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Somergate: Lend Me Your Voice

Last night I joked that I'd wake up and check to see if there was an early morning meeting for the CSM reference Somer. It turns out that it was not a joke. I woke up at six and was pinged with a meeting invite to meet with CCP and the VP of Sales over the e-mails that have been released and to where the entire topic sits today. We ended our meeting so that they could go have more meetings over this, meet with legal, and make decisions.

CCP Falcon will start responding to the thread.

I said yesterday that this entire thing spells out RMT to me. My opinion is that it looks like money laundering.
Money laundering is commonly defined as occurring in three steps: the first step involves introducing cash into the financial system by some means ("placement"); the second involves carrying out complex financial transactions to camouflage the illegal source ("layering"); and the final step entails acquiring wealth generated from the transactions of the illicit funds ("integration").
All the questions people have brought to us, we have taken to CCP. The forum post alone shows the laundry list of reactions players have. The lack of trust. The belief in special treatment. That the EULA has been violated by RMT. That it has been violated by sharing internal documents in public. The hurt that the community was not fully listened to last year and Somer was not shut down when his actions were proven to be RMT. These are the things that are on the thread and these are the things that we have said and continue to say. 

CCP is not shoving this under the carpet or dragging their feet as happened last year. We have expressed that they cannot. They cannot leave the community hanging for weeks or months while a decision is made. They no longer have that luxury and they no longer have that trust or patience from their player base. 

Was there malice on CCP's side? No. But, a mistake was made. A mistake that should have been corrected last year was allowed to grow. It needs to be corrected now.

I've given you my opinion. I think that rules are being broken. I do not approve of special treatment. All this does is hurt the game that I passionately enjoy. Now, I want yours. 


If you are willing to throw your voice into the fray, please do. Give me your opinion. Ban Somer? Let everyone RMT? Give me words. Give the forums your opinion. I know that some of you have but for those who have not and are willing to weigh in, please do. This is one of those times that I will ask you not to be silent.

Comments

  1. There is no question it is RMT'ing. while the rules may not state not to do it specificaly, the general rule is doing something to get around the rules is still wrong. Just like the people who sell a baseball cap for 200$ and including a pair of baseball tickets "Free" is scalping. I appreciate the time Somer has invested in the sight, and the time it takes. But after being shut down last year, he was able to feign ignorance (If anyone believed him) but this deal is blatantly a cry for plex purchase.

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  2. One of my biggest issues with this, is the idea that Somer are generating extra cash for CCP - from normal gameplay. If players want to part with real cash to buy ISK via PLEX, then why does Somer make this any better? I can understand that whilst they were effectively offering the most ISK for your PLEX that they would take business away from other sellers - but I can't believe that Somer are generating sales that weren't going to happen anywhere else.

    If CCP has reports that say that Somer actually generates them MORE revenue, then I'd be really concerned that that revenue is coming from people who are buying PLEX purely to convert into Blink credit to fund a gambling habit. I personally would hope that this isn't a line of business that CCP want to be associated with.

    Finally, it was clear from the way that Somer attempted to cash out last year when the previous scheme was shut-down that they're now only in it to RMT all the ISK. The push to get this new scheme through, and reintroduce the RMT only reinforces this. Surely CCP must realise at this point, that it's only going to be a matter of time before there's another attempt at finding a loophole. Presumably cashing out the ISK into real money is the only challenge left?

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  3. It's RMT. But not the kind that I personally take issue with.
    This isn't like a bot farm that hurts the efforts of other players. He effectively adds value to PLEX purchases by buying them back at over the market value.
    That may impact the PLEX market but PLEX is not an in game production resource, it simply represents game time or when you sell it real world time exchanged for in game time (rl currency for ISK which in turn represents time spend making that ISK).
    So I'm pretty much of the opinion they should just legalize this, for everybody. I'm ok with people making money of their in game product as long as it doesn't impact the games virtual resource based economy (I'll leave it to CCP to judge if potential inflation tied to rising PLEX prices is to much or not).

    My issue with RMT is when it provides an unfair advantage. Somer's model here doesn't do that beyond what PLEX already offers anyway that I can see. Except he pays a few % more or the same PLEX.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that is a bit shortsighted. If you create a "legal" way to RMT especially with such a high $/ISK ratio, you'll soon attract a lot of botters.

      Delete
    2. If CCP authorizes this, they'll have to deal with people pushing the *next* boundary, and then the next, and so on. The player community will rage each and every time.

      There is naught but misery down that road.

      Delete
  4. This is RMT, but then so is the whole PLEX system to start with. So long as CCP controls what affiliates they do business with, and are clear on the practices and incentives of those businesses, then I don't see a problem with this that's any worse than PLEX itself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is true. It would actually be wonderful for the game if PLEX went away and you couldn't buy victory with real money.

      Delete
  5. Somer should be banned. They should have been banned the first time they got caught pulling these shenanigans. But what about Marquee Dragon?

    How is it a notorious RMTer like Marquee was ever even allowed to participate in the PLEX reseller program in the first place?

    Obviously Somer and Marquee are partners in this "money laundering" scheme of their's. Ban them both!

