It's not even up and running yet, but Sony Online Entertainment's new Everquest II auction site has come under attack from a fellow MMORPG developer.
As we reported last week, Station Exchange is designed to let players buy and sell items, coins and characters in a secure online environment. Until now Sony has taken a firm stance against such activity but says it is launching the site to protect EQII players, all of whom are at it anyway.
Sony's rivals, however, don't seem to think it's such a good idea. In fact, in an interview with industry site Game Daily, Massive Entertainment CEO Mark Jacobs described the move as "one of the worst decisions in the history of the MMORPG industry."
"I'm disappointed with the decision from a leader in the industry to go down a path which in the past has been an anathema to them and remains so to just about every other MMORPG company," he said.
Jacobs went on to highlight what he sees as potential problems with the site, such as increased fraud, tax implications and legal difficulties, and criticised Sony for taking a percentage of all sales as a service charge. He also said that "SOE may be painting themselves into a creative corner" due to issues of item deletion and server changes.
"Will SOE have to consider now and forever the ramifications of every major change they make to the game based on the possibility that users will not only be dissatisfied on an 'entertainment level', but now will be angry from a 'financial level' as well?" he said. Probably whilst banging his fist on a table.
Jacobs also criticised Sony's argument that Station Exchange will drastically cut the workload for SOE customer services as less people will fall victim to fraudulent transactions.
"While the number of these complaints may decrease, won't SOE's representatives have to spend more time dealing with players who are seeking to monopolise the best revenue-generating spots?" he said.
"This type of behavior is already a problem in many online games and by directly tying their game systems to a real money auction system, this type of behavior is likely to increase."
Jacobs said Mythic has no plans to start messing around with such sites in the future, in case you hadn't guessed, and has already turned down opportunities to do so.
"We remain committed to keeping our games as games and not as opportunities to encourage behavior that runs counter to their spirit of creativity and entertainment.
"We will gladly 'leave money on the table' to ensure that whether or not you like our games, that they remain as that, games and not an entertainment version of day-trading," he said, before having a bit of a sit down and a few deep breaths until the steam stopped coming out of his ears.
SOE president John Smedley was quick to respond to Jacobs' comments, issuing a statement which read: "Come on then meet me outside in five minutes no blades."
Oh all right then, which read: "Unsanctioned virtual property auctions are now rampant, and will continue to grow whether or not publishers implement their own auction sites.
"It is clear to us that we have many loyal and honest players who simply don't have the time to take multiple characters through the game's higher levels of play and want a sanctioned, secure means to broaden their play experience."
Smedley went on to reaffirm SOE's prediction that the burden on customer services will be reduced by the new site, stating that all possible measures will be taken to keep things above board and that "we will not allow the gameplay experience to be hindered by unfair play, whatever form that may take."
He then explained that dedicated servers will allow players to choose whether or not they want any involvement at all with the auction site.
"When a player chooses to play on an Exchange-enabled server, they know that they will be playing with other like-minded players and that they will have the option of supplementing their own character's evolution through the Station Exchange," he said, stressing, "It will be an optional way to play our game."
So there you have it. Station Exchange = hypocritical money-grabbing exercise that will ruin the whole point of everything ever, or optional gameplay enhancement offering welcome protection from thieving online gippos? You decide.