Takeback: StationCash Funding of EQ2 Subs Comes to an End

Written by Feldon on . Posted in StationCash

UPDATE

According to SOE President John Smedley, EQ2 Subscriptions will reappear on the Marketplace for 1 week to allow players to buy their subscriptions.

EverQuest 2 subscriptions unceremoniously disappeared from the StationCash marketplace yesterday, and players have had plenty to say on the subject. The removal was not unanticipated, but doing so without advanced warning, an announcement, or even an acknowledgment, is yet another betrayal of player’s trust in SOE.

An Untenable Situation

Not too long ago, $14.99 a month drawn monthly from a credit card was the only choice for funding an EverQuest II account. Sure there were discounts for prepaying 3 months or a year, and later on we got 30 day game cards in retail stores. But it was not until the introduction of StationCash that we started down a path of ever-cheaper EQ2 subscriptions for which one day there would have to be a reckoning.

At first, $15 worth of StationCash equalled 1,500SC, which equalled a single month of EQ2 subscription. Nice and simple.

Double and Triple StationCash weekends may have led to dizzying sales of StationCash to players who had previously never considered buying the currency. But these bonanza weekends also had the unintended consequence of driving down EQ2 subscriptions to $7.50, $4.99, and eventually just $3.33 a month. Players quickly noticed that the 500SC bonus on Walmart-exclusive StationCash cards tripled during those events, further reducing the EQ2 subscription cost to a paltry $2.49.

But the tipping point was obviously reached this last weekend, when a 50% Rebate was offered on all StationCash items including non-recurring subscriptions. A single $15 StationCash card purchased at Walmart, and tripled to 6,000SC, was now worth a whopping 12,000SC, or one year’s EQ2 subscription.

EverQuest II may be Free-to-Play, but buying expansions for $5 and paying just $1.25 a month for a Gold subscription is probably not what they had in mind.

Truly Free-to-Play

A forum discussion was launched asking players on different servers to report the exchange rates they’ve seen between StationCash and Platinum. Before the thread was unexpectedly closed by SOE-MOD-02 for an invented rules violation (in fact, SmokeJumper has indicated that the exchange of Platinum for StationCash is perfectly legal), several players reported prices ranging from 350 to 500 platinum for a $15 StationCash/game card.

Earning Platinum in EverQuest II has become exceptionally easy over the years. Several The Shadow Odyssey group zones which can be soloed reward 8-15 platinum per run. Shinies from level 80-92 dungeons routinely sell for 5-50 platinum. And who can forget Kunark raid zones which net players upwards of 150 platinum for a successful run? With every quest from Kunark and beyond offering a reward of at least 29 gold per quest, platinum positively flows into the game.

It should then come as no surprise that many players have been financing their EQ2 subscriptions entirely by gameplay. If you can get your hands on 400 platinum, sell it to the right person who gives you a SC card, and you redeem it on the right weekend, you could fund your EQ2 subscription without spending a nickel. Again, probably not what SOE intended.

Without Notice

So it was just a matter of time before this race-to-the-bottom came to an end. But there were several reasonable approaches which could have been taken. EQ2 subscriptions could have been removed from the Marketplace during Rebate weekends. They could have had their prices increased. A number of solutions have been presented. However the bluntest road was taken — completely removing the subscriptions without prior notice.

This seems to defy past precedent, as Linda “Brasse” Carlson has previously posted that whenever possible, SOE will provide 30 days notice before any change that might affect accounts. From the EQ2 Forums:

We always endeavor to provide 30 days notice of any action affecting accounts.

How many players out there purchased StationCash at Double or Triple (or more) not to purchase StationCash fluff items, but to get discounted EQ2 subscriptions? Based on the outrage from players, no small amount. Remember, SOE gets paid not when you buy items, but when you fund your StationCash wallet. So SOE has no idea why players bought their StationCash, only what they spend it on.

Were We Just Lied To?

EQ2 Community Manager Eric “Piestro” took a moment to post on the EverQuest forums (he has yet to comment on this issue on the EQ2 forums) suggesting a very different motivation for removing EQ1 Subscriptions from the StationCash Marketplace. According to his comments , they’re underused.