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Caesar's wife, like Caesar himself, must be beyond suspicion."

    If there's a doubt - and based on the public's reaction, there definitely is - then CCP needs to steer clear of it. Rules against RMT are so integral to their business being profitable that they cannot countenance even the slightest hint of flexibility.

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  7. The CSM should press CCP for a clear statement on a very basic principal --- "CCP does not endorse or allow any attempt to use PLEX for the purposes of allowing any individual to earn Real Money in exchange for ISK through any means."

    Just like the last time this time is no different. Somer (and including the ones doing business with Somer) are looking for a way to take in-game ISK and convert it to cash.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Can someone educate me as to why there is more than one location to buy PLEX? Why is EvEonline NOT the only place to buy PLEX ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Partnership programs to help third parties support their site costs I think... I forget what the original reason for it was.

      Delete
    2. I'd be annoyed if that was the case actually due to $/€ exchange rate it's actually cheaper to sub via PLEX bought via American resellers then it is to buy from CCP directly, you need to sub for at least 3 months (sometimes 6 when the dollar is very cheap) for CCP to actually come out ahead in much of Europe.

      CCP In it's infinite wisdom decided that a month of EVE costs $14,95 but also €14,95 a month. Which means Europeans pay 30% more for the same subscription as Americans. I have no idea why I'd want to do that so I've been using GTC and later Plex bought in the USA with PayPal for years.

      http://www.eveonline.com/faq/paying-for-eve/

      Delete
  9. CCP needs to send the IRS this guys details, that should take care of the chance for repeat offence.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I wrote a post about it, will be online in a few hours, but the TLDR: if SOMER let to live, every other affiliate (people with "buy plex here" link like TMC, ZKB or EN24) will go out of business since everyone will click the SOMER link for the bonus money instead.

    SOMER and its enabler MarkeeDragon has to be banned.

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  11. If CCP concludes (honestly) that Somer deliberately deceived them with the affiliate proposal, that ought to result in a perma-ban.

    If not, then the scandal is just getting started.

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  12. I think all affiliates need to go away entirely. All game time/PLEX should be sold by CCP and only CCP. As others have said, you can't stop absolutely all RMT, but this would stop the most obvious money laundering aspects.

    The problem isn't just Somer -- there is a syndicate of (primarily) large alliance leaders who make substantial amounts of real money by funneling their members through affiliates and RMTing. That's really the problem with null sec -- the politics are driven by the real money motives of a few, not by the fun of the money.

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  13. Somer and his partners all know that they again operate in the dark area of RMT and money laundering. CCP should stop the business with them and take distance from those companies. Even if they gain more profit from it, it will ruin their reputation and the game.

    And while CCP is at it they should start monitoring ANY affiliate programs that are running. If Dotlan receives affiliate money to run the servers, thats fine. If he or anyone else using the affiliate program makes more money than needed to run the service CCP needs to look into it.

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  14. I'm incredibly disappointed with CCP and the CSM for jumping on the snowballing bandwagon that this has become. Just because everyone is shouting does not mean you need to listen. My only concern as a player is whether or not he is working within the tools that CCP has put out there. As far as I'm concerned, he is. He has created an incentive for people to use his referral links over other's and as far as I can tell, there is nothing barring him from doing so. In fact, people referring newbies do so all the time (subscribe from my link and we'll split the PLEX, I'll give you ships, etc.).

    If Somer going away is the "end" of the issue in CCP's view, they're sorely mistaken. Literally ANY player can do the exact same thing provided they have the ISK to offer as an incentive. The only true way to control this is to stop affiliates from giving kickbacks for referrals. Maybe CCP needs to think about what rules third party sellers of PLEX need to be operating in rather than what this player is doing within the rules that they created.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "He has created an incentive for people to use his referral links over other's and as far as I can tell, there is nothing barring him from doing so."

    This is a distortion. ISK is the incentive. That's RMT, and it is barred.

    And you knew all that before you posted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nonsense, because:

      1. You can buy PLEX with $ and sell for ISK freely.
      2. Selling PLEX is subject to the free market economy.
      3. In a free market economy, people can pay their maximum willingness to pay.
      4. Obviously, Somer was willing to pay more than market value, which is his right.

      You'll note that when CCP banned him today, they banned him not for RMT but over violations for misrepresenting his service as being "CCP approved" and for publishing emails with CCP.

      Delete
    2. The point you neglect to mention is that Somer Blink will only purchase PLEX at above market price from those who have bought the PLEX through their website's affiliate link. This is what places the transaction outside of the realm of the free market and into the "ISK incentive for $" category.

      And no, CCP did not say that Somerset Mahm was not banned for RMT, they said that they would not discuss the issue of RMT, and that he had been banned for multiple reasons. Whether or not RMT was one of those reasons is up for speculation either way, and something that we will probably never know definitively.

      Delete
  16. Isn't a ship replacement program for people that pay for game time through your affiliate link also RMT? Just asking. Grrr.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The latter is not a condition of the former, so no.

