Friday, November 1, 2013

SOMERblink: Liquidation Sale

As game time code resellers and their affiliates scramble to comply with the change in the interpretation of how the GTC resellers agreement interacts with the EVE Online End License Users Agreement, one website is determined to milk the situation for all the real world money possible.  SOMERblink, the gambling website at the heart of the controversy, has raised its bonus for purchasing a 60-day game time code from Markee Dragon from 200 million ISK per GTC to 1 billion ISK per GTC.  Here is statement put out by SOMERblink on its front page:

As Seen on 1 November 2013

"CCP is changing policy and has asked that we discontinue the bonus credit program after November 7th.  So until then, enjoy a super-bonus of 1B Blink Credit for each 60-day GTC you buy!

"Thanks to everyone who has helped support our server costs by buying through the affiliate link :)

"The bonus will go away after the 7th, so we'll be investigating other options to cover the server expense after the GTC money runs out :)"

On Monday I posted an explanation of the policy that allowed giving away ISK for GTC referrals from the Chief Operating Officer of Shattered Crystal, Dennis Hutchinson...
When I pressed him for an explanation, Mr. Hutchinson first pointed me to point 2 of the EVE Time Code Bazaar rules, "Any form of ETC trading outside of the CCP created system is not permitted or supported by CCP." As I had also asked if he knew if CCP had approved of SOMERblink's "purchase GTCs, get ISK" promotion, he included that in his explanation...

"We are an authorized reseller so when the affiliate gives isk incentive to buy from us he is using the official ETC system. Shattered Crystal affiliate ###### and somer are doing the same thing. Somer gives blink credits which you gamble at a 20% loss to get isk, Shattered Crystal affiliate ###### leaves out the gamble part. It will probably be a few weeks until any official response is made by CCP, although I understand they are meeting about the situation. Anything that stops Shattered Crystal affiliate ###### scheme may do the same for somer. Somerblink has run for years and CCP has done so much with somer they just never got ask to make a direct decision about the incentives." [affiliate identification number edited out by me - NG]
I also wrote on Monday that I disagreed that the rules of the Time Code Bazaar should override the EULA and Terms of Service.  Apparently CCP's legal staff agreed, which has led to the shakeup.

One thing I found curious about the statement is the claim that SOMERblink will have no money coming in from GTC sales referrals after 7 November.  On its face that makes no sense.  CCP did not outlaw the ability of the GTC resellers from having affiliate programs.  They only told the resellers that their affiliates had to follow the EULA. 

The statement does make sense if Markee Dragon or SOMERblink plans to end the relationship.  From the description of the end of the business relationship between SOMERblink and Shattered Crystal given by Mr. Hutchinson, SOMERblink is probably getting a sales commission of 8% from Markee Dragon.  The normal rate is 5%.  I'm guessing that without the referral bonus, SOMERblink will not drive enough traffic to Markee Dragon to justify an 8% sales commission.  I have the feeling that SOMERblink is looking to use this as cover for why the business relationship is ending.  Whether SOMERblink can find another GTC reseller with an affiliate program willing to work with her is, in my view, questionable.


In the meantime the demand at SOMERblink is high.  In fact, Markee Dragon ran out of 60-day game time codes within 3 hours of the offer going live.  So the madness ended temporarily until Markee Dragon can purchase more time codes from CCP.  So will we see Markee Dragon end its relationship with SOMERblink before putting any more GTCs up for sale?  A lot of people are watching, wondering what will happen next.

33 comments:

  1. I think SOMER Blink as the whole will disappear at Nov 7. Simply without the RMT there is no reason or way to continue operation. I mean they could continue as a "honest" ISK gambling site, but that only nets them ISK which they can't use.

    They aren't players who RMT-ed on the side, they are RMT-ers who aren't interested in playing without income.

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    1. But SOMER can still receive money for GTC referrals. They just cannot offer an in game incentive for someone to do that purchase.

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  2. I believe this whole situation is about to go nuclear.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. (sorry, deleted and repeated with spellin corrected...)

      Gods Noisy... I really used to like your blog, but this hurts EvE and CCP. You have to do the WWII reporter thing... take a look at the long term consequences of your reporting, not just the immediate gratification and justification of opinting out "He's RMTing! They're RMTing!!" "Bad! Bad! Bad!" ... CCP profited, Eve Online profited, no one was hurt finanially or otherwise except for them as love to while "Unfair!!!" about a for profit GAME.

      Anything (legal etc.) CCP does or we can do to support CCP making bank is GOOD for us ALL in the long run. You can argue the "legal" parts as long as you wish... but in truth SOMER brought a LOT of content to the game, they sent far more RL ISK CCPs way than they ever made and CCP supported them. This was a non-issue until you decided to saddle up the dramalama and make it one.

      Lost some respect for you I have...

      Delete
    2. I disagree.
      I don't think Somer contributed much in the way of content, except to the idiots that choose to gamble (and even then only 80% of what goes in comes out, which means on average everyone but the house loses, as gambling generally works).

