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eBay: Some RMT Is More Equal Than Other RMT

CNet has word that, yes, eBay has banned all RMT auctions… except… wait for it….

Durzy told CNET News.com that the auction giant has decided to specifically exempt Linden Lab’s Second Life from the list of virtual worlds and online games whose auctions it will ban.

“If someone participates in Second Life and wants to sell something they own, we are not at this point proactively pulling those listings off the site,” Durzy said. “We think there is an open question about whether Second Life should be regarded as a game.”

games.slashdot has a raging comment thread already: some are saying it’s due to SL’s extremely liberal granting of ownership of avatar assets to their players. Others, such as Wagner James Au on Gigagamez, call shenanigans – isn’t the founder of eBay on Linden Labs’ board?

So for now, at least, on eBay, RMT for SL content and L$ is A-OK. And this is where things get interesting, because in 2004, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar became a major investor in Linden Lab. Did Omidyar have anything to do with this decision to let Second Life-based RMT slide?

“While Pierre is Chairman of the Board,” Durzy acknowledges, “he does not play a day-to-day role in the ongoing management of the eBay marketplace. This decision was made by our policy team.”

Of course, Ultima Online also explicitly allows RMT, and Ultima Online actions are being actively removed. Guess someone at EA Mythic fell behind on their investment portfolio.

As always, Ted Castronova is there with the punch line:

Castronova said another sign the RMT market has been deemed too risky is that IGE, which does millions and millions of dollars in annual business brokering virtual goods sales, has not been purchased.

“In the long run, blue-chip companies are always going to see this as a rogue market with no future,” he said.

This is significant, and illustrative. IGE’s investment efforts have always been to legitimize their business, whether through funding magazine advertisments, hiring public relations firms both overt and covert, sponsoring tradeshows, buying out community websites, or, most recently, setting up industry trade groups.

It didn’t work.

And as almost everyone involved notes, while IGE and its less adept at English-speaking brethren may see a brief pickup, what will eventually happen is that the gaming companies themselves will step in to pick up the slack. We’re seeing this already in Western games such as Ultima Online and Guild Wars, and SOE has also already announced a future “big project” that will fund itself solely by micropayments. Other companies may follow the lead of Linden Labs and (indirectly, through selling subscription cards for in-game currency) CCP and simply make their currency convertible.

In any event, we live in interesting times.