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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

EVE's New Macro-Transactions

Posted by BillMurphy Monday June 27 2011 at 8:09PM
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Yes, I know CCP is calling them “Micro”-transactions, but I don’t think I’m being too callous in saying that there is nothing micro about them. The forums are in an uproar both here and across the internet. There’s talk of a mass exodus from one of the Industry’s longest successful and brightest stars. The player-run council for EVE Online is being flown out to Iceland for an emergency meeting with the development staff. In short, this is like the Cuban Missile Crisis for CCP. What I’m sure they thought was a simple addition to their game has amounted to a PR nightmare. But let’s take a step back and look at it from a non-player’s perspective.

I haven’t ever really gotten into EVE as a gamer. I’ve tried it often enough, only to be unable or unwilling to take the time necessary to really understand the intricacies of 0.0 space. Maybe for that reason alone, my temper over this whole thing is a bit more stable. The amount of money being bantered around for simply cosmetic items is ludicrous. I completely agree that $60+ for a monacle on your avatar is just about the silliest sort of cost I’ve ever heard associated with a cosmetic purchase in an MMORPG. But, and there’s always a “but,” shouldn’t we be at least a little bit relieved the item’s purely cosmetic for the game’s new Incarna expansion?

That said that’s what the shop entails “for now”. As far as I know, there hasn’t been official word from CCP regarding the possibility of ships and other gameplay changing items going up for sale, and that’s what’s really driving people to the edge right now. EVE is a very, very competitive game. And while there are some who would claim that you can essentially buy power already in the game, it’s a whole different story if CCP suddenly starts allowing it and taking advantage of this through their own cash-shop.

To add fuel to the fire, the “leaked” inter-office memo about the expensive prices being akin to designer clothing really puts CCP in a bad light. We know these guys and gals at MMORPG.com. They’re pretty much some of the nicest and most open MMO developers you’ll ever find. I suspect, though can’t confirm, that these comments were made as a way of justifying the expenses without realizing just how far out of touch the prices are with the rest of the virtual world micro-transactions. But they really should have taken a good hard look at what other companies charge for their cosmetic pieces. If they wanted to charge more, that’s fine and good… but that much more is just about enough to put the green color of greed on any company asking such prices.

All of that aside, the mass exodus or not, CCP is very obviously aware that it may have just made a huge mistake. An emergency meeting with their player-run council (Council of Interstellar Management) is being held this week in Iceland to figure out how to move forward. In this case I’m betting that the folks up there to the north have heard your complaints loud and clear. Now we just need to wait a bit to find out what they’re going to do about them.

Inktomi writes:

Its nice to see an unbiased point of view on this matter. I've been tracking it for a few days now, and as things unfold its going to to be interesting to see EVE's plan of actions next week.

Just the fact that they are flying the CSM to Iceland on the spot means they are taking this seriously. But lets call a spade a spade, if that "Greed is Good" newsletter didn't get leaked, would it have ever gotten to this level? The community would have balked at the prices, but never known the extent on how far they were going to take the item mall to where they planned.

I'm interested on how its going to work out. I am currently unsubbed but active until August, so they have some time.

Mon Jun 27 2011 8:20PM Report
ZombieKen writes:

A matter of concern from my perspective isn't whether EVE will go full bore into cash shop sales nor its affect on their game.  It's their game and as such their decision.

What does concern me is the impression I'm getting that the MMO industry in general doesn't hold much priority in customer satisfaction or ethics in business.  We're talking about companies with a userbase that could be as much as fiftty percent minors.

Should this situation get out of hand, and perhaps in some games it already is, how long until there is government intervention into the business dealings of MMORPGs?  As a small business owner, the last thing I need is more red-tape.

Do I think the EU or USA will go so far as "Fairness in Online Gaming" legislation?  When it comes to protecting minors, I wouldn't put it past them.  In fact, I think it will only be a matter of time.

Mon Jun 27 2011 8:38PM Report
jakin writes:

To be fair to the situation, the absurd costs in the NeX seem to only be part of the story.  It appears to be something of a perfect storm landing all at once that's lit the place on fire.