Hey folks,

Just jumping in to let you know this was indeed an intentional change. This decision was partially based on the very limited utilization of this feature.

Regards,

Considering how many players we have personally heard from on this issue, and the amount of forum traffic being generated, the number of players who use StationCash to fund their EQ2 subscriptions is not inconsequential.

We’re left asking — Why does SOE fail to predict these issues early on, and then take heavy-handed steps to deal with them? Itemization, zone difficulty, avatar loot, Najena’s ring, and dozens of other examples show that SOE has often been late to identify problems, and then over-reacts.

Were $1.25 monthly EQ2 Gold Subscriptions untenable? Yes.

Should a more thoughtful approach have been taken to address this problem? Absolutely.

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Comments (39)

  • Kralus

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    SoE only has themselves to blame for this. Double/Triple SC mixed with 50% off, shouldn’t have been possible in the first place. There are reasons why Turbine and other successful F2P companies don’t offer crazy ass savings like SoE does.

    Reply

  • Necromancer

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    It was a huge betrayal of customer trust. A lot of people I know specifically horde station cash to pay for their subscriptions, and without any notice from SOE took that away from them. If SOE had done the decent thing and given at least a 7 day notice of their intent to remove paying for subscriptions with station cash from the game, I believe the outrage would have been kept to a minimum.

    But because SOE continually proves how little they care about their customers, it’s no surprise something as popular as paying for subscriptions with station cash was removed from the game with zero warning what so ever.

    EQ2′s tagline is “Free to play! Your way!”, but it really should be “Free to play! SOE’s Way!”

    Reply

  • Magar

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    My original plan was to take advantage of the various sales and such to cash out my platinum into SC in anticipation of EQNext (I’ve otherwise stopped playing). While I may still load my accounts with SC in this way, I won’t try to max them out now – I doubt they’ll let us pay for a new game and/or subs with SC in the future unless they decide to abolish SC sales (which will almost certainly never happen, as it drives revenues) so I may as well find something else to do with a few thousand platinum. I don’t know anybody that’s a close enough friend to give it to that still plays, so maybe I’ll come up with some odd contests or something just to randomly amuse me.

    Reply

  • Taladorm

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    @Feldon your “Truly Free-to-Play” section make no sense at all.

    “It should then come as no surprise that many players have been financing their EQ2 subscriptions entirely by gameplay. While SOE doesn’t see a dime, it’s certainly an economical approach for players.”

    SOE gets every dime from every sub. Someone somewhere is using real money to purchase that game card. It makes no difference if they use it themselves or turn around and sell it for plat SOE is still getting the money.

    Reply

    • Feldon

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      @Feldon your “Truly Free-to-Play” section make no sense at all.

      “It should then come as no surprise that many players have been financing their EQ2 subscriptions entirely by gameplay. While SOE doesn’t see a dime, it’s certainly an economical approach for players.”

      SOE gets every dime from every sub. Someone somewhere is using real money to purchase that game card. It makes no difference if they use it themselves or turn around and sell it for plat SOE is still getting the money.

      There are a number of EQ2 players who are funding their EQ2 Gold subscription entirely from Platinum they get from gameplay. They have an EQ2 Gold subscription and pay nothing.

      The point I tried to make in the infographic is, if I could get my hands on 400 platinum, I could buy a gamecard, redeem it at the right time, and presto, get a year’s EQ2 subscription just from running a few raid zones. I’ve revised the paragraph.

      Reply

  • Grump

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    I have quite a huge balance of Station Cash from purchasing Game Cards for platinum. I have 3 gold accounts paid for for a year, with all expansions enabled, some of my characters even have extra fluff from SC like Wings etc.

    My monetary investment for EQ2 since December has been $0.00 USD. To borrow SOE’s slogan I am playing my way.

    Reply

  • Feldon

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    I’m not begrudging anyone who plays in a way that SOE has (unintentionally) created and allowed. If they need to make changes, fine, but do it above-board with notification. Don’t switch it off and then pretend nobody used it, or that it’s an inventory rotation or some such.

