SOE farms out Station Exchange

SOE recently announced that they will partner with Live Gamer to provide a enhanced Station Exchange program.

In his further statement, SOE president John Smedley said that a big factor in the decision was ongoing fraud. Many transactions were conducted with stolen credit cards, or simple identity theft. Furthermore, many of these activities take place offshore, in areas where SOE has little legal recourse.

Live Gamer’s website says that they offer a powerful trading engine which is available in-game. They only want to do trading that is sanctioned by game operators, or, as they call them, publishers. And they offer transaction guarantees, since they think their fraud protection is good enough.

Smedley said in his not that their fraud protection efforts had not been entirely successful, and had resulted in sanctions of players with paid-up, legitimate credit cards. Which was quite unfortunate. In the past year, my personal credit card has been suspended by my provider’s fraud protection, twice, at least one of the transactions I was asked to verify was with SOE. So I wonder…

Smed also admitted that the establishment of Station Exchange hadn’t resulted in much of a reduction in farming. Which matches with my game experience, although the farmers tend to stay out of high-traffic areas.

I think that this deal is good news for Station Exchange players. SOE is a gaming company, and as such, doesn’t seem to have much expertise in handling financial transactions. Nor should they. Can you imagine the difficulties if the Station Exchange program had the holes in it that the original EQ2 brokers did? Without full database transaction support, it was possible to “dupe” items, and I remember one Friday afternoon where they had to shut down the game for 15-30 minutes because of some gold-duping problem they had encountered.

In short, the technical standard for financial transactions is far, far higher than most game programmers, or indeed, most programmers are used to. I had one boss in real life who liked to tell the story about having to make a trip to England to apologize to a customer because his software dropped a million-dollar transaction. It was during a test, thank Marr, but the dollars just disappeared into the ether. He had a lot of listening to do, and it wasn’t easy listening.

The most interesting tidbit was the estimate that virtual trading now totals about $1.8 billion per year. You know, that’s just not ever going to go away, is it.

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