If it were only insane pricing of cashshop items it would probably be one thing, but the addition of: the newsletter leak (which seems to have been taken out of context and misconstrued), the leak of the CEO's company email showing a rather jaded view of the playerbase (which the playerbase is currently doing their level best to prove correct), the rather lame PR attempts in the wake of it all (a CCP hallmark at this point - they're just terrible at player management in a crisis) has taken a small issue and blown it large.

But even then it would be managable if the microtransactions hadn't landed at the same time as a patch that introduces a feature long-desired but minimally implemented, causing performance issues (melting down certain video cards), and openly breaking a long-standing promise that players wouldn't be forced into the Incarna experience if they didn't want (implying the existing station interface would remain, which it apparently will not).

EVE's playerbase (speaking as a three-year player in a bunch of different roles) is full of hystrionic people that will readily fly off the handle for no particularily sane reason.  Many have developed a habit of flipping out whenever they even slightly worry about what CCP *might* do.  With a perfect storm such as this, it brings a mob of the crazys out, and the firestorm whips up a bunch of others - including those that are just there to see it all burn down.

From an objective viewpoint, I'm not sure why people think this is the start of CCP selling items and ships in the store.  While they've broken promises in the past, they've pretty heavily implied the EVE side of the market will be vanity items (the DUST side will be functional items though). 

Given that they've hired TWO economists to oversee their in-game economies, it's pretty obvious they take it seriously and it's equally obvious that selling items in the store would bugger that economy up severely.  Just that alone leads me to believe CCP this time, that the NeX isn't anything more than overpriced vanity items (which people are buying even at this price I might add) and that the playerbase is flying off the handle on this for no real reason.

Mon Jun 27 2011 9:11PM Report
69Cuda writes: Nice write up, one the better ones so far. Don't forget that it is coming on the heels of the 99$ third party fee and the tournament fiasco as well. Lot of things. What is it called? Oh yeah the thousand cuts syndrome. Not one thing but the culmination of alot of little things at one time. IE the perfect storm. Mon Jun 27 2011 9:58PM Report
Bantar writes:

1) @jakin: a CSM member is a former CCP employee and would tell you that the news letter was not taken out of context, that CCP Zulu's blog was apparently a lie to calm to the masses.

2) good point, actionmmorpg

3) check out ex-employee comments on glassdoor dot com and their financials(posted and discussed at both FHC and eve-o forums.) I believe this to be the true source of all these problems.

Tue Jun 28 2011 12:44AM Report
trancejeremy writes:

Is $60 really out of touch though? Some F2P games have insane prices.

In Atlantica, $10 gets you a chance at a piece of clothing. I've spent $30 and gotten nothing, because I was unlucky.

Sword of the New World used to sell costumes for about $10. Now you can't, you can only rent them for so much a month. I think they also now have gambling boxes for permanent costumes. 

LOTRO, a horse is $10-20.  Clothing isn't cheap, either.

 

Yeah, obviously $60 is more, but then again, factor in the exchange rate with the dollar worth very little these days, with Obama continuing GWBs policy of trying to get the Chinese to unpeg their currency to the dollar by driving down the dollar's value, and on top of that, literally printing money to buy our own debt (QE2).

$60 is probably $20 a few years ago. (Okay, not quite that bad, but closer than it should be)

Tue Jun 28 2011 1:31AM Report
trancejeremy writes:

Anyway, the whole point of Microtransactions (and F2P) is that there are people out there who will literally spend thousands of dollars on a game. Tens of thousands in some extreme cases. (This is not hyperbole, either). They really aren't aimed at the casual or poor gamer, but those with very, very deep pockets.

Tue Jun 28 2011 1:37AM Report
deftskulk writes:

And this is a game that is now Sub + MT and not a F2P.

Your exsamples are pretty limp in scope anyway.

Here is a thought...Lets forget the damn monocle.

A shirt cost $20. Now going on the logic of every other game with a cash shop and anything new will be an MT, then one outfit will cost $100+. so the average cost of a vanity outfit jumps from 5$-$10 to $100...Yeah that's in line with inflation...

