Currency $candal Rocks EVE Online

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Eve Sci-fi MMORPG EVE Online's world full of player-run banks and corporations got one of its first tastes of virtual white-collar crime. The top executive of the player-run EVE financial institution Ebank, intended as an in-world business that would let other players safely deposit and borrow amounts of in-game virtual currency ISK, embezzled a substantial but unknown sum of ISK deposited by other players. The executive, who went by the online handle Ricdic, sold the embezzled virtual currency to a third-party grey market RMT service in exchange for real-world cash.

Before the embezzling scandal hit, Ebank was known to have approximately 8.9 trillion ISK in deposited in 13,000 accounts belonging to 6,000 other players. While Ricdic has since had his account terminated by EVE Online's developer CCP, a run on the bank by depositors resulted in the withdrawal of 5.5 trillion ISK. Ebank has since temporarily shut down to sort out the mess and try to figure out exactly how much of the remaining 4.9 trillion ISK was embezzled and how much was part of outstanding loans made by the bank. Rumors indicate Ricdic may have embezzled roughly 10% of the bank's total deposited funds, or about 890 billion ISK.

It is not clear what, if any, role CCP is going to take in returning embezzled funds or trying to keep Ebank solvent. Generally CCP follows extremely laissez faire policies when it comes to maintaining its virtual economy, in part to encourage various player-run corporations to battle it out with each other in space. Even though CCP is one of the few MMORPG developers to maintain an economist (and philosopher) on staff, the company often feels it is counter to the spirit of the game to intervene more than absolutely necessary. As a result, EVE's in-game player-run banks aren't backed by any sort of CCP-run equivalent of the FDIC and may be allowed to fail. As such, it is also unknown if Ebank will be able to return all funds to all investors or if CCP will even mandate that they do so.

It's worth noting here that EVE Online is a subscription game, charging the standard $15 per month fee. The game does not permit microtransaction purchases of ISK or other in-game items for real-world cash directly, although it does allow users to redeem the code codes from a prepaid EVE Online time cards for either more months of usage or certain amounts of ISK. While the EULA maintains the usual language of in-game items not having any definite real-world value, it seems likely that a certain sum of the ISK embezzled by Ricdic was probably purchased through prepaid cards rather than earned in-game.

[This story originally appeared in sister site,]


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