I don't like micro-transactions (MT) and I don't like real-money-trading (RMT). I wrote about f2p games a lot last month. The fact that Eve Online has always had RMT (Plex), has always annoyed me. An economics simulation, like Eve, shouldn't allow me to effectively trade € for in-game currency.
However, the way CCP had integrated the PLEX system into Eve was brilliant. If I ever was forced to introduce some kind of RMT/MT into a game, I'd do it this way. It protects the simulation as much as possible and has several really good characteristics from a business point of view. Still, I wished Eve had just a subscription.
Now CCP introduces vanity items. On the one hand, I don't think that vanity items are somehow less valuable than other items in games. The 'it's just vanity' doesn't really work for me. On the other hand, the PLEX system guarantees that you can buy all this stuff without ever paying a dime. Eve Online very effectively hides the outside-world influence of PLEXes from you.
But let's face the truth: You could always buy yourself to victory in Eve. It didn't work with 100€ a month, but invest 1000€ a month and it works perfectly. You ask who does this? That's because you are naive. For some reason most people believe that most people have about as much money as they do. Surprise: Most have much, much less and some have so much more that you apparently don't understand what it is like.
If you have 50 mio € on your bank account and a 1% annual interest rate, you get 41.667 € a month. Yes, a month, not a year. And that is a 1% annual interest rate. My bank pays 1.65% the year right now; and that's the convenient and perfectly safe rate. Subtract some taxes if you want. Point is that, unless you're crazy, it's impossible to spend that amount of money. Just one guy having so much money can finance a hundred normal players easily. Real-world wealth is exponentially distributed; a lot of people laugh at 50 mio. They wouldn't even consider you 'rich'.
Before you continue, read this article in The Atlantic:
For four years, the Gates Foundation has supported an effort by the center to determine exactly how the American wealthy think and live—and in particular how, when, and to what degree they make the shift from accumulating fortunes to giving them away philanthropically. [..]
Most of the survey’s respondents are wealthy enough to ensure that in any catastrophe short of Armageddon, they will still be dining on Chateaubriand while the rest of us are spit-roasting rats over trash-can fires.
Are virtual monocles at $60 expensive? Excuse me? Some people could use that as toilette paper without ever actually missing it. That's not demagoguery. I'm not telling you that this is wrong or anything. The moral debate is not for this blog. Fact is that many people couldn't care less whether that thing costs $60 or $400.
.. Unless there were a lot of people who considered $60 expensive. You see, the real value of a virtual monocle is not that it looks cool. The real value is that it is expensive. It is a veblen good. People buy it not although, but because it is expensive. Oh - and in Eve Online they will all say that they bought it with in-game earned currency, of course.
But it is too expensive for you, you say? Well, that may be so. But here's there thing: If you think that MT/RMT is bad for games I unconditionally agree. If, however, you want real-world money to change your playing experience, then you better accept real-world prices, ok?
Gucci is not too expensive. You are just not rich enough, that's all. Or maybe you think that nobody needs a Gucci Blouson for $445.50? I agree; nor does anybody need a $60 virtual monocle.
CCP didn't select this price by accident. They know who the players are that pay for Eve. It's not you. It's not 95% of the players. It is the top 5%.
Almost none of them would ever openly admit to buying PLEX, of course. The last thing rich people want is that non-rich people find out. And they feel it is a bit immoral to win games by spending resources from outside the gaming world. But Eve allows you to hide that you do. And that's no mistake, either.
On a side note: If World of Darkness turns out to be f2p and finances itself with virtual trench coats, I'm out. Sorry CCP, I really like that you advance the genre and don't spend all your money to satisfy shareholders. But aggressive MT/RMT is somewhere I won't go.