We have a big announcement coming out in the press in the next day, and I wanted to make sure you heard it from me directly rather than reading an article about it.
Starting in late June, SOE will begin offering a new service called Station Exchange. This secure service will allow EverQuest II players on specific servers to buy and sell the right to use items, coin and characters. To be clear, all we are doing is facilitating these transactions. We are NOT in the business of selling virtual goods ourselves.
I'm sure this is going to come as a shock to many of you, since for the past six years, we have held the line in not allowing these sorts of things to occur. I'd like to explain the primary drivers for this change from our perspective:
First: It's obvious that a large percentage of our players either don't mind this activity or actively participate in it. We've done a fair amount of homework on this subject, and we believe this is a $200 million dollar market worldwide, and there are a huge number of our players taking part in the buying and selling of virtual goods. We have conducted polls, and the vast majority of players either doesnt care about it or would like to participate in it. We believe that by allowing this to happen on select servers, we can have a solution for both the many players who want to participate in this and for those who dont.
Second: Dealing with fraudulent transactions of one type or another takes up roughly 40% of our customer service people's time. We have players calling us up or requesting in-game service for activities related to these sorts of transactions constantly, even though they are specifically disallowed by our EULA. You may ask why the percentage is that high when it's not allowed in the first place? The answer is simple. Many times, people in these situations aren't up front with us about what actually happened. "My sword disappeared from my inventory" comes to mind, when what actually happened is the player has sold the item to someone else. Our CS people have to take the time to investigate this claim because if something legitimately happened, we of course want to take care of the player's needs. We believe that by taking this course, we will free up a great number of resources to deal with other things for our players.
Third: We see this as a potentially interesting model for future games. If we came up with a game specifically designed around these sorts of transactions, it might be pretty cool. Online gaming is always evolving, and were going to see how a sanctioned exchange service shakes out in EQII. From our perspective, it's always wise to keep pushing the envelope.
With the big reasons we're doing this laid out, I'd like to now tell you about the process:
On Wednesday, you'll see some press about Station Exchange. After about a week, we will conduct an in-game poll that's going to ask whether you:
1) Want to play on an "Exchange enabled" server
2) Do not want to play on an "Exchange enabled" server
3) Don't really care
Based on the results of this poll, we will light up a certain amount of new servers that are specifically "Exchange enabled." If the percentage of players who want this service is high enough, we might consider converting some existing servers to "Exchange enabled." Players who want to play on those servers will have the opportunity to transfer over to the "Exchange enabled" servers for free on a one-time-only basis (but you can't ever move that character off these servers). We will, of course, let people who don't want to stay on an "Exchange enabled" server off with a free transfer.
I want to be clear here: We will be lighting up a few new servers that are specifically Exchange enabled, and the number of existing servers we convert to Exchange enabled will be based on how many people actually want to be on "Exchange enabled" servers.
In addition to the issues listed above, you may ask, "What about farming?" The simple answer to this is that we're going to continue to heavily enforce the rules of EQ II, and those rules don't permit players to monopolize spawns or in any way harm the play experience of another player. We will continue to enforce these rules, but we also think that by providing a legitimate way for players to buy and sell the use of virtual goods, there will be fewer problems on the non-Exchange servers.
I realize this is a lot to think about, and I expect a pretty good debate to start on this subject. We welcome all your feedback, as it will help determine the future of this service. All I ask is that you consider the fact that we're really addressing this problem in the best possible way for all sides of this issue.
President, Sony Online Entertainment
Learn more about Station Exchange.