This is one of the reasons Young believes they need to phase the system in slowly. He does not want to change courses midstream on his player base, and games need to be specifically tailored to such a market or chaos could ensue.
"What we do in one game may not be necessarily at all what we do in another game. Some games may never see this."
Gala-Net is just the most recent in a series of companies with a North American focus who have opted to bring the so-called secondary market in-house. SOE started the trend on this side of the ocean with the Sony Exchange, and only a week before Gala-Net, K2 Network also announced a deal with PlaySpan.
Traditionally, the trade of virtual items for real-world cash has been a contentious topic among gamers, but increasingly they've demonstrated a willingness to purchase items directly from developers. For example, all of SOE's virtual trading card games use that model, and even before PlaySpan, Gala-Net and many of its competitors embraced a free-to-play, micro-transaction business model where players can pay for small upgrades, in-game cash or items.
Security and legal concerns have slowed the arrival of peer-to-peer transactions. "It's taken a long time to come to a comfort level with the level of security," Young said, but noted that with PlaySpan they are very comfortable.
Legally, there has always been questions about people's ability to sell things that technically do not belong to them - check any EULA. "There hesitation on the part of a lot of companies is because of these issues, there's a lot of gray area in the law," he said.
In Gala-Net's case, Young sees the potential peer-to-peer sales as more of a rental than a purchase. For all intents and purposes, the sword might belong to the player, but legally Gala-Net has total freedom to change its stats, or in an extreme case, even remove the item from the game entirely. Obviously, that is something they strive to avoid.
At a more cynical level, Gala-Net stands to profit from the move. Once real-world cash transactions are enabled, Gala-Net makes some money. Young did not go into details, but did say they would likely have some sort of listing fee, or they would get a portion of the profit from a sale. He did note, though, that no one would have to pay out of pocket for the system.
The PlaySpan system not only allows Gala-Net to decide on the level of integration on a game-by-game basis, but also on a server-by-server basis, if Gala-Net wants. Young also said if it likes, Gala-Net may allow players to trade items from one server to the next.
While there is a benefit to existing titles, Young tipped his hand slightly and admitted that a large part of the decision was with an eye to the future. Without going into too many specifics, he said some future Gala-Net titles will have built-in trading dynamics, similar to card games like Magic or Pokemon, and PlaySpan helps them Gala-Net ready for that.
Gala-Net plans to announce the specifics of how it will implement PlaySpan's technology in the coming weeks.