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As The RMT Turns

It must be a fairly good month for MMO patches, because all the dramabombs lately are about external sites; most of them this past week centered around Affinity’s purchase of Wowhead.

Razorwire posted a couple of days an internal Affinity email that made the rounds of blog samizdat: namely, Brock Pierce resigning as Affinity’s CEO. For those of you without RMT Insider trading cards, Pierce was IGE’s founder, and longtime partner with Jonathan Yantis, who is rumored to currently own IGE. Again. Given Pierce’s apparent fatigue from competing with Chinese gold farming outlets, it’s possible he just simply wanted to retire on his movie star/virtual gold selling millions. Thousands. Whatever.

With the purchase of Wowhead, Affinity’s VP/spokesperson John Maffei has been making the rounds insisting that with IGE’s jettisoning, Affinity and its holdings are 100% above board, uh huh, don’t throw us in with those gold farming scoundrels, we’re just like you gamers. Specifically, when asked about Affinity’s controlling interest in Korean RMT auction sites:

There’s a big focus on content– obviously, the US content business we’re very excited about, I think we’ve made a bunch of statements about that. We have an auction division, with Korea being really the foothold for that. And formerly, we used to have this division called IGE, which we no longer have.

Or, as the Affinity internal email says:

Consumer Auctions and Asset Exchange
Under Paul Kim and his team’s direction, I expect us to become serious players here in the U.S. The team has a mission to not only offer a great service but also to make game publishers into our trusted and valued partners.

This phrase was latched onto by Warcry’s J. R. “Razor” Sutich with the triumphancy of a man who had cracked the DaVinci Code.

Consumer Auctions and Asset Exchange. Hmmm… Sounds like RMT to me. Itemmania. The RMT Strikes Back. I’m pretty certain at this point that if the IGE sale was actually completed , Affinity Media is still up to their eyeballs in secondary markets.

Yet, reading Maffei’s interviews carefully (having experience in Kremlinology helps) reveals the public espousal of their private interests:

And there are legacy things involved in the company in previous times, but we are not involved in any sort of material way in the United States in the C-to-C auction business. However, I will say this. I think if the opportunity arises, where publishers are willing to go and we have the option to go work with publishers– and again, we’re not involved in this division, so I don’t own the business, so I can’t say this 100% for sure, but I think there is an opportunity, absolutely, where I think that there are some publishers who– especially those guys who make free-to-play games– who see a benefit of having a marketplace where consumers can go and exchange assets.

Don’t twist our arms, guys! Of course, Maffei is well aware of (and in facts mentions immediately Sony’s Station Exchange, which is basically proof that if a company can manage the client/server technology behind an MMO, it’s safe to say they can probably throw up an auction site as well. In other words, Maffei and Affinity’s stated goal, as clarified after the WowInsider interview was posted:

Affinity Media as a company is thinking about how we offer US publishers services for those who want to facilitate a secondary market (like Sony has) via a C2C exchange.

So, the translation: They’re not in RMT, but you know, if any company’s feeling kinda rushed or lazy, they’ll put together an auction site for them and take 6% off the top. Or maybe they’ll just do it anyway. Meanwhile, the immediate impact of the Affinity/Wowhead acquisition: lots of flash banner ads on Wowhead. Monetize, monetize, monetize!