There's high drama in the spacey world of Eve Online this week. Well, there's always high drama in the spacey world of Eve Online, but this one's proving especially clamour-inducing. It hinges on the fact that CCP have just introduced a third virtual currency to the game. In addition to standard ISK and the exchangeable gametime credit known as PLEX (perhaps not technically a second currency, but it is traded between players in-game for ISK as well as being bought out-of-game with real-world currency), there's now something called Aurum. This is spent on customisation and vanity items for the long-promised player Avatars, which were introduced as part of today's free expansion pack Incarna. You can sell PLEX for Aurum: that's complication one. Bear with me here.
The vanity items appear to have been comically overpriced. If you're buying PLEX directly from CCP and you convert it to enough to buy an in-game shirt, you'll have paid the equivalent of $25. In other words, as much or more than you'd pay for a real-life shirt.
A rather natty cyber-monocle - again, purely a vanity item - will set you back approximately $70. A skirt is a relative snip at the equivalent of $20. These are some pretty darned expensive pretend clothes. There's probably some awful joke here about how Eve players spend so much time at their PCs they don't actually need real clothes, but that would be a horrific stereotype that I couldn't possibly imply.
When you need a diagram to explain how to buy things, something's probably gone a bit wrong.
Complication two: You can trade ISK to other players for PLEX, and vice versa. If you have plenty of ISK, in theory you can thus get PLEX and in turn Aurum and finally whatever visual trinket you're after without spending any real money. Quite naturally, as a result of Incarna landing, players are finally getting to see their pilots in the simulated flesh then wanting to customise them, and thus there's high demand for Aurum-unlocking PLEX. The sudden demand has created crazy prices in Eve's in-game economy. As Massively observe, the ballooning PLEX-ISK exchange rate has led to people wanting/paying absurdly high amounts of ISK for their PLEX. Which obviously complicates things for the players who essentially pay for their subscription(s) by diligently accruing ISK and swapping it for PLEX from better-monied (in real life) players who want a shortcut to in-game cash.
And all because people want to wear virtual shirts. That's just the situation today, of course - things may settle down a little, but a lot of people are hoping CCP will adjust pricing on the vanity items released so far. They do claim this: "We will start out with a rather limited number of items initially, carefully measuring the demand and how it impacts the economy. As time progresses, we'll gradually introduce new items and revise our strategy. We've also discussed this issue in depth with the Council of Stellar Management and will both consult with them and keep them up to date every step of the way."
For more on Incarna and how to finally see your pilot somewhere other than in his/her cockpit, either update your copy of Eve or have a gander at the website.