      Delete
  17. LOL @ the money laundering RMT sabre rattling crowd. It's just a game folks. Blink simply found a way to skim some fat off the top. Bravo for thinking outside the box. For shame CCP for being so ignorant & hypocritical about a 3rd party content provider (ie making them the EveVegas delivery agent and then coming down on them like a ton of bricks).


    Anyhoo.... I must have missed your "leaving 7-2, joining Snuffbox." Do enlighten.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Blink simply found a way to skim some fat off the top."

      Which is clearly against the rules, and CCP have banned many others for doing the same. Why should Somer Blink be any different?

      Delete
    2. Skimming fat off the top is what EVE is all about.


      Markee is the entity that's making a profit. And guess what? It's totally allowed. Without profit, none the affiliates would be able to operate. They would be throwing "real money" away in hardware, bandwidth, electricity, customer service, credit card/paypal processing fees and a dozen other real world expenses.

      The only way those affiliates can operate is by reselling a product for profit -- and CCP encourages it to happen.

      Blink is like the casino in Vegas. They're operating the all you can eat prime rib buffet at a loss to get folks into the casino. Because once they're inside it's too difficult to resist the Navy Mega @ 55 mil.

      Delete
  18. CCP's actions towards Somerset Mahm are a good start, but not nearly enough. The issue here is not about an individual breaking a rule, but rather Somer Blink the organization operating in violation of the EULA. The in-game corporation "SOMER Blink" existed to facilitate the out-of-game business. Anyone involved in that corporation, and any other employees of Somer Blink (whether compensated through ISK, items, event tickets, real-world funds, or anything else) knew exactly what they were getting into. Especially after last year's incident, how could they not?

    Therefore, if CCP is to prove that they will equally and fairly apply the EULA and enforce their stated policies, the in-game corporation's assets need to be seized, and the corp shut down. All accounts of all Somer Blink employees need to receive the same treatment as Somerset Mahm, as they have also been involved in Income-seeking and RMT activities through their efforts to facilitate and run the business operations of Somer Blink. Do not give them the opportunity to launder ISK out to alts through this "refund" program.

    Nothing short of these measures will satisfy the demands of equal and fair treatment to all of CCP's customers. These are the same actions they have taken towards anyone else caught in such activities; why should only one man be punished while the rest of the perpetrators go free?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure. Provided that you can prove (assumption is not proof) that each individual associated with that in game entity was both aware of any illegal activity undertaken and willing to be party to it.

      I've had just about enough of these militant tirades. Why don't you donate the hundreds of man hours involved in that kind of investigation, if you're so set on this kind of outcome?

      Delete
    2. Show me where Somerset Mahm was the only one to accept ISK from users of the Somer Blink website, and that he was the only one to pay out the prizes from wins on that site. Anyone else would tell you that this is ridiculous, there were several players whose accounts were involved in these actions. Therefore, the day to day operations of an out of game business were being facilitated by the in-game accounts of more than one individual. Each person involved was using and EVE account for business purposes, and therefore in direct violation of the EULA.

      It's really not in doubt that Somer Blink was engaged in RMT, either last year, through this new incident, or both. The ISK involved in those RMT transactions did not pass exclusively through Somerset Mahm's personal wallet; it was moved through Somer Blink the corporation (how else would the ISK still be available to pay out refunds after Somerset Mahm's accounts were banned?). In the past, CCP has frozen and revoked all ISK involved in RMT transactions, regardless of how many hands it had passed through since the RMT took place. Leaving the corporate assets in place, and potentially the assets of individuals in that corporation, is granting an exception and clemency to this one organization which has not been afforded to any other player in the history of EVE. That is exactly the sort of favoritism which CCP has gotten into trouble for before, and exactly the sort of favoritism which the CSM was established to protect against.

      You want proof, and I agree, we should get proof. But that requires an investigation on the part of CCP, which requires the freezing of assets until CCP can sort out the ISK trails and determine where all the RMTed ISK has gone. Instead, they have opened the floodgates, allowing Somer Blink to continue as an organization, which has gone on to give out potentially tainted ISK in the form of refunds. Who knows how many of those "refunds" are ISK being laundered out to alts far enough removed from Somer Blink so as to make it difficult to trace. How is any sort of evidence supposed to be gathered if CCP won't actually investigate the matter?

      So far as the members of Somer Blink being aware of illegal activity, are you going to honestly claim that there was anyone involved with Somer Blink who did not know about what happened last year? The proof of Somer Blink's illicit activities was all out in the open then. Even now, the scheme was laid out on their website for all to see. The EULA is publicly available for anyone to read, and it's clauses regarding business activities are perfectly clear. Anyone working for Somer Blink who didn't know what sort of organization they were involved in must have been willfully ignorant, and that is no defense for breaking the rules. CCP has never accepted it as a defense before, why should these individuals be treated any differently?

      Delete
    3. You say "militant tirades," I say "unwillingness to compromise principles of justice on grounds of equal application and enforcement of rules for all players, regardless of past or present associations with CCP or its employees."

      But hey, whatever lets you stick your fingers in your ears and keeps the wool firmly in place over your eyes, right?

      Delete
  19. So when do we tear down EVEBET?

    How about EOHPOKER?

    Maybe IWANTISK should be next?

    ReplyDelete

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