Between the Dota 2 incident and last week's announcement from Sony Online Entertainment, I am actually looking at player-generated content in a whole new way: as a revenue generator. That's right -- collecting cold hard cash for your creativity. Although plenty of titles allow players to create content and share it within the games, very few let players sell that content for real-world money. This column explores the cash-for-content phenomenon in MMOs: what games have it, how to use it, and whether it is likely to become the next big thing.
The fact is, very few MMOs have ventured into the earning-cash-for-creativity field. Is it because of potential minefields that might blow up in the company's face? Obviously, there is a chance for copyright infringements, as we saw in the Dota 2 instance when a so-called creator tried to pass off one of Aion's weapons as his own. Or is it just an untapped resource begging to be mined?
After scouring my sources (and possibly promising copious amounts of snack foods), I came up with a relatively short list of MMOs that allow players to earn real money for their creations. And by relatively, I mean very.
Of course, Second Life heads the list as possibly the most well-known game. But even though it's well-known, I wouldn't consider SL particularly mainstream. Other lesser known members of this list are There, IMVU, and Whirled. Valve also offers the feature (in Dota 2).
Although only in alpha at the moment, the upcoming new game called Xulu Universe features the ability to create content on a world-building scale and plans to allow players to earn cash by selling their creations to each other. (Heck, I was even going to highlight Xulu this week, but Beau beat me to it!)
Now, EverQuest and EverQuest II will soon be joining the ranks, with Vanguard and Free Realms to follow sometime in the future. SOE even noted the possibility that other titles might also be included.
After a player is happy with his or her creation, it can be uploaded directly to a marketplace like SL (full instructions are found on the official site) or submitted to the related game for consideration. For companies that require approval, not all creations will make the cut. Items that pass muster are then offered in the official cash shop and opened up for other players for purchase.
While SOE's Player Studio is not functional yet, the other games have have specific tools and/or tutorials available for creating in their worlds. They are:
- Second Life Creation Portal
- There Developer Community
- IMVU Creator
- Whirled Game Creation FAQ
- Steam Workshop
Different companies also offer different cuts of the profit pie: Whirled players earn 30% of the sale price, while SOE plans to give folks a 40% cut. Obviously, the more content created and available in game, the more money a player can make.
After consideration, I also prefer the system in which developers have to approve what items are offered for sale. This way, the items won't clash with the world the developers created... well, any more than some of their creations clash at times!
Is there appeal for this product? I myself plan to use the tool when it is launched for EverQuest II. Although someone already beat me to the flying squirrel (*shakes fist at devs*), I definitely have other ideas! With it, I will create the wildly popular... er, actually I think I will just keep that under wraps for now. Trade secret, ya know?
Maybe it's because I have Choose My Adventure on the brain, but I want to get your opinions on this content-for-cash idea. And the funnest way to do that is with a poll! WOO! Is this feature something you would dabble in, or would you toss yourself in head first and not come up for air? Or perhaps you would dismiss it entirely and never give it a second thought. Tell me, tell me!%Poll-77659%
We really should name this phenomenon because Selling Player Generated Content For Real Cash is a bit unwieldy. How about simply Cashing-In? Simple, direct, and to the point. Do you have any ideas for a phrase we can coin (and maybe put in a cash shop to sell!)? Add your thoughts and suggestions to the comments below. And if you know of any other MMO cases where players can cash their creativity in for real-world money, let me know.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!