    Reply

  • Arkenor

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    Is that chart right? Surely the double cash entry should be $7.50, and so on?

    Reply

  • Kralus

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    Simply lying to us and feeding BS on top of removing a feature many people utilize (regardless of what that SoE employee who is telling obvious lies wants us to believe) without an official statement, has pissed a lot of people off. SoE screwed up having these ridiculous sales and the way they are handling the change is equally stupid.

    Reply

  • hah

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    I am probably one of only a few that is very happy to see this SC for plat thing finally go away!

    Reply

  • Morgan

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    Is that chart right? Surely the double cash entry should be $7.50, and so on?

    From $4.99 down to $1.25 is all annual prepay.

    Reply

  • Taladorm

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    @feldon just because an individual isn’t paying SOE directly doesn’t mean SOE isn’t being paid. Time=Money. Some people have extra time and farm zones for plat. Some people have money and buy extra SC cards. The value of the cards in plat is completely open to the free market. With the amount of plat flowing around in game I’m surprised they aren’t selling higher but that’s besides the point.

    Reply

  • Anaogi

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    Ever since I realized how the math worked, I’d been laughing my backside off. Knew this was too good to last, I hope folks who could took advantage while it was there.

    I have zero sympathy for SOE anymore. They are victims of nothing more than their own abysmal judgement. I have some sympathy for the folks who’d effectively paid their way in plat, but it’s one of those things you kinda know will get nerfed, so…oh well.

    As for the handling…who expects any better, by now?

    Sad and silly, all around.

    Reply

  • Kralus

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    Looks like smed is going to do the right thing.

    “I’ve asked the team to put them back up for a week to let people buy them with existing SC. We should have been more thoughtful about this and I apologize for handling it the way we have. I’m not sure when it will be back up. Maybe today or maybe Monday (a lot of our team went to E3).

    Smed”

    Reply

  • Caldwell

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    I buy and sell station cash cards all the time on my server, in fact Im well known for it. I have paid for my account for two years, my girlfriends account for a year, bought expansions, etc and have paid zero dollars. However, someone else did go out and spend money on those station cash cards so sony did recieve some money, just not mine.

    SOE should fire whoever decided to put the subscriptions up for station cash, I knew it was a stupid idea, and quite frankly it’s been well known by players for the last 7 months since the triple cash day last December. It probably took the fools 7 months to realize that their subscription cash dropped by a large amount.

    It was ENTIRELY SOE’s fault, and instead of admitting their mistake they act like they are removing it because it wasn’t popular enough. Has ANYTHING ever been removed from the Marketplace because it wasn’t popular enough? I highly doubt it.

    Reply

  • Caldwell

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    Update from Smedley on the forums…

    “I’ve asked the team to put them back up for a week to let people buy them with existing SC. We should have been more thoughtful about this and I apologize for handling it the way we have. I’m not sure when it will be back up. Maybe today or maybe Monday (a lot of our team went to E3).

    Smed”

    Reply

  • Kralus

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    “We will have these items back on the Marketplace for everyone in the next couple of hours.

    We are verifying the changes now, and pushing them to live soon after.

    Thank you!”

    Reply

  • Barx

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    Some good points. I think the problem most players (myself included) have with this is that it was simply removed with no notice or communication on the matter (beyond the little bit of BS posted on the EQ1 side).

    Of course the situation is untenable and a big money-loser for SOE. But we cannot forget that they are the one’s that created the situation in the first place; at the start, double SC was a big event, then it became more and more common leading up to the whopping triple SC over the holiday. By this point a huge number of people have already been using these cards for gametime via multiplied SC, meaning they should have had more than enough data on how much it was being used. Next was the 50% rebate sale: an obvious gimmick to get people to over-fund (since once it’s converted to SC SOE has already made their money) and get half back. When announced most folks did not think subs would be included, and yet sure enough they were.