      I also disagree with "nobody is hurt". Say for example someone buys their GTC every month through another community site. Let's call it X. X is a community site, offering services to the community free of charge, running it's costs off of donations, GTC affiliate rewards and personal cash.

      Now that player sees Somer offering isk alongside their GTC, so the buy that instead. Now X has lost on the income they would have received, all so that one gabling site, not doing anything for the community, can make profit.
      Multiply that up to the scale of purchases that causes MD to run out of GTCs, and you end up with X losing their server budget, so X collapses.

      See the problem is, you see someone buying a GTC through Somer as a sale that Somer made, but in most cases, they aren't. In most cases they are simply a GTC sale that would have happened elsewhere but Somer enticed to move to them.

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    3. When TurAmarth loses respect for you, you know you're doing something right.

      Delete
    4. @TurAmarth - I can respect that opinion. But consider this. The story started out as efforts by DNSBLACK to RMT on the EVE Online forums. And CCP did not shut it down for days. Later on, they allowed another player to actively RMT on the EVE Online forums. The reason that person was allowed to do so was because he was doing exactly what SOMER did.

      Truthfully, if I had not written anything about the biggest RMT story of the year, wouldn't it have looked really funny?

      Delete
    5. Lucas, I don't gamble with anything but my clone n ships... I see gambling as a waste of time, however, a LOT of the guys I have flown with over the years have blinked a lot and liked it and thay got some great ships out of it which they sold or enjoyed in other, more assplosive ways... so I have seen and experienced the 'content' SOMER created personally...

      Noisy, I know, I know... and I do respect greatly your efforts and focus on this aspect of our virtual world... and I understand your motivation... I just disagree that it "needed" to be pursued... If anyone had asked why dint you write about it you could have easily and honestly said, It was CCPs decison. Their game and they were benefiting directly from SOMERs activities... the issues was not with CCP. The thing for me is... this is a storm in a tea cup.

      The people out there making bank off of activities that HARM us and CCP are the issue. Not the ones that in the end, make CCP more income and hence work FOR us. It isn't that you wrote about it, its that it ended up being just one more in a long line of "Rage Against CCP" bullshit...

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    6. TurAmarth, I was unable to identify one coherent thought in either of your posts. It is not clear why Noisy should not have posted about this topic. It is an issue of general interest to the Eve community and, more importantly, his readers. If the whole topic is, as you claim, "a storm in a tea cup" why are you writing so much about it?

      Delete
  4. That's harsh. This blew up on the Eve O forums, notably when DNSBlack RMTed his character sale before Noizy covered it.

    I think you're shooting the messenger here. Noizy covered the story with his usual diligence but he didn't stir up the story.

    As for SOMER well they're adhering to the letter of the law not the spirit but that's their prerogative. Moving forward we'll have a cleaner Eve economy.

    I am disappointed that this ends up yet another win for drama lama hysterical players. I don't think it's good for Eve that players believe rebelling against CCP is a valid playstyle.

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    1. "I am disappointed that this ends up yet another win for drama lama hysterical players. I don't think it's good for Eve that players believe rebelling against CCP is a valid playstyle."

      This is my issue... So many players have so much rage at CCP... look a poor old Poe... Raged hisself into inconsequence... and yet, without CCP, EvE would NOT EXIST... So anytime someone adds to that anti-CCP mindset... intentionally or not, especially people with a real 'voice' in the community, which Noisy has... I see it as irresponsible.

      Delete
  5. "200 million ISK per GTC to 1 billion ISK per GTC"

    Correction, it is blink credit, not ISK being given away. They are not the same thing and not of the same value. Blink credit is worth less than ISK due to the lose inevitable with the gambling mechanism required to convert it to ISK. Perhaps this is a quibble, but it is also a fact.

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    1. I've been having a problem with the terminology on this. The prices to purchase tickets are all in ISK. Functionally, what's the difference between someone buying a blink ticket for 200 million ISK or with a blink credit worth 200 million ISK? I don't see any. I think it is just semantics.

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    2. I think what people try to keep seperate here is whether that's in-game ISK, or just ISK's on SOMERBlink (credits), which you still need to transfer in-game at a loss.

      Delete
    3. It's more than just semantics. It's like going on a bus trip to a casino where they give you a $50 chit that you can only use at the roulette tables. You can't go to the cage and exchange it for a USD $50 bill. They'll laugh at you and if you try to argue that it's just "semantics" they will eject you from the casino if you argue too loudly. You MUST wager it on one of the table games. It is not the same as cash (or ISK, if you prefer).

      Delete
    4. I got a a bank credit the other day, and whilst it wasn't the same as cash in my wallet - I was able to convert it to real cash.

      Also note that that when you take part in a Blink you're wagering a value in ISK - not in "Blink Credits".

      Delete
  6. Is this even RMT though, according to CCP? Don't folks who RMT get perma banned from the game? Far as I can tell, all CCP has stated is that this is a EULA breach, and so it must stop.

    Of course, if this is RMT, who do you punish?

