Uncle Sam Wants Lewtz I EVE: Hardcore Economics Online
I Want My EVE TV I Sony Scourges the Seven Seas
More Money Than Crom I Anarchy and Microtransactions: Delicious Irony
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Issue #81 A Loss For Words
June 28, 2007

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Welcome back, MMORPGamers!

I don't have much of a preamble this week, as I haven't really done anything noteworthy. My imagination is a bit mushy at the moment, too, having just consumed a delectable Chicken Katsu Don and wanting to follow my instinct to take a nap.

So, no preamble. Get to reading:

  Uncle Sam Wants Lewtz

It seems that The Man's got his hand everywhere.

A report on the taxation of virtual goods is set to be issued at August's congressional recess. The report, having been in progress since December of last year, will investigate whether or not it is practical or profitable to tax virtual economies. There is no indication at this time as to whether or not the report will support or denounce such actions, nor whether this indicates all trades or simply real world transfers of in-game assets, but the topic already has gamers and developers feeling the doom.

Talking to CNET last year about the investigation, report pen and senior economist Dan Miller said, "Given growth rates of 10 to 15 percent a month, the question is when, not if, Congress and IRS start paying attention to these issues, so it is incumbent on us to set the terms and the debate so we have a shaped tax policy toward virtual worlds and virtual economies in a favorable way."

Favorable for whom? We'll all have to wait and see.

  EVE: Hardcore Economics Online

EVE Online

CCP continues to astound the MMO world this week by announcing that they've brought an economist onto their team for EVE Online. Dr. Eyolfur Guomundsson has been selected to analyze EVE's economy and report on his findings, as well as facilitate communication between CCP and academic institutions who have interest in virtual economy.

The newly christened lead economist says about EVE and CCP's decision to hire someone for this job, "...fundamentally CCP has understood that the social structures in EVE are far beyond those of other games and, as such, pave the way for innovations no other MMO has ever seen..."

Doc Eyolfur's first economic report is expected sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.

  I Want My EVE TV

EVE Online

In other EVE Online news, EVE TV has returned!

Originally developed to broadcast the 2006 Alliance PvP Tournament on the web, EVE TV is a weekly on-demand web show focusing on the community, news, and developer interviews. The show is being produced by MMM Publishing Ltd, the masterminds behind E-ON, EVE's official magazine. The first episode made its debut on June 23.

Everybody's favorite CMO, Magnus Bergsson, is as excited as we are: "EVE Online has always been testing the boundaries of online gaming with its massive online universe, so it was a natural progression that such [a] dynamic and active virtual world had its own TV station. EVE Online is a universe run by its inhabitants and as such produces epic and diverse events that needs to be reported in the same way they are in real life. EVE TV is the ideal medium for such reporting as it offers independent and timely information to the players and CCP itself.Ē

EVE TV doesn't appear to be a free service, however. The site runs on Jalipo, and potential viewers need JCredits to be able to download the video. It's not terribly expensive; the first episode costs anywhere between $1.25-$1.50 depending on size.

If you've got some change laying around and want to stay on the cutting edge of the EVE universe, get yourself some EVE TV.

  Sony Scourges The Seven Seas

Pirates of the Burning Sea

Sony Online Entertainment landed itself some nice, fat booty this week, as Flying Lab Software signed a contract with the publisher to release Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) via its platform publishing.

The platform publishing contract states that Flying Lab retains complete creative control of the game and also manages customer service and server support. SOE is acting as publisher only, handling distribution, localization, billing and marketing. Flying Lab enters this deal with no regrets, as it has shopped around a while for a deal that is satisfactory to themselves and the community the game has built.

Is it deja vu all over again? Many gamers may remember this type of deal from the days when Vanguard: Saga of Heroes left Microsoft to join SOE. Fears that Flying Lab will meet the same fate as Sigil have already been addressed in a letter to the community:

"The difficulties Sigil had with Vanguard have been pretty well publicized at this point. Weíre in a very different situation financially and have no fear of shutting down. A lot of independent studios have just enough money to shove the game out the door and then go bankrupt if they donít have their next project already financed. We are very, very fortunate to not be in that situation. Weíre self-financed and beholden to no one. Flying Lab is in good shape. We made this decision because we wanted to, not because we had to."

Also addressed is the anti-SOE sect of MMORPGamers:

"We canít make everyone happy but I can make you this promise: if Pirates isnít good, if you donít like how the game is designed, or how the servers are operated, or how we interact with our community, itíll be our fault, not SOEís. We own the game and the buck stops here."

Because of this deal, Flying Lab and PotBS now have a hectic schedule ahead of them: they will be appearing at this year's E3 as well as Sony Fan Faire 2007. The game is still on track for a Fall release in the U.S. and Europe, and extended closed beta testing will begin soon. There is still no word on when a public beta test will commence.

  More Money Than Crom

Age of Conan: Hyborean Adventures

Funcom has gained substantial extra funding in order to ensure that Age of Conan: Hyborean Adventures crushes its enemies, sees them driven before it, and hears the lamentation of their women. Earlier this week, the company announced that it has acquired around 30 million USD in order to bolster the game's launch.

via the press release:

"We're expecting the launch of Age of Conan to create significant waves in the MMO gamespace," says Funcom CEO Trond Arne Aas. "With the secured additional funding Funcom is in an even better position to make the launch of the game a success. This commitment from the financial market is reflecting the great promise and expectations for Age of Conan".

As Conan is already in closed testing, and the game is still on track for an October 30 launch, this extra money is being funneled almost solely into marketing and operations. All that money behind one of the most rabidly anticipated MMORPGs in development can only spell good things for Funcom this October.

  Microtransactions and Anarchy: Delicious Irony

Anarchy Online

The other Funcom MMORPG, Anarchy Online just had it's sixth birthday. In order to celebrate, a whole new business model is being added to the game. Namely, microtransactions.

The model, popularized by Asian MMOs, allows players to pay real money for in-game items. Funcom is adding the item shop and point system to the game in addition to it's already existing ad and subscription based income. By following a microtransaction model, Anarchy becomes one of the first major western MMORPGs to support such a system.

Points will be available for purchase in increments of 10 and 20 USD or Euros. Players who pay a monthly subscription fee are given points on a month-to-month basis, with longer subscription plans receiving more points per month.

Some of the first items being made available via the point system are jetbikes and hoverboards. Additional items will include premium apartments, scout mechs, casual clothing, and pets. Expansions will also be available to be purchased with points. Various services can also be purchased, such as name changes and server transfers. Given as an example of how points work, a new jetbike will cost around $3 worth of points, and a whole set can be purchased for about $10.

Also nestled in the announcement of the point system are notes on a new graphics engine, new servers, and the development of booster packs, containing a small set of new areas and quests that will be made available for purchase with points.

Odo is turning in her grave. If Anarchy Online took place on Annares, you wouldn't have to pay for that stuff. Then again, if Anarchy Online took place on Annares, gameplay would revolve around planting trees in the desert and creating theories for instantaneous space travel. I'd rather pay. Call me a profiteer.

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I'm still spent. I'm not trying to be unsociable, really. I'm just coming up blank

How about giving me something to talk about?

Matt Blake

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