EVE Evolved: Donate your old spaceships to charity

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The Philippines recently suffered its worst natural disaster in living memory when typhoon Haiyan made landfall on November 8th, leaving over half a million people displaced and millions without food and basic supplies. Countries and organisations around the world have been sending relief aid into the region, and gamers have once again proven to be a generous bunch. Several livestreamers have been running donation drives; the developers behind Luvinia Online even promised to donate 100% of the income from three new in-game items to the Philippine Red Cross. EVE Online has now also joined in the fundraising by reactivating its popular PLEX for Good scheme.

CCP started the PLEX for Good scheme back in January of 2010 as a way for players to donate in-game assets and ISK to help people in the real world. EVE Online players have collectively donated over $150,000 US in aid following 2010's Haitian earthquake, tsunami devastation in Japan, flooding in Pakistan, and tornadoes in the US two years ago. Players hope to smash all fundraising records this time around with dedicated fundraising auctions, events, and liquidation firesales happening across the game. There are even ways for ex-players without active subscriptions to donate their idle in-game assets to charity.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at the PLEX for Good scheme, the fundraising efforts players are using to help out a country in need, and how you can donate your ISK to charity even if you've long since quit EVE.

Game side imageWait, I can donate pretend internet space moneys?

Several years ago, EVE Online introduced an item called the PLEX (short for "30-day Pilot's License EXtension") that can be purchased for cash and sold on the in-game market to other players for ISK. Each PLEX costs around $15 (depending on bulk discounts) and can be redeemed to add 30 days of game time to your EVE subscription.

This lets players who can make a lot of ISK essentially play EVE for free by buying PLEX on the market each month, while at the same time offering players a legitimate way to effectively buy ISK for cash. Some arguments have been made over the years that this might be essentially a pay-to-win system, but it's been widely accepted by players. PLEX for Good takes the concept one step further by transforming each PLEX donated back into its equivalent purchase price in dollars.

As each PLEX on the market in EVE had to be originally bought by a player for cash, each one removed from the game represents a cash purchase that will no longer be claimed as game time and can be checked off CCP's balance sheet. Any ISK donated to the cause is used to buy PLEX on the market, at which point CCP is able to donate the PLEX's cash value to the relevant charity without losing any profit. The company also absorbs all legal fees and the cost of managing the scheme, leaving it up to players to raise the funds and decide how much support to pledge.

Game side imageHow to donate internet spaceships

You can donate PLEX directly to the campaign by contracting them to the official CCP character "CCP PLEX for GOOD" in-game on a 14-day item exchange contract, but members of the EVE community have set up several alternative funds that will actually multiply your donation. Trusted EVE celebrity Chribba set up a donation drive that aims to hit one trillion ISK, and investment expert Amarr Citizen 155 has offered to match donations made to the campaign on a one-to-one basis. The resulting two trillion ISK would be worth over $58,000 US at current exchange rates, but the team is only 3.5% of the way to that lofty target so far.

To donate ISK to the drive, send it to Chribba and enter "PLEX4GOOD" in the reason field or "PLEX4GOODANON" if you wish to remain anonymous. Chribba and several other players are also auctioning off dozens of valuable blueprints, items, and ships to raise funds, including the extremely rare Malice and Utu assault frigates currently valued at over 60 billion ISK each. With $43,000 already donated and the funds from these auctions and events not yet included, it looks as if this will be the biggest PLEX for Good drive so far.

Game side imageBut my account has expired!

If you haven't played EVE in a while and have little or no intention of returning any time soon, you can actually still donate your in-game ISK to the charity fund. Back in March 2011, CCP added a new "Hours for PLEX" option to the account management screen that will temporarily reactivate your account for four hours. You're supposed to use that time to buy a PLEX in-game and apply it to your account, and failing to apply a PLEX within the allotted time will block access to the Hours for PLEX option in future.

If you have no intention of returning later or plan to make a fresh start next time you undock in the EVE universe, you could use Hours for PLEX to donate your ISK to the fundraising campaign. The donation drive currently being run by Chribba and Amarr Citizen 155 accepts only ISK, so if you have items lying dormant, then you'll need to liquidate them first. Ships can be easily flown to Jita for a quick sale, and there are usually buy orders for items and minerals in mission hubs like Dodixie, Rens, Kakakela and Sobaseki. Remember that suicide attacks are now commonplace in prime time hours on the routes to Jita, so don't just transport everything you own in a flimsy hauler.

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The relief efforts following natural disasters have become an increasingly global issue, one that ordinary people from across the world frequently contribute to by donating cash. For those without the cash to spare, schemes like CCP's PLEX for Good and RuneScape's new Well of Goodwill offer the chance to do good through gaming. Several MMOs now have the equivalent of PLEX, whether it's an actual in-game item representing game time or just an item that can be bought for cash and traded freely in-game, and it would be great to see more schemes like this pop up.

Through PLEX for Good, we can turn a night of grinding ISK or old spaceships collecting dust on a long forgotten account into food and medical supplies for those in need, and I think that's the most wonderful thing. Huge donations are expected from Chribba and wealthy donors across the game, and the price of PLEX will likely spike in the days to come. It remains to be seen whether any of EVE's huge financial institutions like gambling website SOMER.Blink or the warring nullsec alliances will make correspondingly large pledges. CCP will be running a charity livestreaming event on December 7th to mark the end of the fundraiser, and so far it looks as if the amount donated will smash all records and expectations.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.