To say the EVE Online community is passionate is an understatement. Typically changes are met with a mix of praise and criticism, pretty usual for most games, but EVE typically garners more passion in its criticism from players. A recent sales pack by the developer has many high-profile players joining the chorus of critique, however.
The recent Prospector Pack being sold by developer CCP Games has some players up in arms for a very specific reason: monetizing the sale of skills and ships. With EVE, everything in-universe is, by and large, made by players. However, with the Prospector Pack, those who plunk down the $24.99 will get not just the requisite mining skills to fly an advanced barge, but a fully equipped Retriever, which is a higher-tiered mining barge, to boot. By offering the skills to fly this, as well as the barge itself, the pack circumvents both the time it takes to learn skills, as well as the in-game player economy by providing a ship that could have been built and sold by a capsuleer.
This isn't the first time CCP has sold a ship or skills as part of a package like this, though it has garnered a response that will likely see CCP's staff take notice. A group of current and former members of EVE's Council of Stellar Management have taken to Reddit to pen an open letter to the developers, detailing their thoughts on the Prospector Pack.
The open letter sets up the argument, that players have been expressing concerns over monetization for years now, going back to the 2011 Summer of Rage.
"From the 2011 "Summer of Rage" to the monthly complaints from players over different ads and new monetization schemes, no one can argue that the core player base in EVE Online cares deeply about monetization and is highly skeptical about the direction CCP monetization has been going. Core players have deeply held fears that there is a slippery slope at play when it comes to EVE monetization, and what was treated before as something that CCP should never do (for example, directly selling skill points to players) is eventually accepted. The CSM and CCP have had a constant stream of communication on these issues over the years. As group of current and former CSM members, many having served on multiple CSMs so far, we can say from personal experience that every single one has seen in-depth, constant discussions between the CSM and CCP on these issues, and we've brought them up with every single person in senior leadership from the CEO on down."
CCP Games has been selling packs targeted at new players for years that come equipped with fitted ships, though the CSM admits it's less an issue due to the fact that the New Player Experience also gives the same style ship as a reward for completing the tutorial. However, the signed members of the open letter call the latest example the "most egregious" crossing of the monetization line.
Selling fitted ships and skills directly by CCP is a sticking point for many players, as many feel it could disrupt the economy and industry within New Eden. The open letter goes into these points and more, pointing out that while they understand new players could also simply by the PLEX needed to get this same package (which, the $24.99 Prospector Pack also comes with PLEX), it would at least force the new player to interact with the game and the player economy in a meaningful way.
A major concern as a result of this is that players, especially the CSM which many EVE pilots look to for advice, feel they cannot "in good faith" tell players that this is where it will end.
"We cannot, in good faith, tell any player concerned with this sale that this is as far as the line goes, because we have seen, twice now, CCP willingly cross a line that we were confident was strictly off-limits. The concerns that players have that CCP will begin selling cruiser, battleship, carrier, dread and even supercarrier and titan fitted ships for cash - concerns some of us would have said were unfounded just yesterday - are legitimate now, and should be listened to."
While open letters to developers aren't anything new, especially in the MMO-space, what gives this one a bit more weight is down to the names signed on the letter itself. The Council of Stellar Management is a player-elected council that works as a liaison between CCP and the players the council represents. Many of the players listed are high-profile EVE pilots who have earned the trust of their pilot comrades.
The letter also warns that this type of sale "has the potential to wipe out" the trust CCP rebuilt after reconsidering the compression mechanic floated late last year.
You can check out the full open letter on Reddit. CCP is angling for new players, with the current Prospector Pack going for sale at the same time the new mining tutorial was added to the New Player Experience, making it easier to learn how to earn money in EVE.
We've reached out to CCP Games for comment on the open letter and will update this story should the studio provide one.