I am not an eve player anymore. I haven't played in a very long time, but I do watch for info on WoD. I dout anyone is willing to debate that EvE is a testing ground for WoD these days. This kind of foreshadowing has me debating on quiting a game before even the website is up yet. 

I used to have a good amount of respect for CCP, but the more I learn from the memos and general ego of the higher up(s) in CCP these days, the less I respeat them. 

Tue Jun 28 2011 2:59AM Report
hfztt writes:

@Bantar: Seleene and Zulu hate each other with a vengence, so unfortunately that info is more than a tad biased.

That said the newsletter is not out of context, but out of the 8 pages only 2 are EVE specific in a meaningfull way, yet everything in it has been quoted as beeing EvE related. The two pages on eve are quite harmless and in full line with what CCP had been saying in public all along.

Tue Jun 28 2011 3:41AM Report
Kothoses writes:

Who ever leaked that memo did the MMO scene as a whole a giant favour.

 

The Sparkle pony was a watershed moment in allowing microtransactions to become a mainstay of MMO culture, it spread beyond the MMO into DLC for single player games too.

 

Maybe the Monocle moment can be the catalyst for gamers to start realising that if they make enough of a stampede companies will listen, and maybe a few more will start to treat their communities with the same respect Valve and CD Projeckt Red do as a result.

 

One can only hope.

Tue Jun 28 2011 5:42AM Report
nalanthi writes:

People keep forgetting one major element to EVE's MT that really make it very hard to compare with other game's MT prices... You don't actually have to spend real money on the items. There are some people in EVE that have so much in-game currency that they'd never really be able to spend it all, so why not buy this stuff for a few billion ISK?

Are the prices too high? Yeah probably. Do they have to be on par with other game's MT? No, not at all.

Tue Jun 28 2011 7:40AM Report
inzane3 writes:

Thanks for that post BillMurphy, that's exactly what i was trying to say. Hopefull they will reduce the prices to something more decent.

Tue Jun 28 2011 10:27AM Report
spookydom writes:

Nice and balanced write up Bill. Am following this story with great intrest.

Tue Jun 28 2011 10:41AM Report
mandragoa writes:

$20 for a t-shirt with corp- or allylogo would be ok!

Tue Jun 28 2011 12:58PM Report
divmax writes:

Why do people care what CCP charge for the items? If you don't like the price, don't buy it. Seriously, the law of supply and demand will either bring the price down, or CCP will have achieved what they set out to do by setting their price point.

You know, only in the games industry do consumers have such a huge sense of entitlement that they feel they need to interfere with the internal workings of companies.

Also, looking at the figures posted in the other article here on mmorpg, where CCP will lose $1mil out of a probable $50mil+ annual earnings, thats 0.5%. I hardly call that a "mass"-exodus. Also, its a meaningless figure without taking into consideration what the possible shop earnings will be. What if they lose $1mil but they end up making $2mil from shop sales. Yes, you would be surprised but there are people who would nevertheless pay those prices for having (what will amount to) super rare cosmetics.

Tue Jun 28 2011 2:04PM Report
Gunship writes:

I have played eve since Beta and I tell you now that it is not a t-shirt or other meaningless stuff or the price of them that is the issue. The biggest issue is the proposal of game changing items like being able to buy ships, skills, private production and research slots, implants so you PvP better (+25% to firepower as an example) The list is endless, but not as endless as the imagination of the eve player base! This rocks the foundation of the sand box MMO and the hard work many has put in over the years. The eve player accept the cruel world of eve, they accept the power of the few who controls the biggest Alliances or those who control the T2 BPO's, but they wont lie down and just allow someone to just buy their way in. Spaceship pew pew is serious business.

Tue Jun 28 2011 2:15PM Report
Paradigm68 writes:

You got a couple of points wrong. It was a CCP dev's response to forum complaints not a leaked memo that compared the virtual items to rl boutique items.

