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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

EVE Online: In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, or Can They?

Posted by Inktomi Monday June 27 2011 at 1:28AM
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Man, its been a long weekend. 

Needless to say I am inspired by recent events that have incited a virtual riot in the major trading hubs of Caldari and Amarr empire space. Leaving Jita still a clogged mess and a threadnaught approaching 400 pages in the official EVE forums.

What can I say, want a recap?

CCP releases the Incarna expansion (which was free by the way) and unvieled its item shop driven by the new virtual currency called the AURAN or AUR for short. Players took one look at the prices and said....WHAT THE... you get the rest.

Following that the infamous "Greed is Good" internal newsletter was leaked into the public. Whoohooo, someones head is going to roll for that


The community reacts really, really badly. Holding public protests in Jita, which is the major trading hub as CCP Zulu releases a statement that tries to put out the fire, yet just serves to fan the flame. An internal email is also leaked stating that this was expected and to "stay the course."

After reading all this and the thread of doom, speaking to my alliance and corpmates I decide to cancel both of my subs. Yes, yes, call me a sheep, stupid, whatever, whatever. But allow me to state my reasons for doing this by using some of the stuff that I read over the past two days.

From the leaked Hilmar email:

We went out with a decisive strategy on pricing and we will stay the course and not flip flop around or knee jerk react to the predictable. 

Sooo, your telling me that you knew we wouldn't like this and are going to force it on us anyway? Oh really? Well, at the end of the day, I was happy with EVE the way EVE was. I did not really need to walk around in an avatar based figure, if that was the case, there are plenty of sci-fi MMORPG's out there that offer that. Anarchy Online is one I played long ago. I could do without 3 minutes to dock into a station also. 

I didn't need a Noble Market. I didn't need a $60 monocle and I definitely didn't need a traffic jam in Jita.

From the Greed is Good Newsletter:

An interesting aspect of selling experience and identity is that the actual action of paying for it can strengthen their perceived value.

I do agree with that, always stating that these games are merely selling us an experience. Whether we are the noble knight that tanks a dragon for our mates so that they don't die. Or the dashing space cowboy that hunts down bad-boy pirates in space, or even a guy who mows his lawn, finding a goose and telling our friends about it. The problem is, how they are making me pay for it, how much I think its worth versus the value of the experience is where the rubber meets the road for me in MMO's.

One of the things that stuck out to me the most was the comparison to owning a pool and the use of chlorine.

From GiG:

In terms of the swimming pools of Reykjavik, engagement equates to the water in the swimming pool. If we don’t have enough to swim in or if it’s bloody cold, it will be really hard to sell those goggles.

Absolutely, I couldn't agree more with that fact, something is worth only as much as someone will pay for it. We create a need for a product, that creates a market...blah, blah... I will spare you the economics lesson. However, here's the kicker:
We want to see our monetization techniques blend seamlessly into the game mechanics and establish themselves as a part of the fiction. They need to feel natural and in accordance with players’ expectations.
This means your going to change the mechanics that has made this game so popular over the years? Forcing me to buy things and spend money, ON TOP OF my double subscriptions price, because I just needed a second character. 
However, as a subscription based golden goose, EVE needs to incorporate the virtual goods sales model to allow for further revenue – revenue to fund our other titles, revenue for its developer: you.
I take that as a yes. But I can't forget what happened to the goose when the farmer got greedy. This is exactly what it sounds like is happening over at CCP. Greed and growth go hand in hand. I know this is a business, fully understand how it works. But you can compare this to The Gap who have recently tried to change their logo, their image, only to be met with fierce negative public response that forced them to change course. Sometimes some of the best intentions are not met well with your consuming public, this means a change in strategy if the longterm outlook is failure.
I am not going to bring up Star Wars Galaxies and compare the addition of the New Game Experience and the community reaction. Nope, not going there at all.
If I was to ask anything of CCP, I would ask to abandon this idea that the community needs expensive jeans, or shirt, or weird things on their eye to just be able to buy. Add those ideas into the content blender and give us the opportunity to earn it. Lets say if, at the end of this mission my NPC gives me the option of some money or a tee shirt that says...CALDARI BUSINESS TRIBUNAL with  a cool logo, I might be tempted to forego the isk. However, if you put it in the item mall, I would do some simple math  and compare it to the market price of isk, as someone did here in another blog...
HAHAHAHAAAAA, XD mfw I saw that.
In games as in life, it comes down to the haves and the have-nots. Players always look at other players gear, or ships, houses, etc thinking about how cool it looks on them and how they could get it. CCP knows this and the easy way out is taking the approach of the monetary transactions. In the newsletter they did compare it to Battlefield Heroes and how it worked there and in Korea, so we can implement it slowly, it will be accepted. 
We can figure out how to step ahead of the curve and do more than merely sell some swimming goggles… group buying power, deep discounts, flash sales, dynamic pricing and monetizing social acceptance in online games… and maybe just a tiny bit of that chlorine after all.
But is this what the community wants? Obviously, what we have done is told you no. I realize as a businessowner its tempting to take the golden path, the one with the pot o' gold at the end of it, but at what price paradise? 
That did it for me. The elitism in EVE and MMORPG's is rough enough to deal with, but I don't need to log in and have sales shoved in my face, as I am selling things in Jita, impeding my gameplay unless I upgrade ______ WHICH IS ONLY A CLICK AWAY! 
My validation of not flying a T3 cruiser and buying a $60 monocle are the same: I don't need it. I do just fine with my skills in my ship of choice, which is either a Rohk, Drake, Rook or a Nighthawk. I do just fine with my punkrocker looking avatar, mohawk and all. 
I liked EVE just fine the way it was. This is why I unsubbed, I don't talk very loud about games anymore, but when I do, I speak with my wallet.
In closing, the reality is that they are either going to 1) totally scrap the idea, lower prices in the NeX and not add in gameplay items, ships, standings or skills into the virtual market place or 2) Do it over the longer term and count on the pereto principle.
Whats that you ask? That Pereto Principle is the economic philosophy the 20% of your customers will do 80% of your revenue, making up for the lagging other 80%. As I and others leave, others will come to fill our spots over the long term. EVE really is a good, fun quality game. Some might come back, and there will be a select few that will drink the cool aide and shop till they drop in the store. Vaulting themselves over the players that don't, seeking to dominate the competition with their wallets. 
Welcome to real life, except with spaceships.

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