I Am Error: Real-money gaming marketplaces
|February 23, 2012||Posted by S.A.Perkins under I Am Error|
So, I’m going to assume some of the readership knows about Diablo III and the choice Blizzard have made to have its auction house / marketplace run on actual cash. If not, research the topic. But I thought I may as well discuss the the subject before turning the possibility of a real-cash marketplace on other games, and talk about how people might make a living from games that use it. As a student, I am of course desperate for cash (seriously, I’m willing to whore myself out at this point; I charge cheap rates, if anyone’s interested), so the prospect of making my living from games is very enticing – but I don’t really like the idea implemented in Diablo III.
Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, Diablo III isn’t like Skyrim. The gear you get isn’t from a specific set, meaning that higher level players won’t just be selling lower level players the items that they could get if they just played on a bit longer (oddly enough, World of Warcraft is full of that sort of thing, which makes me despair over how stupid gamers can be sometimes). In Diablo III, the loot dropped by enemies is completely random, meaning that low level players can actually find gear that can be useful to higher level players. A similar loot system would be the one found in Borderlands, in which you could play through the game twice and not find a single piece of gear that was the same in either play-through (a system that drove me bloody insane. The sniper I found as my Roland, I never found as my Mordecai. I wanted that bloody weapon!). So if you’re playing as, say, a Demon Hunter character – one of the classes in the game (actually, the coolest class in the game: duel-wielding crossbows. If ever there was something that deserved the title “Undeniable Lord of Awesome” it would be the Demon Hunter) – and you find a very useful piece of gear that the Barbarian (oh how original) could use, why not put it up on the marketplace? Charge a reasonable sum of money for it, and someone is bound to come along and purchase it. If the gear honestly benefits the player, someone will buy it.
The benefit of this system is that players don’t have to use it. There is no real multiplayer system in place with Diablo II - as far as I’m aware, at least (I may have forgotten, but I’m sure that can be forgiven. After all, all the awesomeness I have stored in my brain takes up a lot of room) – meaning that players only have to purchase boosted gear if they think their character is struggling. It’s not a case of running into other players in the online multiplayer who might be dual-wielding “Uber-death-axes of the Ganking God of Evil” (oh, how I hate ganking). If there was a multiplayer system in place, it would be remarkably unfair, because players who could afford to buy high-level pieces of gear could easily beat those who could not afford to, unless there was some kind of balancing system in place – and let’s face it, this is Blizzard we’re talking about. If they could get more money to add to the mountain of cash on which they’ve built their palace of pure gold and ivory, they are going to do it, and those who disagree can merely be added to the pile of slain enemies they use to fill the bone-moat surrounding their castle. The more I talk about Blizzard, the more they sound like some villain from Conan the Barbarian. I want to see the head of Blizzard fight Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now.
Of course, players have been doing real-money transactions for a long time. My friend once made quite a lot of money selling a Runescape account (the fact that he spent enough time on such a horrifying game to actually sell it is part of the reason we’re not speaking at the moment) and he’s not the only one. People buy things that, really, they shouldn’t. World of Warcraft gear items, online accounts… the list goes on. It’s not a big thing, and there are small clauses in all of those games which tell you not to do it, but there are bound to be fools who get swayed by the prospect of skipping a long portion of gameplay to get some high-spec gear or a high level character. To be honest, if you’re going to spend money after you’ve bought the game already on skipping gameplay, was there any point in buying the game in the first place? Especially in cases like Runescape. The game is free to play. If you spend money on it, you’re rather idiotic. I know I shouldn’t be so insulting, but I find that I can’t stand people wasting money like that when there are much more worthwhile things to be spending money on *cough* Mass Effect 3 *cough*. I am pretty sure that the newest addition to the Ghost Recon/Future Soldier/Tom Clancy special forces bullshit that’s coming out soon involves a marketplace where you can buy higher level weapons, but there is also some system of balancing in the multiplayer which means people who don’t buy things won’t be slaughtered relentlessly by players with self-aiming machine guns that fire tiny rockets instead of bullets (a gun I’m sure will be included in The Expendables 2, or should be). Then again, I tend not to listen when it comes to talking about such games.
So what if you turned this system around onto other games? Obviously, games like Skyrim could apply. If a player who is level 100 crafts some sword with enough enchantments to slay the World Eater in one hit, he might be enticed to sell that. The game isn’t big on restricting low-level players, and it is pretty easy to craft strong items, but if there was a marketplace in the game that operated via real money I am pretty sure people would make use of it. Obviously, with the restricted number of armour and weapon sets there are in the game, you don’t have that much to trade, but then you have poisons, potions, weapons, enchantments and many other things in place. Unfortunately, not many games have a gear system which can have random drops or a massive number of different crafting skills and trees. Games like Star Wars: The Old Republic (or MMOs in general – I’m just using one that I play for simplicity’s sake) could benefit because higher-level players can craft a whole heap of powerful gear, none of which is level-specific, unless you count dark-side/light-side. You’d have to heavily control it, and I’m sure there would be some bastards who would exploit the system – where would we be without evil players intent on making money out of the idiocy of noobs? – but if you carefully monitored the marketplace, put some rules in place… it could work.
The question is: should people be allowed to make a living from games? And I ask you in return: don’t people already do that? As I said, people sell Runescape accounts. People review games and post them online, making a reasonable sum of money from that. Also, people play games a lot. Rather than have some twenty-something nerd sitting in his parents’ spare room, using up their money to sit on Modern Warfare 3 all day rather than get a job, would you rather not give him the chance to turn those hours of gameplay into a money-making opportunity? Obviously, the chances of making a lot of money might be slim, but the prize… (if any of you comment and guess the meme, you get a prize). I would relish the chance to turn my hours of useless meandering on games into money, but I don’t think I’d be playing for long enough to get the sort of items that people will be selling on the marketplace. Also, I don’t think I’d get much respect for listing my career as “professional loot salesman”. Then again, I can’t exactly list “article writer” as my career, seeing as I don’t get paid for it (not a hint at our Editor-in-Chief at all *wink*).
By the way, I wasn’t kidding about charging cheap rates. Seriously. I need cash.