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The Almighty Buck Games News

In Isk We Trust: the EVE Online IskBank Exposed 145

riverni writes "Eve News 24 is running a couple of articles uncovering the lucrative 'black-market' existing in EVE Online, a sci-fi themed single-server MMORPG. The overall scale of the operation is breathtaking. While there exist legal ways to exchange real world currency for in-game currency, the black market, primarily driven by botters (users who utilize automated macros to perform rewardable tasks in game), remains strong. One article reports on how Iskbank.com made approximately $290,000 in sales during a 10.5-month period. These figures do not include any sales made through their sister site, Eveisk.ru and yes, those are US dollars."
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In Isk We Trust: the EVE Online IskBank Exposed

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  • Dirty use? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stenchwarrior ( 1335051 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @01:52PM (#35444896)
    Sounds like it could be a good way to launder money.
    • It is interesting you say this as one of the largest purchasers has also spent vast sums of isk on ingame lotteries and is listed on their highest purchaser list.

      I would also like to point out that Eve news 24 has a poor reputation for publishing stories without any fact checking, furthermore they have notably removed people from the list of "outed" isk buyers.

  • by tetromino ( 807969 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @01:58PM (#35444980)
    ...the people who resort to buying ISK from RMTers are usually those who don't know how to earn ISK legally in the game - i.e. noobs and clueless folk of one form or another. So of course they end up spending all their bought ISK on shiny ships that they have no idea how to fly properly, quickly get themselves blown up, and leave wrecks full of juicy loot for those of us who play by the rules.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's completely false. I know of several people ( that were caught ) buying isk. They all knew exactly what they were doing and did it because they wanted "that extra 500 million isk" to play around with or they didn't want to run missions for isk. A LOT of people buy ISK to fund PvP.

      • Yes, a lot of people do buy isk! You know. By buying PLEXes and selling them in the market like you're supposed to. The question is, why to people use illegal outfits like this, instead of the CCP-sanctioned method?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's cheaper.

          When I played Eve, I had a single etailer that I used for ISK. It was a Chinese bot farming company, and they seemed to be doing quite well. I bought probably 20billion ISK over the course of 2 years.

    • This.
    • by Kemeno ( 984780 )
      This is no doubt true in some cases, but a LOT of people play EVE for the PvP, which is expensive (particularly if you're flying in big ships). You have 2 options:

      * grind for hours to get the ISK you need to buy the ship
      * sell PLEX/buy ISK from farmers

      Since ship loss is permanent and EVERYONE loses in EVE eventually, you need some source of cash to keep PvPing. People play games to have fun, and if your time is more valuable than your money, why would you do all that grinding? It doesn't actually
      • Why you'd go to farmers instead of using PLEX is very much an open question, though I imagine that the exchange rate is better for the buyer to offset the risk of black-market trading.

        This is what I have heard, but I just pay the additional fee as I don't want my account banned. But I am also pushing something like 5 GTC a month, so no biggy.

      • by AP31R0N ( 723649 )

        This is why i play PlanetSide. Vehicles come out of a vending machine. No grinding. No crafting. No player trade. We just go at it.

        Diff'rent strokes i guess.

        As long as people buying ISK think of it as an entertainment expense rather than an actual purchase, i guess it's OK. But the idea the people "own" any of this stuff is worrisome to me. Once the servers go cold they'll find out exactly what they bought.

      • You missed option 3, which is scam it. It's the proper pvp way of doing it anyway.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      True. Making ISK legally is painfully easy. I have made hundreds of millions of ISK in game by simply having a character with a newb shuttle sit in Jita and do market speculation. Not very interesting, but devoting an alt to it beats the hell out of mining in just about every way. Anyone who needs to buy ISK with real money is doing it wrong.

      In fact, mining is so boring, you almost should be paying someone to do it. I should know, I spec'ed into T2 mining barges and there is nothing more lucrative, but

      • When you get to 0.0, it becomes pretty much no work.

        Run two towers, do simple, then complex reactions

        input ~2 bill a month
        output ~4 bill a month

        Empty towers every other day, transport final product to empire once a month...I don't know why more don't do it.

  • Is that where all the old World of Warcraft gold selling bots went?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nah, I doubt that, I bet in WoW it just went more underground, like it did with FFXI back in the day.

      There probably are more gold farming bots than before, but they are controlled by the fewer big seller sites instead of dozens of smaller sites all spamming in game to get buyers to flock to their sites.

      So you "see" less spam about it in game, but it's as active as always, so therefore less uproar over it by real users.

