "About that free $200 item...."

      Delete
  10. The first 100 players who pay the fee of 20 plexes receive one of the 100 prizes - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 card.

    If the plex and prizes are not transferable, assignable or able to be redeemed in cash, then they only have whatever the value the owner puts on them which I believe CCP has stated is 0.

    Now if they were to use them for some sort of currency for their store or if they allow them to be redeemable into cash, thats a whole other ball of wax.

    Im not positive but I think charity drives fall under different set of rules regarding non-profits.
    I feel bad for the pilot but no sane judge/jury would side with the Hel pilot.

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    Replies
    1. Durrr Ebay. You can put the prize up for sale on Ebay you don't have to use it. Once it is in your possession you can do with it as you please.

      Basically 20 PLEX = a graphics card of say $200 value.

      For those who bought the PLEX with isk, then it is,

      X Isk = $200.

      CCP is coming dangerously close to doing actual RMT and that entails serious legal issues. This is why MMOs are so set against RMT. They don't give a shit about it being "unfair" if people keep paying subscriptions. What they don't want is the legal hassles.

      1. Becoming a bank.
      2. In game assets have real world value.
      3. Given 2, players could have serious tax issues.
      4. Given 2, ganking becomes a serious problem since you are depriving people of items of real world value, in some cases substantial value.

      These are the real reasons why RMT is "bad" in MMOs. They don't really care about you the player, they are watching out for their own ass. After all, if CCP is considered a bank and then merge or file bankruptcy or just about anything else, they have to no only deal with investors/shareholders but now thousands and thousands of players too. If CCP shuts down the servers permanently and my in game items (including charachters) have real world value, I want that value back!

      Delete
    2. You are confusing reality with legality.
      Reality - Everything has a value but not necessarily a legal monetary value.

      Legality - CCP owns all PLEX. They are not refundable. They are only legally used to obtain items also owned by CCP.

      According to the flawed logic of Jester and others here, if CCP said "for every 1 plex you give us we will give you 1 gumball" , and you can sell that gumball for 3 cents, then the value of 1 plex is now
      3 cents.

      NO!!! The value of a PLEX is 1 gumball or whatever the owner says they will redeem plex for.

      Delete
  11. Not a slippery slope at all, CCP & NVIDIA chose to sell those video cards via a certain medium, in this case PLEX's. It's the same thing as bartering, what happens to the cards after they reach there buyers is not there concern. They chose the price (20 PLEX's) and they sold them at that price. Just because something was sold not using RL money doesn't mean the transaction wasn't legal.

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  12. This is where the fraud issue becomes a very real issue.

    While conning people to spend RL money on plex may or may not (or may not have have happened... whatever) be fraud and a breach of the EULA/TOS, making plex redeemable for real world items of real redeemable value not tied to the game (i.e, $900) means that you can go from out of game cash, to plex, to out of game cash.

    If CCP go down this path expect to see RL laws applied to ingame transactions and then that was a pretty clear case of fraud (as are a lot of things in EvE).

    The RL laws won't be applied specifically for fraud (let's face it, it isn't really that much RL money), but because of tax avoidance and money laundering oppotunities.

    CCP needs to make sure what happenes in the game stays in the game, and NOT let plex back out to the real world.

    One hell of a slippery slope.

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  13. Plex still are not money. They can be used to buy stuff with real world value. Game time for example.

    Tax on isk/plex is simply not working. Which I bet is the whole reason ccp is using "plex for charity". They donate real money for a tax cut, while you donate something without a tax relevant value to them. And someone paid ccp for that plex.

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  14. As a former Second Life player, I need to step in and clarify something: The PLEX for Video Cards promo really isn't that shocking of a development...and it doesn't really change CCP's stance on the PLEX system. In Second Life, you can trade money in and out of the game (supposing you actually make money in SL) and so far, no laws have been made saying there is anything wrong with that. (The government did go after SL when they had gambling- but SL outlawed gambling in reaction.)

    The way CCP runs the PLEX system is a very smart variation of what SL does, because you can put money in, but not take it back out...which means all money put into the PLEX system by legitimate means is profit for CCP- and on the converse, "R.M.T." is the term for when people other than CCP are making real cash off of EVE stuff.

    The PLEX for Video Cards promo is not RMT, becasue CCP is the one running the offer- they "profit" (in a round about way) becasue it's an advertisement deal they made with Nvidia. (Nvidia gives them the cards for cheap or free in return for the good press it will generate.)

    So, let's recap: Games that allow you to convert real money into game monies and back again are not unheard of, and not against the law- CCP only allows PLEX to be a "one way street" in normal circumstances because they make money like that, and they do not allow anybody besides themselves to cut into that profit. The Nvidia deal that just happened is the closest they have come to changing their stance on the subject, but really nothing has changed, because it was a temporary promo deal they made with Nvidia, and in the end is still more to CCPs or Nvidias advantage than it is to the players who participated. CCP will likely never change their PLEX policy to how SL does their currency system because it doesn't really benefit them- but even if they did it wouldn't be at all unprecedented or illegal in the world of MMO games, it would just be weird becasue it would encourage (more) people to farm ISK like it is a real job.

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    Replies
    1. Nobody said it was against the law. What they are saying is that legally, it opens up several new cans of worms.

      Delete
    2. Like I said, games that trade real money for in game money and then back again aren't unprecedented (Second Life has been around since 2003)... unless Iceland has a bunch of laws specific to the subject then no, there really aren't any legal issues involved, unless you are trading PLEX for RL goods/money without CCPs consent.

      Delete
    3. Im not sure if its Icelandic laws or elsewhere, but the issue was/is that if CCP allowed transfering real money into Eve and then out again at a later time, they would be subject to banking laws and regulations which would not be a good addition to any mmo with some of the security and encryption banks are required to use.

      Delete
    4. Eh, CCP wanting to keep the PLEX system for their profit and not encouraging players to treat EVE even more like a second job than they already do are much more plausible and likey reasons.

      SL Resident earnings are estimated at around $55 million dollars yearly, and for US residents, they would just report those earnings under "other income" on their tax form....it's really not a "huge legal can of worms" at all. (Again, SL has been famous/infamous for it's "Virtual Economy" for almost a decade now- legal controversies for SL have been about Gambling, Copyright, Pornography and Piracy issues, not currecy exchange and taxes.)

      Delete
  15. Any MMO that allows real money -> ingame money -> real money will attract money laundering.

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  16. I think people vastly overate the "not redeemable for cash"

    People set up barter clubs where you also trade "units" that had no official price.
    The IRS clearly ruled these had value and they could tax value, regardless of whether specific resale values existed. That has been settled for nearly half a century.

    So the IRS would treat me paying you with $19995 cash or $19995 in gold or Amazon gift certificates or 1000 PLEX as the same taxable event.

    Say during your bitter divorce, your ex destroyed 100 plexus you owned. Would you tell the courts and attorneys "no problem they had no legal value?"

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  17. Laws and regulations haven’t really kept up with virtual economies because they haven’t gotten big enough yet, and there haven't been any real issues/court cases yet (AFAIK).

    Keep in mind we're not talking about Second Life here. We're talking about EvE.

    Try talking to a new player some time about all the different scams, cons, fraud, market manipulations, ganks, and just straight out theft that goes on in the game and CCP not only ignores, but (arguably) actively encourages.

    Now imagine explaining it from a witness box in a fraud trial.

    A real money chain in and out of EvE is a very Bad idea.

    ReplyDelete

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