    I’m sure at the start when non-recurring subs were added the impact of double SC days was considered and most likely estimated low; after all, a double SC meant $5 to ~$7.50 a month for subs, and they’d clearly transitioned to making more of their profit off SC fluff items instead of actual subs with the “F2P” change. How they did not see the impact of going to triple SC and then the 50% rebate is beyond my imagining: any player with 2 brain cells to rub together could see it was ridiculously cheap. Combine that with SOE’s implicit okay to do plat-for-SC card trades and you have a large number of players participating, either making in-game currency in return for selling their cards or in buying the cards.

    The removal of it seems to be an obvious knee-jerk reaction, most likely after they ran the numbers for the rebate sale. And that’s the problem: you have a sales channel that has clearly become a major factor in your business and you quickly rip it out without a single comment or notice. There was clearly very little business thinking going on behind this, only the diminishing pool of black ink on the balance sheet. Players were saving their SC or their cards for bonus days and cutting sub revenues, while a recent statement that SOE will make more unique items available in-game vs SC (something we’ve yet to see bear out) means they have to play for a hit to revenue from that side.

    And what we get in the end is just another example of SOE’s accountant-run titanic sinking in a sea of bad PR because they cannot communicate to save their own business. The entire issue could have been brought down in size with a month’s notice and explanation that they would be removing it. Us players know they were dumb in putting it in in the first place, they have no one but themselves to blame when we take advantage of it.

    Reply

  • Nyna

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    actually it makes a difference when people fund their gameplay entirely from Platinum sales and SLR, because while it is true that somewhere somebody pays for it in real $$, it is destroying the grouping in the game and the guys who pay with SC for plat or gear will realize sometime how f*cked they are to do so and quit the game.
    Then the parasites who created the Plat inflation and played for free all the time will just hop to another game with mechanics and morons who pay them to play.

    It’s basically like a Pyramid scheme – in the end it will break down and people will jump ship leaving a wrecked game.

    I’m already tempted to sell Plat myself, and will most likely begin doing it soon when I hit 1000 Plat. I dont need Plat anyway since I never buy any SLR.

    Reply

  • Vortix

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    The popularity of SC cards just went down. They will notice less SC being put on people’s accounts now, the opposite effect of what they want, right?

    Reply

  • shimmerman

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    I applaud SOE for finally taken care of ONE issue I personally thin has killed the game, The mere fact that they allowed the game to be purchased by station cash to me was ludicrous, then the ability to buy it with plat, I mean really, everyone knows that anyone who needs plat can earn upwards to 2k in a single day, plat that is Not real money but fake in game currency, then turn around and buy a station card…for 400plat, I mean look at the comparison 400plat = .0375 real money per 1 plat. I mean REALLY !!!!!!
    Squash that shit, its a game, stop the madness and earn what you get, not how much plat you have and what you can buy!!!!!

    Reply

  • Taladorm

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    @Shimmerman You do realize that SOE has absolutely no say in the exchange rate between SC and plat? It’s all supply and demand market driven. The only control SOE has is to flat out ban SC for plat sales on the servers and doing that would only push exchanges back to 3rd party plat sites.

    This current change of removing sub time from SC will have little to no effect on cards for plat sales since the cards can be directly turned into sub time anyway.

    SOE just needs to step up and regulate the sales, they can flat out copy the plex system from eve.

    And to be perfectly clear I have never bought or sold a SC card. I just think its completely silly for SOE to be so wishy-washy on the subject neither supporting or banning sales.

    Reply

  • Murfalad

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    I couldn’t understand how the economics worked with the 1/2 price station cash and the fact that people could buy subscriptions on the marketplace then using station cash, I guess I now know the answer, they didn’t ;)

    As the graph shows the sub is rapidly heading towards zero just through massive SC discounts, add to that I cannot remember the last time it went up for inflation…

    I don’t personally fund my way by farming plat so it doesn’t effect me, neither do I agree with encouraging repetitive mechanics that offer no challenge. I might have a bit more respect for the plat farming gameplay if it required to go to the harder zones to earn it instead of facerolling 5 year old raid zones too.