  • by feedayeen ( 1322473 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @02:10PM (#35445102)
    CCP's attempt to combat real world traders is called the PLEX system. You purchase a 30 day time card using $20 and you can sell it in game to other players for the equivalent of ~350,000,000 ISK (the in game currency). This produces a base exchange rate of about 17.5 million ISK to one USD. The black market does not directly deal in PLEX's, but it is safe to assume that the conversion ratio is at least as high, if not higher in order for it to be profitable for other players to take this route. Because of this, and the company's transactions of $290,000, it is safe to assume that the real world market trading has a value on the approximately of 5 trillion ISK. The second link reports that the company holds an estimated 4 trillion in virtual assets making the total value of this to be 9 trillion. Because the population in EVE is ~300,000 active accounts, this sums to be nearly 30 million ISK per user, the total wealth which based on their most recent economic reports (yes, CCP hired an economist to write these), shows the average subscriber has 300 million ISK. While this is not an insignificant sum of wealth, it is only about 10% of the games GDP.
    • > yes, CCP hired an economist to write these
      Oh that explains it.
    • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @02:51PM (#35445562)
      Just to give you all some idea.

      US$30 = 350,000.000 ISK.
      One battleship, unfit = 65,000,000 ISK
      One battleship, moderate kick-ass fit = 150,000,000 ISK.

      So it's roughly $15 to buy a battleship. Not the best around, but decent enough to be a potent weapon in a fleet.
    • Wow, the average subscriber only have 300million isk? They must have no clue how to play the game. I have only been playing for 8 months now and I have well over 3-4 billion isk. I even make enough to pay for a second account with game money via the PLEX system (and am about to start doing the same for all my accounts once I get a little more established). In EVE, you need isk to make isk. Once you have a few billion, you can simply just invest that in the market and can very easily make 10-20% a week of yo
  • How much ISK did they have to sell to make $229,000? 6.1 Billion or so? Back when it was still possible to "get fat" on long limbed roes I made a little over 200mil ISK in my first month as a player. This was probably about 60+ hours of work even if it was mostly just clicking now and then to initiate the next warp or jump gate. If I wanted to buy that much ISK now would be about $8. That's about $0.13/hr. Even if someone was 200 times more efficient than that it the gross for 200mil would be $26/hr. I
    • How much ISK did they have to sell to make $229,000?

      Let's see.... I haven't played Eve in a long while now, but from what I remember, you could buy two PLEXes for about 35 USD. At the time I played a plex was worth somewhere between 300M isk and 350M isk, but the market is user driven, so the prices vary. Let's say 300M so we don't overinflate the number. (Feel free to pricecheck in that hellhole known as Jita)

      229.000 / 35 = 6543 ETCs, which amounts to 13086 PLEXes (both rounded up). That becomes 13086 * 300.000.000 = 3.925.800.000.000 ISK . So rougly 4 tril

      • by TooMad ( 967091 )
        "but for the sake of curiousity I'm going to ignore the article" Even characters can be sold for ISK so everything can be broken down to an ISK equivalent value. It's like the people in any given MMORPG who farm materials to make item and are so happy they "saved" so much money rather than buying the raw materials from another player. When they could have sold those same raw materials for the same amount of money they have "saved" and yet they had to spend that time farming so it is really a net loss. Ok
      • You are very accurate. Current PLEX rates are between 300m and 350m. GTCs are 550m - 650m, as they plummeted recently.

  • This is why its fun to kill any RMT miners/ratters you come across on a regular basis. Its one of the the things that makes eve so much more fun. In other games, you cannot kill RMT's and thus cost money and time. And when we're talking about RMT miners, we're talking easily 200mil + per ship loss. At an average of 10mil per hour in mining, you're costing them 20 hours of work everytime you pop one of them.

    From my brief and infuriating experiences with EVE, my impression was that the in-game economy was already fucked beyond all hope.

    From your brief stay, one would assume you had no clue as to how the economy works in the game.

    • by Aryden ( 1872756 )

      How much ISK did they have to sell to make $229,000? 6.1 Billion or so?

      6.1 billion is slightly less than what I make legitimately on the market monthly.

    • by lwsimon ( 724555 )

      There's an idea - incentivize killing macro miners. If a player spots a suspected macro miner, a petition function should be there so they can report it. A dedicated GM should then respond and verify the macro behavior - once verified, the player should be awarded the opportunity to destroy the offender's ship, and kill rights than last 30 day on the offender.

      Integrate this into the story, of course. "A recent drone evolution has created nanodrones that infect the minds of podpilots via the mind/machien

      • I had a similar idea -- in game spammers, when reported by enough people, should be automatically marked as PvP-able by anyone, anywhere. 'Cause killing them would be so satisfying, it would pretty much amount to an instantaneous death sentence.

