Players create SL content and sell it for game currency - Linden Dollars. The basic exchange rate is 250 Lindens per US Dollar, though it varies based on demand, as RMT is sanctioned and there is a semi-open-market currency exchange managed by Linden Labs. Players define their own prices for their content. Going rates for typical items of clothing range from free (for benevolent sellers) to L$500 for very nice items of clothing. Ornately detailed items of clothing can possibly go up to a thousand, and good avatar skins go for a couple thousand apiece, as they are complicated to design and look lifelike. Convert to USD and we have $2 for great items of clothing, $4 for superb pieces of clothing, and $8 for a really good skin. Cheap enough for people to afford easily, right?
Now we look at CCP's initial prices. This is taken from EVENews24:
Exchange Rate: 3500 AUR = 1 PLEX = $17.50 = 400 mil isk at Jita (New Eden main trade hub).
- Looking Glass Ocular implant – 12k AUR -> 3.5 PLEX -> $61.25 ->1.4 Bil ISK- Men’s ‘Sterling’ Dress Shirt – 3.6k AUR -> 0.97 PLEX -> $16.97 -> 388 Mil ISK- Women’s ‘Sterling’ Dress Blouse – 3.2K AUR -> .91 PLEX -> $16.00 -> 364 Mil ISK- Men’s ‘Comando’ Pants – 3k AUR -> .85 PLEX -> $15 -> 340 Mil ISK- Women “Impress” Skirt – 3.6k AUR -> 0.97 PLEX -> $16.97 -> 388 Mil ISK- Women’s ‘Sterling’ Dress Blouse P – 4.4k AUR -> 1.25 PLEX -> $22.00 -> 504 Mil ISK- Men’s ‘Precision’ Boots – 1k AUR -> 0.28 PLEX -> $5.00 -> 112 Mil ISK- Women’s ‘Greave’ Knee-Boots – 2.4K AUR -> 0.68 PLEX -> $12.00 -> 272 Mil ISK
About the only thing close to being competitively priced in Aurum is the Men's Boots at $5, and even that is very pricey by SL standards - L$1250 can more intelligently buy several full outfits.
Now considering many people are very spacepoor, this seems like a big slap in their faces. Many new pilots I talk to in my corporation struggle to afford a battlecruiser, let alone items that are the price of one or two fully-fit battleships. Don't get me started about how ridiculous that monocle is...
Now there is a rumor on EVENews24 that CCP is looking for more ways to incorporate microtransactions. A supposedly leaked memo details the areas CCP is considering, such as items, ammunition, ships, faction standings, and lots of aspects of DUST, since the console folks pay a one-time fee instead of a subscription. This memo also voices the desire for recurring microtransactions, as once a piece of clothing is bought, you don't need to buy it again. Temporary advantages or perks, therefore, are preferred. To that end, they want to make cyclical offerings of limited-edition items that introduce a sense of rarity. Also on the plan is consumable items, especially weaponry, as it is a fundamental part of the game, highly desired, and highly advantageous.
Money for power is damning to any game. CCP counteracts it with the skill training system. You can buy as much currency as you want, but beyond implants it's useless to make you a better pilot if you lack the needed skills.
Money for faction standings gives you instant Level 5 missions, instant jumpclones, instant research agents, instant ability to launch a POS in empire space, and instant elimination of transaction taxes. That's an uncomfortable amount of power IMO. Selling advanced weaponry for cash is equally destabilizing and dangerous, and the memo acknowledges this, but proclaims the desire to do it anyway because it will be a surefire seller. I don't doubt that for a second. I don't think it's fair either.
The reason for all of this attention to microtransactions is revealed as well - everyone else is doing it, so we have to do it too in order to stay "competitive." This sounds like the typical short-sighted idea conceived by upper management, who fails to consider the consequences of their decisions.
I don't like the direction this is going. And seeing that this is just the tip of the iceberg, I feel like I'm piloting a freighter named The Titanic. Or perhaps The Hindenburg.