The real issue and the one you've neglected to cover at all (which kind of invalidates the whole blog post) is that the leaked memo discusses selling non-vanity items in the shop.  The defense put forward by CCP is that it was just a 'kicking the idea around' kind of thing. However given that in the past CCP promised to never sell non-vanity items, their implausible excuse doesn't cut it. And further, despite hundreds of forum posts asking CCP to clarify whether they would sell non-vanity items, they have thus far refused to resolve the issue with a simple statement.

Tue Jun 28 2011 4:29PM Report
wfSeg writes:

Any game with a sub should not have a cash shop.

Tue Jun 28 2011 10:11PM Report
wfSeg writes:

Whoops, meant P2P game  shouldn't have a cash shops.

Tue Jun 28 2011 10:18PM Report
TechnoMonkey writes:

"The real issue and the one you've neglected to cover at all (which kind of invalidates the whole blog post) is that the leaked memo discusses selling non-vanity items in the shop. The defense put forward by CCP is that it was just a 'kicking the idea around' kind of thing. However given that in the past CCP promised to never sell non-vanity items, their implausible excuse doesn't cut it. And further, despite hundreds of forum posts asking CCP to clarify whether they would sell non-vanity items, they have thus far refused to resolve the issue with a simple statement."

THIS

Tue Jun 28 2011 10:40PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

I dont see the concern with prices of cosmetic gear. Speak with your wallets not on the forums and just do not buy them.

If/When items that affect gameplay are introduced (even if they have rediculously high prices) that would be the time to leave the game. Pay 2 win sucks the fun right out of games IMHO, although eve already allows you to spend real money to get ingame currency to get items.....

Tue Jun 28 2011 11:54PM Report
emota writes:

A mass exodus? you mean the unhappy 1%, let them go, the rest of us can enjoy the game without their moaning then!

Wed Jun 29 2011 2:08AM Report
GrimmRoeth writes:

 Am I happy that the slippery slope of the Item mall has begun, No. Thankfully at this time it is only Vanity Items. I do believe that the player ecomony in Eve is one of the largest draws to the game, the store threatens the stabilty. CCP really needs to look at how SOE destroyed the player economy of SWG, it to was coupled with changes in their game leading to huge player withdrawals.

 CCP is at a point that they can correct the damages self inflicted. First make clear public policy they will only have vanity items in this mall. 2) remove the AUR from the game, it will still have thier desired effect to reduce outsanding isk but allow for a player market at setting after market prices. 3) Include the LP stores as a path to obtaining items. 4) Create a limited means to aquire items, ie BPC's with use the planetaries as components thus driving that market stronger.

 As a player that hugely enjoys the industrial side, it upsets me that CCP would not have considered these suggestions to drive what they already have within the game and created a means that can be so unbalancing to that economy. In fact like most industrial player I have multiple accounts, 5 at this time. Four of which I am considering removing should I deam the market damaged, the last would be their last chance to correct but I can only give them so long.

Wed Jun 29 2011 3:05AM Report
Matticus75 writes:

ActionMMORPG writes:

"A matter of concern from my perspective isn't whether EVE will go full bore into cash shop sales nor its affect on their game.  It's their game and as such their decision"

 

Well as a you stated as a business owner, I suppose that ill be 1 of the many that will decrease their revene; and they will see who is paying for "Their game" and behave accordingly, I call it "Free market"  Im sure they will adjust given market data they have

 

Goverment intervention is irrlevant; US Supreme Court Decision on the regulation of violence in games was struck down, meaning the government does not have the right regulate the matter; what are they going to regulate here from an international company?