        Macro-ers are a little harder to detect. What if someone is simply mining by hand in several accounts simultaneously? How is that distinguishable from someone who is, e.g., checking Facebook while playing?
      • Except for the problem that mining is a relatively simple way for low level players to earn in game money. So, its very likely a new player who is already overwhelmed by the craptastic EO interface could get caught up in this. Further, from my experience botting in other games, any decent bot can detect other players in proximity, and scripted actions can be taken. For instance, sense another player is nearby, travel to waypoint x or y. Return 10 minutes later. I had a fishbot in FFXI that would do that, em
      • by Plekto ( 1018050 )

        Ideas like this have been around for five years. CCP simply does not deal with them in any way that's effective. Since they can effectively print money by generating ISK in their database, I suspect that this has a lot to do with it. ie - they don't really case in the end as long as they get some of the money, be it via subscription fees or PLEX that's bought.

        Also, stories like this are four years old. The reality of game currency trading is that it's all connected to massive third world country server

    • Or about US$20 in real money, if they just sell PLEX to pay for the loss.
    • Any hints on how to identify bot miners?

      Would train up a bot hunting alt for this!! ;)

      • Yes. It's REALLY REALLY easy. There aren't any. Bot mining isn't profitable when compared to L4 missions, not even close. If you can mine decently, you could have been a decent l4 pilot too, and the botters know it. The only mining you'll see is nubs, or AFK miners that are either not present at all (IE: fit a badger II with extenders and a mining laser and leave it running after you go to sleep), or AFK miners that are doing something else while they mine and only occasionally check up on things.
        • The botters tend to do ice mining is what I have heard. Ice "rocks" never pop, so they can just mine forever, dropping the ice into cans which haulers pick up and move.

      • After we have a possible target fleet, we start with sending a cheap ship in to steal a can. If there's no retribution we move on to bumping. Send in a ship with a lot of mass to slowly nudge the barge away from the belt. If there's no response after a couple of mining cycles worth of abuse, it's game on. Either it's a bot or it's a clueless carebear who needs to learn the value of manning the console.

        Bot hunting makes for entertaining pew-pew, but corporate intrigue was my favorite activity. Before I

  • So, Eve users buy isk with dollars from botfarms? Just like players of every other MMORPG? Wow, what news.
  • you play a game where you skill up by logging in once a day and clicking the skill you want, and you buy in game money rather than playing the game to get it. . . .

    why do you play the game?

    • I've played a number of MMORPGs. I've found that most of them make grinding a part of the game. There's some strategy, but it starts to look pretty shallow about 100 missions in or so. You get stuff, but you're limited to which stuff you can use based on choices you made at the beginning of your game. The map is pretty static; nothing really changes unless the developers decide to change something on the map, and any player- or team-owned locations are more likely than not to be instances rather than pa

    • I realize this may blow some WOW-infected minds, but the point of an RPG, much less a game in general, is not actually to level up. The point is to do something fun.

      For me, in EVE, I do this by security territory, fighting off attacking fleets, throwing together fleets of my corp-mates, and going to attack their territories. Usually not with actual intent to capture anything, just for the fun of PvP. Siege warfare is actually relatively boring, if nobody comes to try and stop you.

    • by xclr8r ( 658786 )

      You don't have to log in every day to make sure your skill queue progresses. set a couple of short skills and a long one at the tail end and you can be away from the game and still progress There are some skills that can take a week to a month to get trained up. I am an impulsive person and when playing WoW would religiously log on everyday to make sure I progressed in either gear or gold. Since switching to Eve online my life revolves less around being chained to a computer, yes it is my failure for not

  • EVE has, for a long time, had a dilemma regarding RMT, Bots (macros or injection based programs to automate activity), and their relationship to making isk the old fashioned way. The core of the problem is that, while sandbox poliltics and war are engaging social games, the process of making isk is an extremely tedious and largely solo activity. The end result is that making enough ISK to actually play the game is really not fun.

    Further compounding the demand for easy money solutions is that EVE itself i

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      If ccp really wants to go after RMT they would need to address the botting epidemic in their game, which will absolutely kill the demand for PLEX.

      No it wouldn't. People still want to play. There'd be a lot more people buying plex than currently. Keep in mind also that cheap plex means the cost of maintaining large numbers of accounts goes down. There are a number of relatively passive activities (for example, character farms, ice mining, passive afk ratting/mining, and datacore research) which can be done with large numbers of non-bot afk alts. A few are isk sources and hence, would provide floors for how low PLEX could get.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.