Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bringing down an RMT empire

It's hard to miss the recent mass uprising against Somer Blink.  Nearly every blog has covered it and a new thread pops up on the EVE-O forums pretty much hourly.  If you're not aware, here's a quick rundown and an update on where we are now.

CCP and Somer
With EVE Vegas, CCP wanted to give out ships to the community.  Rather than do so though any system they set up, they went to a group within the community, Somer Blink.  Somer Blink is an EVE gambling site, where players can take part in microlotteries.  CCP chose to allow Somer to distribute the prizes alongside their lotteries.  Now this alone is not such a bad thing, groups within EVE have participated in events before and Somer did put their own isk into EVE Vegas.

The problem arose however when some members of the community question why they needed to sign up for a Somer account to be eligible for the prizes, and questions around the legitimacy of Somer, with CCP posting a claim Somer that are proven by history to be legit.

Now I'm going to be clear.  I've never been a fan of Somer, and I've always been a believer that they have been running scams, shills and RMT in the background.  So with this I could fully understand why there were complaints.  Here were CCP claiming Somer have always been legit, with no evidence to suggest this was really the case.  At this point the community started pushing pretty hard on Somer and CCP for clarification on what appeared to be an official endorsement.

From rumour to realism
With the community practically in a frenzy and CCP running damage control full steam, more and more rumours of Somer RMTing and scamming were appearing.  And this is where it turned.  Under this level of scrutiny, people suddenly started to realise that Somer have in fact been openly RMTing.  On their site, they link to Markee Dragon for players to purchase GTCs with themselves as an affiliate (see image).

Attached to the purchase, they offer credit for their site which can easily be converted back to isk, and in return they receive their affiliate fee.  Now all of the blogs have broken this down in one way or another, but FunkyBacon has a description with a handy picture which you can see here.

Following the announcement of Somer's RMT scandal, the community started to call on CCP to clarify the legality of the scheme.  With no action being taken and no announcements being made, people started to replicate it.  And that brings us up to now.

CCP seems to react
One of the players starting up their own scheme in protest was Katarina Reid.  She set up a shattered crystal affiliate link, and began to offer isk rewards for buying ETC through her link. This began on 24th October, and up until now she has made $660 though affiliation.  She kept a thread open on the EVE-O forums, which you can see here.  By keeping the thread up to date with her profit, she quite literally threw it in CCPs face, demanding action be taken.  And that action appears to have started.
Today (29/10/13) Katarina posted in one of the theads about this subject on the EVE-O forums with the following:
Not sure if im allowed to link the letter given to resellers but it says to stop players trading ingame items for cash. ETC + bonus items may not be direclty or indirectly traded by the buyer for isk. EULA says cant sell ingame stuff for cash. 10 days for reseller to stop it or else.
And that appears to be that.  As of this moment CCP have not officially come forward to state anything, but it appears that they have made the decision to put an end to this particular type of venture.  Now sure enough, CCP could be shutting down all other attempts to do this, but leaving Somer open for business, but that's highly unlikely.  With the community so unstable, it would be a bad move to further push the community away.  As far as we can see, Somer have 10 days to cease RMT activity, or they will be forced to stop.  I eagerly await the CCP response.

The aftermath
Now going forward, if Somer has to comply, this is a pretty big hit to Somer's income.  Even the most conservative of estimates puts Somer at around $4000/month from affiliate fees, so that's a pretty big hit.  You also have to look at how Somer will be feeling after that hit.  The community has pushed for this change, so it's likely Somer will hold a certain level of resentment towards the community for doing so.  Whether blinks will continue to run and whether Somer will continue to pay out is anyone's guess.

Personally, if I had a balance with Somer I'd play it safe by playing my credit to isk as efficiently as possibly, and cashing out.  If Somer get stopped or choose to stop, there are no rules that force them to cash out players outstanding balances, and with the high number of accounts they have registered, it's unlikely they will be willing to.
So my advice? Cash out, now.


  1. Wait wait - the way I interpret Katerina's post (of course none of us mortals have seen that letter), SOMER can get into the clear just by not giving ISK incentives (the "+ Bonus Item" part of the equation). I don't see an indication that the GTC sales and affiliate programs per-se are verboten now.

    Of course, without incentives, SOMER may get fewer people buying their GTC through their site, so there will be some impact. But I don't see it as all-or-nothing.

    1. Sure, it's the incentives that will be dropped. But why would people want to buy there GTCs through Somer with no incentives, when they could buy them through any other affiliates, their friends for example?
      At the moment Somer have an advantage over other GTC affiliates, as they have the isk to give out these incentives on a large scale. Once these incentives stop, I'd be surprised if the continued to get anywhere near what they currently get.

    2. Now they will have to put advertisement on their page to pay for the server :-P

      Does anyone know from what country Somer is (or the person behind Somer?)

    3. They could do what ETC does and give free GTCs as incentive (buy 10, get one free); as out-of-game item it would not fall under the ruling. And there's the sheer convenience of having the GTC button right there.

      But yeah, in principle we're on the same page here :)

    4. I don't think Somer would be able to give out GTCs as a reward, since they are not a reseller, they are simply an affiliate. Markee Dragon could, but they would probably have to do that for all of their affiliates, not just Somer. Imagine how other affiliates would react if MD gave Somer special treatment.

  2. SOMER does not care about the ISK. SOMER doesn't care about EVE. The give always and donations to PVP tournaments etc served one purpose, to help drive and advertise for their legitimized RMT & GTC sales commission scam. If it ws purely about EVE and the sandbox, the massive amounts of ISK which SOMER makes off every lottery would have made itself felt by now. Remember, SOMER makes a 20% profit off each lottery if the item redeemed. More if they give it to you in credit and you piss it away on bad bets. Don't be fooled. It's about $, not EVE or ISK.