This is….SPARTERRRRRRRRR!

Posted: June 24, 2007 by Kendricke in The Gaming Industry

People are willing to trade money for something that they can touch, not ones and zereos.

-John Gruber, SXSW 2006  

What is Sparter?  Why are there implications for it to have a significant impact on the MMO RMT market?

Here’s the 1up article you need to read:  What is Sparter and Why It Matters for MMOs.

The summary?  Sparter is a different way to buy and sell characters and gold.  Instead of relying upon a business to customer model (like IGE, Peons4hire, and GMworker) where companies are involved as a middle man broker between players, Sparter is a direct peer to peer (or “gamer2gamer”, as they put it) business model. 

Back up a few years, and it’s similar to (but not exactly the same as) the difference between Napster and Kazaa/Morpheus.  Instead of involving itself directly in player trades, Sparter claims to only seek to enable players to make the connections themselves, facillitating an online marketplace, as opposed to directly selling the gold themselves. 

It’s an interesting read, and I recommend anyone even remotely concerned with RMT take a peek. 

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Comments
  1. Eh. It’s essentially playerauctions.com with slightly more organized stat tracking, isn’t it? I don’t see anything particularly revolutionary about facilitating market transactions. This won’t put IGE out of business. There are tons of private sellers right now. People buy from IGE because they’re a business, they’re prompt, and you can trust them– it’s easy to get screwed in the grey market.

  2. kendricke says:

    Cameron,

    It may not seem like a big difference, but from legal standpoints, it’s an important distinction.

    Napster was the big dog for a while. People didn’t leave Napster because Kazaa was “better”. People left Napster when Napster stopped offering free downloads due to litigation from the RIAA – or when the RIAA started threatening to pull user information from Napster servers and go after the users directly.

    IGE’s had free reign over the sandbox for a while up to this point because there is no online gaming industry organization quite like the RIAA. Instead, individual companies have to go to court, and till recently, that wasn’t really happening.

    With Blizzard starting to take on gold sellers, and eBay shutting down RMT listings, it’s only a matter of time before other companies start to get more involved in protecting their virtual assets. If nothing else, it shows a company is “tough on RMT”, which can at least build up a certain credibility with players, as well as cut back on churn from customers who are often fed up with tons of gold spam.

    In a way, Sparter becomes a bit of a holy grail for MMO studios as well, since there’s no direct interest from Sparter to acknowledge or push product – since they’re not directly pushing product. Their company’s position is that they’re only facillitating communications between consenting customers…not directly handling the product.

    It’s entirely possible that MMO studios might privately look the other way regarding Sparter, especially if the company starts to take away business from mass farmers like GMworker. If it cuts back on gold spam AND works with businesses with regards to certain controls or concessions, some studios might see this as a win/win – at least behind closed doors.

  3. p@tsh@t says:

    I’d avoid conflating the Napster/Grokster/Morpheus P2P issues with RMT. The P2P issues are grounded in copyright and the DMCA. RMT issues are more likely grounded in tort (i.e., encouraging and/or facillitating violation of the ToS between a subscriber and a game operator) particularly if any of the games already provide an RMT or exchange mechanism.

    The analogy between P2P and RMT is a bit strained in the Sparter context. They don’t merely connect players wishing to exchange. Take a look at their FAQ. They escrow funds pending the close of the transaction which has to happen in game.

    Consider the difference between this and a Craig’s List posting that says “WoW Gold for sale on Server X, PST [goofyname]” with the actual transaction occurring completely outside of the Craig’s List environment.

    With these guys headquartered in San Mateo, CA (Silicon Valley) and not Vanuatu (and having VC money), they’ve painted a giant target on their backs IMHO.

    Interesting to see where this goes. I can’t imagine Irvine and San Diego sitting by. Ebay got out of this business for a reason.

    Still, the fact that VC money is getting into RMT should be giving game studios a wake up call. The perceived necessity for RMT and the ability to effect it in game is a function of and results from the design and playability of the game.

    If the subscription for the game is only maintained as long as the game is “fun” and “fun” requires game gold or items which people are not willing to invest the required time to attain, then Houston, maybe they we have a design problem.

    Likewise, (and I realize how trivial a solution this is and how unpalatable as well), RMT could be prevented by not allowing any exchange of items or gold among players. I’m not suggesting that as a solution (especially for one with alt-itis as bad as I’ve got), but the point is that its a direct consequence of game design.

    Of course, this does have the potential of starting yet another round of RMT discussions… mwahahaha.

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