SOE has released a whitepaper covering how the Station Exchange service has gone. Lots and lots of good detailed info in here. Edit: there’s an interview and summary on Gamasutra, along with a link to the full whitepaper in .doc format.
- One piece of platinum trades for $7.35 when averaged for the year.
- 34-year-olds spent the most money on virtual goods, accounting for nearly $39,000 in purchases.
- The zip codes with the biggest buyers and sellers are both in Levittown, PA.
- A high level character in EverQuest II is worth as much as $2,000.
- A single seller made $37,435 from 351 auctions in the first year.
But those are just the fun stats. The really interesting stuff is in the analysis.
Running Station Exchange has massively cut down on customer service calls.
40 percent of customer service time was spent on disputes over virtual item sales. Since the debut of the Exchange, the overall customer service time spent has dropped 30 percent.
You don’t get occasional purchases and “spiky” usage — instead, the service gets used constantly and consistently.
…the net cash collected each day was predictable to within $100.
The folks buying tend to be in their late-twenties to early thirties, while the folks selling tend to be in their early twenties. There are, of course, way more males than females participating, but the gender breakdown seems to match that of the service as a whole. And men and women spend the same amount of money each month.
The top buyers are not the top sellers, which suggests that it’s not being used for arbitrage by the top sellers.
There don’t seem to be many differences in gameplay between how the game is played on Exchange-enabled and non-Exchange servers. Guilds are a tad bigger on the one, levelling just slightly faster on the other. People do have more cash on the Exchange servers, and therefore have more pets and house items.
Most critical, IMHO, is “why they trade.” The vast majority of sales happen as instant purchases.
…players are choosing to purchase at auction in order to fulfill an immediate desire. A player realizes, for example, that he needs a particular type of armor in order to defeat an enemy in a quest. He also knows that a crafter inside the game can make the armor for 10 platinum. The player then visits the Station Exchange, instant purchases the platinum he needs to buy the armor inside the game and continues on his quest.
Movie concessions offer a useful metaphor here. A patron pays for tickets, and rushes to buy popcorn and a soda before the feature. The moviegoer knows that the price of these snacks is far more than their actual value – sometimes as much as the tickets. But that doesn’t stop him from buying the popcorn, or filling up on snacks beforehand.
It’s also to show off:
players enjoy strutting around and showing of their wares in front of a live audience. Further proof of this comes from Phil, the armor crafter. The most popular pieces of armor across all tiers of the game are for the chest, leg and shoulder, he says. “Why? Because those are the most visible pieces in the game.”
And of course, people buy in order to be able to keep playing with their friends who outlevel them. The bottom line according to the whitepaper:
- The majority of people paying real money for virtual items are not part of a criminal underground that is preying on the player base at large. They are not “farmers” looking to make a quick buck.
- Station Exchange traders are not radically different from the rest of the EverQuest II player base.
- Station Exchange is not an extension of game play. It is a utility. It offers a fundamentally different approach to play: a means of skipping the boring parts. (emphasis mine)
Disclaimer: I had some involvement with getting this whitepaper project going back when I was at SOE, but I haven’t really been involved for quite a long time, for obvious reasons.