Sony Online Entertainment announced today Station Cash, "new virtual currency that players can buy to fund a virtual wallet.
Once a wallet has been funded, Station Cash can be used to purchase
premium in-game items through the in-game Marketplace in EverQuest® and EverQuest® II."
RMT, or real money trade — the buying of virtual items with real money — is one of the most hotly debated topics in MMOs. Many people argue that the introduction of RMT sullies the "purity" of a game, whereby those willing and able to spend extra cash can secure extra items that give them an in-game advantage over those who earn loot solely based on in-game resourcefulness. RMT often refers to "buying plat," the illegal and fairly widepspread practice of purchasing in-game coin, but can also include items like "loot cards" — redeemable in-game for fun and cool, but largely non-essential items — that games like EQ2 and WoW already offer.
I can't be as melodramatic as saying that RMT necessarily spells the death of MMORPGs. I mean, as someone who's played Magic the Gathering, I do understand the compulsion to spend a lot of cash in order to win. And as a business, I understand why companies like Sony might try to offer something they feel their customers want: loot for sale. But in an MMO, seeing someone with items I know they've coughed up cash for always turns my stomach, and I don't like it when I hear of someone buying gold. It's not really cheating, per se, but it's unsportsmanlike… Or something…
I have to wonder what Sony's decision means — both for the Everquest franchise and for the MMO industry in general. I don't like it. But then again, despite a nice little nest egg of virtual coin, I'm pretty damn poor IRL.