Sony Site Battles EverQuest II Gray Market|
Sony Online Entertainment lowered the boom on gray market trading of virtual characters and gear Wednesday, as it announced an auction site for players of its Everquest II multi-player online game.
Scheduled to debut in late June, the Station Exchange will become the officially sanctioned site for players to buy and sell rights to characters, game items, and coins.
"The unsanctioned secondary market for online games is rapidly growing and more and more of our players are taking part," said John Smedley, the president of Sony Online, in a statement. "Not only are we answering the demands of a sizable portion of our subscriber base, but we are also set on establishing the standard for online game sales."
Estimates of after-market sales of online game characters, skills, and hardware range from $100 to $800 million a year. Sony's EverQuest and EverQuest II make up about 20 percent of those sales.
Sony is stressing security to differentiate its upcoming auction site from the unsupervised trading now taking place. Once a player decides to auction off an item or character, it or he/she is removed from EverQuest II and moved to a secure Station Exchange server, where buyers can browse. When the auction completes, the item or character or coin is automatically placed in the winner's account.
That process, said Sony on an explanatory Station Exchange site, would eliminate scams by players who promise to sell characters, but then take the money and run.
Sony did not detail the costs of listing items on Station Exchange, saying only that users "will be charged a nominal listing fee." It also made clear that users don't actually "own" anything within EverQuest II, but that Sony Online "will permit you to 'sell' and 'buy' that right to use characters, items, and coins. In 'lawyerese,' you will be buying and/or selling a limited license right, not an ownership right," the company stated on the Station Exchange site FAQ.
EverQuest's market-driven economy has been the subject of numerous media reports, and even one academic study. "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier," a 2002 paper by Indiana University professor Edward Castronova, has been downloaded nearly 30,000 times from the Economics Research Network.
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