Though you hear a lot about WoW gold, all online games have a large secondary market for currency. These services are all operated outside of the publisher's terms of service or EULA and are very inefficient, both for the player and the company. The RMT industry is littered with account and credit card theft -- and when a customer's account has been compromised, they don't call the RMT traders: they call the game's customer support line. It's an immense waste of resources for the game company and a huge hassle for the player involved. (Has your World of Warcraft account ever been stolen? If so, you know it can take weeks to get everything restored.) If game companies don't address RMT issues themselves, they're just going to have problems with black market RMT. Live Gamer seems to offer a, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach with their attempts to run a legitimate RMT business.
Sony's Station Exchange as an example: before the launch of Station Exchange, 40% of SOE's customer support time was spent resolving RMT issues. Since Station Exchange lunched, they've cut that number by 30%. And, Schneider claims, it has no real impact on game balance: there's no discernable difference in the rate of character advancement between Station Exchange servers and ordinary servers. (And of course Live Gamer is going to be taking over Station Exchange's operation later this month.)
So what's the advantage of a legitimate market? You have developer consent -- so all purchases are legitimate, with no worries about being banned from the game or getting items confiscated. The transaction is secure, with no risk for account or credit card theft, and you're assured you're going to get exactly what you paid for. A legitimate RMT market is completely transparent -- allowing the developer to monitor and manage the economy. And, finally, legitimizing the market also encourages players trading with players -- cutting the farmer out of the equation.
Obviously, companies like Live Gamer and ping0 aren't getting into the business out of altruistic reason -- Live Gamer takes a 10% cut of transactions -- but to hear Schneider talk about this, there's no downside to legitimizing RMT. It's already in the games we're playing, and turning it legit just makes it a better experience for everyone: allowing easy access to RMT for those who want to participate while cutting out the farmers and account theft that annoy all gamers. Are legitimate virtual item sales the way of the future? The claims about Station Exchange (that there's no real difference between character advancement between exchange and non-exchange servers) are compelling -- but impossible to verify. In the end, we probably aren't going to learn how legitimate virtual item sales impact our games until (unless) the practice becomes much more widespread.