[Gamasutra has summarized the key points of the Sony Online-commissioned White Paper, as follows. The full White Paper is linked at the end of this synopsis.]
In the middle of last year, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) shocked players of their Massively Multiplayer games by opening an officially sanctioned 'Real Money Transfer' (RMT) service. This fully automated service, called the Station Exchange, allows players of their AAA title Everquest 2 (EQ2) to set up auctions of in-game items, virtual characters, and coins in return for US currency as payment. A controversial decision at the time, the service has gone on to be even more successful than SOE's President, John Smedley, imagined.
His surprise can be quantified, though, thanks to a detailed white paper the company had drawn up. The paper details the hundreds of thousands of dollars that flowed through the system between June 2005 and 2006. It singles out the most successful traders and sellers, and offers some statistical insights into the mind of a Real Money Trader. While the tone of the paper is generally complimentary to the service, and the concept behind it, the real value of the paper is in the data mined by the company. The document, authored by Noah Robischon, is fascinating for third parties interested in the field of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG).
The paper opens with a bit of contextual background, touching on the fervent debate that erupted as a result of the announcement. The long-term result of the service has apparently been positive, from a customer relations standpoint. SOE claims that by offering a secure service, customer dispute issues have been reduced on the two servers the Station Exchange underpins.
More interesting is the raw data that the paper offers on financial elements: "Total cash collected between June 2005 and June 2006 was $1.87 million. The daily amount of cash collected, on average, was $2,588." The sheer amount of money transferred through the service disrupted the company's initial assumptions about usage. What was assumed to be a regularly fluctuating marketplace instead had an easily predictable pattern.