Sony Online Entertainment has opened an early version of its Station Exchange website
, the company's sanctioned online trading dock for items and equipment won through SOE online games - initially EverQuest II
. This is the first major move into the cash-based auction buying and selling market by an MMO company, since other rival titles such as Blizzard's World Of WarCraft
allow in-game item trading between players, but not any kind of cash payment system.
Though only a select few are able to use the new service to bid, anyone can browse the site and see how it works. Those who opt to play on Station Exchange-enabled servers can mark money, items, or even entire characters as up for auction, at which point the salable goods will be transferred to a secure server until the auction is over.
The Station Exchange system is secured against sellers with no intention of delivering the purchased items, but some question whether Sony can completely control larger abuses. Gold and equipment 'farming' is a concern, especially given the existence of MMO "sweatshops" designed to churn out salable equipment. Game balance and player morale is also a factor; those who earn their levels and equipment legitimately may become resentful when SOE legitimizes a system to get the same things with a simple real-world transaction - though similar deals have been available on the gray or black market for some time.
However, John Smedley, President of SOE, justifies the Station Exchange by explaining: "Not only are we answering the demands of a sizable portion of our subscriber base, but we are also set on establishing the standard for online game sales. SOE is in a unique position to help guide the industry, just as we have since we first opened the world of EverQuest
to the public six years ago." The site will officially open on July 20th.