Station Exchange by Sony On Line Entertainment

by Marinda Darnell

For the past six years, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has forbidden the sale or exchange of player accounts and items in the End User License Agreement for all of their online games. EBay has become a tool for users to sell such items for material money, creating a black market for online resources. Numerous accounts have been banned, and a lot of people cheated by non delivery, or reversal of sales with no refund.

Recently, SOE has initiated a new program called Station Exchange. Station Exchange will allow players to place items for sale that their character possesses on a dedicated and secure server for real money. Currently SOE is testing this service on a limited number of "Exchange" servers only for EverQuest II. Don't worry, there are no immediate plans to turn your beloved server into a legal money making machine. According to SOE, "Players who wish to join an Exchange server will be given an opportunity to transfer one or more characters to that server, at no charge for the transfer. Once a character is added to or created on an Exchange server it can not be moved to a non-Exchange server. However, if we activate Station Exchange on a previously existing server, players who wish to transfer to a non-Exchange server will also be given an option to transfer their characters off of the Exchange server, at no charge for the transfer."

From the details released by SOE currently, the new Exchange will solve many of the problems associated with virtual goods. The most highly used method for payment on EBay currently is the service of PayPal. PayPal does not offer protection against fraud for virtual services or goods. For example, John places the Ever Burning Sword of Butt Kicking for sale on EBay, Ruth purchases this sword for $10 and pays with her PayPal account. When Ruth goes to pick up the sword either John does not show up, or it is actually the One Use Only and It Breaks Sword of Poking. Ruth will then file a claim with PayPal, which will remain unresolved due to their virtual content policy. Ruth would not be able to file a complaint with SOE because what she attempted to purchase was a violation of the EULA. Under the new Server Exchange program, characters, items, and platinum can be sold and purchased with security. Once the item or character is listed for sale, that item or character is removed from control of any player. If the character does not have the item, the Exchange will not allow them to sell it. Also, if the player wishes to sell a character, that character can no longer be played by that player, with the potential for XP loss, and harm to the items that character has.

Overall, I think this is a great idea. The Station Exchange helps remove the black market from EBay, and gives more security to people who wish to spend real money on these items. By creating Exchange only servers, this also helps remove some of the competition that people had on the servers for specific quest items, and rare drops. Will this work in the long run? Time will only tell, but this is a good step towards the removal of account bannings and the like due to the black market. SOE has not released a fee schedule at this point.

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