    Just ban Somer and the others who ran the schemes?

    Go through and subtract isk from anyone you can prove bought GTC through them, including, I would wager, lots of CCP employees. and/or former employees?

    LIke when reading A Song of Ice and Fire, if anyone thinks there's going to be a happy ending here, then you really haven't been reading.

    For me personally, I don't think I could ever respect CCP again if they don't at a minimum ban those responsible for carrying out the RMT and at least seriously look into those who purchased GTCs through Somer (if that's even traceable). The hypocrisy of preaching against the evils of RMT for a decade, and then giving a pass to everyone this time around I don't think I could forgive.

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    1. Seeing that it took even CCP a couple of days of internal discussion to decided that yes, ISK incentives for GTC buys are unauthorized RMT, is an indication that this was anything but a clear-cut situation.

      It would be unfair to punish all the people who bought the GTC in good faith that the transaction is legit, that what they spent money on was just the GTC, and that the blink credit was a freebie. In essence you would punish players for not doing CCP Legal's work.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps.

      And those who are still buying them in this rediculous 10 day cash out window? Especially now with this obviously blatant money grab by Somer. Heck, if CCP is smart, they simply won't sell any more GTCs to Marquee before the 10 days are up if they continue to support Somer as an affiliate.

      Delete
  7. I bought 4 GTC and used them to add 8 months to subscription time.
    I also received somer credit that I used on a fun night of gambling netting me another 4 plex and some ships.

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    1. Sure you did. The number of "fish stories" you hear from people who all claim to have come out ahead of the game by gambling is simply astounding. And like most people who tell fish stories, most of them are 100% unadulterated BS.

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    2. I disagree, you don't hear from those that loose gambling 'cause it's not funny, so you only hear those who win

      Delete
  8. Nosy Gamer, I emailed you why I would not start my own blog, in response to your question.

    BUT, if I ever started my own blog, I think it would be on the numbers of the economy surrounding Eve, the meta-economy.

    Yes, of course RMT is truly the ultimate form of any transactions outside of the in-game economy. But I wonder how much the quasi-OK business of plex sales and referrals is worth in meta-economy currency surrounding Eve. The in-game Eve economy is measured in the quadrillions, on an annual basis. How much of that is raw plexes introduced into the Eve economy? Though ISK can only be created via PvE activities that involve killing red crosses, or insurance payouts, the only conduit to convert that ISK into real money, is via plexes.

    How many plexes are created via 60 day game-time cards every year?
    Who buys these plexes?
    Who sells these plexes?

    Does CCP actually monitor the actual buy/sell traffic of plexes?
    Are there other methods of large scale RMT, that anyone can think of?

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    1. I got the email and I can respect why you haven't started your own blog.

      The only figure I have is that at Fanfest 2012 CCP Eyjog stated that PLEX made up 25% of the New Eden economy.

      As for RMT, I'm going to be careful about answering that until I actually finish my post on what RMT actually is. I planned on writing and posting it while I was on vacation, but SOMERgate blew up. The reason is that everyone seems to define it differently and I want to be very clear on how I use the term. If I answer you now everyone is going to jump up and down and start fighting.

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    2. I know, right? So what can I be thinking that would make things blow up worse?

      Delete
  9. Making this "hole sale" move won't make somer blink more trust worthy. CCP may decide to not ban them as the way they made money wasn't covered by the rules or at least wasn't clarified enough.

    Now that CCP stated that affiliates are not allowed to bundle sales with something in game, there is a clear line. If SOMER fears that they won't make enough cash with the regular visitor using there links they doing something wrong.

    @TurAmarth:
    I really respect you as a fellow capsuleer and give great value to your opinion most of the time. But not this time. If I would be selling plex for 5$ on ebay I could argue I am providing others a cheap way to enjoy the game. But it is still wrong and falls under RMT.
    And I really like CCP and EVE. Playing the game for 7 Years now. But even CCPs staff are humans and can make mistakes or generate holes which can be exploited. Especially by eve players whom seem to be the most inventive species of players concerning exploits.

    As others stated: just because somer didn't harm ccp (they got the GTC money anyway) they did harm other content providers by coupling their sells with an in game advantage others didn't or couldn't provide.
    With the speculative volume of trades done by SOMER and the profit generated with this it deserves a public discussion.

    I don't argue SOMER doesn't provide content. They surely do and many people enjoy it. But is that contend provided as an honest service or is there another purpose in mind? That purpose is not necessarily evil but it needs to be checked. Giving food to poor people by laundering mafia money doesn't makes laundering a good action.

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    1. Actually the crime of "money laundering" shouldn't even be a crime. If I am standing somewhere with USD 1 Million in cash stuffed in my pockets, it's nobody's business where I got that money, to be quite honest. If I robbed someone and stole it, solve that crime. If I sold drugs, catch me and solve that crime. If I looted my employer's capital account, figure that out and charge me with embezzlement. But this money right here in my pocket? It's none of your business where I got it.

      Delete
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