Just like passing judgement on what is "fair" in a specific game and what is not?  Can we make the argument on what is violent, malicious, devaint, or hedious? Only thing I can see is the government requiring labeling that says "Item Shop game" that helps the consumer; If it hurts business then why would the govenment need to requrire that?, thats a lack of basic business ethics by not having clear disclosure, Sure we can live in a world where clear disclousure is impossible, such as a industral plant poisoning the water table in the local enviroment, and the market will adjust when a few childen die as a result, but some people are ok with that concept.....But if I lobby lawmakers about it, ill just say consumers are not looking for better standards, they are just whiners...right? Regulation of clean drining water im sure put alot of people out of work

 

I anticipate that "if the situation gets out of hand" as you stated, then the simple demographics are moving to people who are willing to pay to win, thats a free market movement. Or the Business will see their revenue decrease as a result, and they can say, "its my business it can do want I want, I dont have to respond to them, even if I  loose money" Im sure most of the former customers will be fine with that, I know I will........And CCPs loss if revene is their problem

 

Free market movement, and boycoting has nothing to do goverment control, and "free" people can do as they wish

Thu Jun 30 2011 2:29AM Report
gaeanprayer writes:

I actually hope CCP realizes the error of their decision and brings their players back. I don't play EVE and never will, but I do NOT want it to fail. That is a very unique gaming experience that players would have a difficult time finding elsewhere, which would mean more angry, frustrated players trolling forums. No, I definitely hope they continue creating a game their players love.

But a small part of me, I will admit, has such a dark little grin on its face right now. While this may, for now, be about EVE, people are naive to think that the decisions made by developers and the players who support them set precedent. If EVE gets away with this, more games will test it in their own waters. When WoW first released those overpriced mounts, people scoffed...until they started making serious money on them. Suddenly it didn't seem so bad, and then other games jumped on the bandwagon.

I do NOT want to see this kind of mentality worm it's way into other games, games I actually care about. So to that end, while EVE should survive, CCP should also take one hell of a beating just as a warning to other companies, lest they forget the game they made is for the players and without those players, they have nothing.

Thu Jun 30 2011 11:39AM Report
MurlockDance writes:

I like this blogpost.

I haven't played EVE in a while so am fairly unbiased by now. I am disappointed in that CCP is adding microtransactions at all to EVE, but am relieved that so far it is only cosmetic stuff. If people want to pay $60 for a monocle, it's their money, they can choose to do what they want with it. It can also be seen as a player showing real support for a game company and game they really love.  I definitely don't love CCP enough to engage in that kind of stuff myself, even if I did play EVE for five years.

What I do have a problem with is the addition of things that matter. Can't get a shadow serpentis module ingame? Then buy it off the marketplace. Your corp doesn't have any capital ships? Let's by them off the marketplace. Where does it stop? Will SPs be available? If you allow things like ship modules or ships themselves, why not ISK? Will people get refunds for ships bought with real money that get destroyed? Will pirate bounties be paid in real money? Will players pay taxes on ISK they earn?

Then there's the "ethical" question of whether CCP can justify a subscription on top of all of this.

They opened up a can of worms with this whole incarna thing. It's not incarna itself... it's wanting to cash in on it in ways that the company previously did not do before.

Already, for a subscription game, EVE is kind of expensive, especially since the game seems to really suit having alternative accounts. I fell into that trap. But if it becomes pay-to-win, it will be prohibitively expensive. I think only the most die-hard fans would stick with it.

But I suppose CCP can release its designer monocle to the masses during a time of great economic crises... let's see how many people buy them...

Fri Jul 01 2011 6:22AM Report
Gdemami writes:

Fact is, that there is only 1 item in NEX shop that is so pricey - monocle, but  everything else you find there falls between 10 and 20 USD.

 

But hey, who cares about facts and rational thinking... 

Mon Jul 04 2011 8:19AM Report
Aramath writes:

I believe the issue behind the gamers outrage is CCP moving towards a microtransaction system at all.  First step to free to play is usually Microtransaction system being put into play.  While no one has said it, from CCP, I am sure that the users are thinking it.  F2P microtransaction games are where most gaming companies are going because they get a nice influx of new players who don't have to make a dedication of a monthly payment but usually end up spending more in the shop than a subscription would have cost over the first month or two.  However, having played this game, I have to say that CCP would probably never go this route.  This game is all about time spent in game.  Where it takes a month or more, in real time, to train one skill.  Why should they change to a f2p system when they are already screwing the hell out of people with their monthly subscriptions?

Mon Jul 04 2011 8:40AM Report

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