    Reply

  • Tarb

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    It’s good they put it back up for a week or however long but if they gave the proper warning this mess wouldn’t have happened, however Piestro or whoever told him to put the response on the forums is nothing but a liar based on the huge response this got on the official forums.

    Reply

  • Swagems

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    The Question I have is how long will this game stay alive !
    I went ahead and spent my SC on another year. that was the only reason I ever bought SC cash.
    But my wife she likes to buy all of that stuff from SC.

    Reply

  • Kruzzen

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    well unless soe does something spectacular the game is prob heading the way of eq1. Then they can launch eq next RMT extreme. Of course by then most of us will be gone to the next big thing and this night mare will be another lesson in bad business practices. way to go SOE.

    Reply

  • SBJones

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    I’m going to nit-pick. The math is wrong because the 50% rebate came after you purchased the item at full cost. Thus you needed $30 in Walmart cards redeemed on a 3x weekend to buy a years worth of gold. After that purchase at $30 you were refunded half to spend on more. Some will still see it as a $15 purchase, but its not. It’s a $30 purchase or two Walmart cards, not one. Even if you continued to buy time with the remaining SC cash, you cannot get the price down to $1.25 a month. More like $1.50 a month for 21 months.

    Next, removing anything from the SC store in general is a bad idea. An item or service that isn’t available for purchase will always generate $0. Who gives a crap if only 0.1% of the player base bought it. That is better than 0%. Anyone who gets upset about what someone else spends their money on needs to grow up. Same with anyone who gets upset about how people earn their money.

    In my opinion SOE is being very foolish by removing the ability to pay for a sub with cash. Especially with all the “hacking” and compromised Sony servers over the last year. Now people are forced to provide financial collateral information to a company that has proven it cannot keep secure. In the end, it’s cutting off a revenue stream. If they don’t like how you are spending your own money, then they should not have a triple weekend three weeks prior to a 50% rebate one!

    What people should be pissed off is the X99SC expansions that leave you with SC that is impossible to spend.

    Reply

  • Snowdarc

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    On a side note..tooling around in SWTOR earlier,and who do I come across? Agent Feldon.An npc on Belsavis.

    Reply

  • Feldon

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    I’m going to nit-pick. The math is wrong because the 50% rebate came after you purchased the item at full cost.

    True, you have to have 11,988 SC banked to buy the item, but you get 5,994 SC back.

    Also, only a fool waits until a double or triple SC weekend to buy SC cards. ;) I never understood why people waited, and then paid 1200p when they could buy cards during the week at 400p and turn them into 12,000SC by redeeming them on a Triple SC weekend, and then spending them on a 50% Rebate weekend.

    Reply

  • Gunthore

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    So effectively I can still buy gamecards for plat and turn them straight to game time, I just can’t use 2x and 3x SC days anymore for them. Oh well, it just means I have to spend a little more time farming to pay for my sub now. The piestro lie was cute, the second I read that I thought BS, and after seeing the community reply to this issue I know it was. I wonder how many people would quit playing if they couldn’t buy their subs for plat. This game isn’t worth my money anymore.

    Reply

  • Abatha

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    I’m just curious what, if anything, is going to happen to Piestro for his absolutely absurd comment.

    Reply

  • Cloudrat

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    This never should have been an option and it was extremely short-sighted for them to not have realized that people would take advantage of stacking discounts. LoL isn’t that the kind of thing they watch for on a daily basis trying to balance classes? I know hehe different dept. The concept still applies and maybe the compartmentalizing of all the aspects of the games is the how this happened in the first place.

    Reply

  • Grimmond

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    Don’t get me wrong … I like chimpanzees … but why SoE continues to populate their marketing department with them is beyond me.

    Reply

  • Azzaroth

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    just one word.
    fraudsters

    Reply

  • Station Cash Take Back | The Ancient Gaming Noob

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    [...] with double and triple point deals and store discounts that ended up with people being able to pay as little as $1.25 for their $14.99 monthly subscription at one point.  The joys of the free to play cash [...]

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