Ethics, Everquest, and MMORPGing...

On an Everquest board I read occasionally, someone had an interesting dilemma. He’d received a free account from Sony prior to the game’s official launch, for purposes of review. It was basically a press pass. He’s kept it active ever since then (which isn’t the ethics question…my take is that if Sony had wanted it to be a for-review-only account they’d have shut it down once the game was launched). Now he’s thinking of quitting Everquest (I can’t blame him…I’m starting to get bored myself and I’ve only been playing for 3 months) and asked on this board about selling the account on eBay.

There appear to be two camps on this question. One camp thinks he’s perfectly justified in milking any money he can out of it. The other camp (the one I’m in) thinks that it would be unethical at least, and possibly actionable on Sony’s part at worst, to sell an account that he was given for free for the purposes of reviewing the game, even if it was graciously left active by Sony since then.

There have been some strong words exchanged between these two viewpoints (by BOTH sides…can’t say I’m particularly proud of my tone in some of those posts). I present this problem to the Solons of the Dope…who’s right here?

(Note that this question is entirely academic, since the thread in question is at least two weeks old now and has slid entirely from any non-scrolling view of the front page.)

If I’m not mistaken, isn’t it against the rules of Everquest for you to sell your account?

If it’s against the rules, then it’s unethical.

I’d say he would have to at least tell the buyer what the deal is with the account. Since the company could de-activate it (or start charging for it) at any time they choose. It would suck for a person to pay a premium for it and then have it vanish. But, the buyer can make this choice for himself.

Let’s say I buy a music festival ticket, and they give me an all-weekend armband. I’m tired of going halfway through the festival, so I carefully cut off my armband and sell it to someone else who wants to get in on Saturday. Is that ethical?

Or I buy a plane ticket and turns out I can’t go on the trip. So I sell someone else my ticket, and offer to get htem a fake ID so they can use it. Is that ethical?

Of course not. You’re sold a specific set of privileges, and you agreed to the terms of this sale, and the fact that you figure out a way to abuse these privileges doesn’t mean you’re ethically entitled to abuse them.

People are trying to sell items from World of Warcraft on E-Bay; the parent company, Blizzard, is working to bring lawsuits against these people. I wholeheartedly applaud what they’re doing.

In this case, I would love for someone to report this reviewer to Sony, and for Sony to contact the reviewer’s parent company and say, “Just so you know, this guy is the reason why y’all aren’t, for the time being, getting any more review copies of our games. Let us know how you are going to resolve this situation.”


Well, there’s two issues I think here:

  1. It is unambiguously stated in the EverQuest license agreement, and has been from Day 1, that you can’t see accounts. So at the very least, by selling his account, our nameless protagonist is breaking his word, which is inherently unethical.

  2. There is in fact a common benefit to prohibiting account and item sales.

While I used to think Verant were fuddy-duddys for prohibiting this sort of thing, I now believe they were a lot smarter than I was. As it turns out, they had some idea as to what would happen, and I didn’t. The proliferation of the real life sale of items, gold, and accounts caused the original EverQuest to experience a hyperinflation of in-game items and gold, as a consequence of which the game balance was thrown hopelessly out of whack. It became possible to outfit new characters with absurd amounts of cash and super duper items. This has two immediate consequences;

a) It completely robbed the game of any value in accomplishing the tasks of acquiring low and mid-range items, and

b) It rendered it utterly impossible for players who didn’t “twink” characters to keep up with those who did.

The game’s fun was, IMHO, seriously harmed by the hyperinflation in items. It became ridiculous, and Sony/Verant had to fight a constant running battle to keep the game balanced without pissing off people who had earned awesome stuff the hard way.

So in a very small way, people who sell stuff IRL are inevitably contributing to this sort of thing, and I see nothing wrong in Sony/Verant or Blizzard prohibiting it in the license agreement. While I am sure they have some legal/liability reasons for trying to prevent black market sales, I think they’re also legitimately interested in keeping the game fun for all their customers.

Speaking as an old school EverQuest player (started in 1999) with over a 130 playing days under my belt, I believe it to be unethical. People need to build their own characters through their own efforts.

I agree with your analysis. Argument #2 is the weaker of the two, but I still believe it’s true. Sony also believes it’s true, though, and that’s why they put point #1 in place.

And here’s the thing: by purchasing third-party accounts, you’re hurting Sony. People who buy and sell money, characters, and equipment in games degrade the experience for the majority of people, and undermine the game creator’s business model. They make the game less fun for folks, which drives people away from the game.

I sincerely hope that Blizzard is able to bring an effective lawsuit against the folks who do this professionally.


Just an aside, but…

I’m having a hard time seeing how this is unethical. You paid for the ticket, which allows one person to attend the festival for the duration of the weekend. Only one person is still attending (i.e. you’re not sneaking in somebody else), and the venue has been paid, so what’s the problem? I see it as no different than if you had bought the ticket, and then given it to someone else before the festival started.

The policy of other games is that everything in the game is the property of the creator, including the characters and all data related to them.

Suppose he bought the account. It’s HIS account, paid for fair and square. He can do as he likes with it. I can’t believe there are so many people on the Dope who are oblivious to property rights and the free market.

I can’t believe you’re oblivious to the concept of a “contract.”

In any event, your appeal to “property rights” is bullshit. There’s no property changing hands. Verant/Sony/Blizzard are selling no “property” aside from the original game CDs. An Everquest account is not an object you “buy,” it’s the rental of Sony’s property for a specific purpose. You give them X dollars, and they let you use THEIR servers to play a game. They can put whatever conditions on that rental that they like. If you disagree, don’t agree to the contract.

Because the tickets (usually) clearly state that the ticket is non-transferable. A weekend pass is probably priced cheaper than two single day passes, and is part of someone’s marketting model. By cutting and pasting the ticket you are trying to gain an advantage that the people selling the product clearly had no intention of giving you. If you bought a single day pass for one day and they bought one for the other day, they would make more money. Or if you wanted only to see one act and they wanted to see the next one, you’d both have to buy a ticket, and the venue would make more money. They might have made the lineup based on those sorts of decisions and the non-transferable clause is part of their business plan.

If the price of two single day tickets is the same as the weekend, or if no single day tickets are available your case is slightly stronger, but not by much. It’s still the seller who gets to set up the transferable/non-transferable criteria and if you buy the ticket it’s up to you to follow their wishes, IMO.