On April 11, CCP released a ‘news’ article entitled ‘Blockchain and EVE Online’. In the article—with a ‘CCP Hellmar’ byline—CCP has finally attempted to address some of their customers’ concerns about many of the statements CEO Hilmar Pétursson has made over the last few years, as well as some of the marketing decisions that have come down from the top levels of CCP. But what does the article really say about those concerns? For that matter, what are the concerns CCP’s customers have?
Concerns Part I: Down the Road
Over the last few years, we have heard a number of things from CCP about blockchain, sure, and even cryptocurrency. The big issues in terms of the future monetization, though, have been something else. CCP has pushed toward NFTs and ‘Play to Earn’.
Sometimes, these statements have come from CCP executives during interviews. Sometimes, they come from community managers trying to quell unrest. But they’ve also come from CCP reps during parent-company Pearl Abyss’s quarterly investor calls.
Those statements on the investor calls are the statements that should ring loudest. CCP’s statements to their customers, after all, are always a bit tinged with ‘what can we say to keep them quiet?’ They bank on our willingness to give in to sunk-cost fallacies, and our sentimental investment in the game we love and spend so much time in.
Investors, on the other hand, have no sentimental attachment to CCP’s products. They’re all about the bottom line, and if CCP and Pearl Abyss don’t deliver, they don’t get the lucre. And in those calls, CCP’s been very bullish on EVE’s suitability for play-to-earn.
Concerns Part II: Here and Now
Customers have also been concerned about CCP’s direct monetization strategies. We have seen numerous broken promises in terms of precisely what in-game resources they sell for real-world money. First, CCP promised they would never, ever sell raw SP. But they do, and no matter how much their customers have complained, CCP has made it very clear they have no intention of actually keeping that promise.
They also promised they wouldn’t sell fitted ships. And now they’ve broken that promise too, with the Retriever pack. That particular one brought such an uproar that the CSM released an open, public letter to raise the alarm, and the wider customer base reacted with an immediate, extremely vocal backlash. It even included an organized stream campaign against CCP’s move.
In response, CCP spent a week in stony silence, not even acknowledging the outcry and anger from their paying customers. Eventually, CCP did pull that mining pack from their store, and sent CCP Swift out as their sacrificial lamb to make a forum post about the issue. Was there a news post, though? Of course not.
Worse, Swift’s post made it clear that even though CCP was pulling down that specific Prospector’s Pack, they fully intended to sell fitted ships in the future. They were just going to make sure the ships were sourced from players.
Which sounds a lot like opening the door to Play-to-Earn.
So What’d They Say Now?
Unsurprisingly, this article by CCP Hellmar doesn’t address any of that—though it certainly wants you to think it does. Instead, the entire body of substantive content that addresses customers’ concerns? Four sentences, comprising two paragraphs:
On that note, we have no plans to add blockchain technology into EVE Online’s global server Tranquility for the foreseeable future. For the coming years, development for Tranquility will focus on building exciting new opportunities on top of the robust foundation that has been laid over the past two decades.
While we remain intrigued by the technology, for us, NFT stands for “Not for Tranquility”. Overall, the EVE IP will continue to push the boundaries of digital economies and virtual worlds – and we will continue to explore that outside of TQ.-CCP Hellmar
Read it carefully. Read it more than once if you have to.
What’s It Mean?
Understand this: CCP was never going to add NFTs to Tranquility. The core conceit of NFTs is that you get to ‘own’ something. But TQ is CCP’s property. Everything on it is CCP’s property. Everything about everything on it is part of CCP’s intellectual property. Your character? They own it. The story you came up with about who your character is, and put in your bio? They own it, as per Part 10C of the EULA. That’s pretty standard in MMOs, too.
So no, they were never going to allow anyone but them to own anything on their server. Instead, they were going to do what they’ve already done: make NFTs about TQ, but not in TQ. Remember the AT NFTs? Those weren’t made in or on the Tranquility server. And nothing in this statement says they won’t do exactly that kind of thing again.
Nor were they ever going to make it possible to use cryptocurrency on Tranquility. After all, customers don’t spend real-world money on TQ. No no, you use that on a different system, and then they give you something in return for use on TQ. And nothing here says blockchain technology on another system won’t allow crypto-purchases that add items to TQ.
Does that mean Hilmar’s announcing Bitcoin titan sales in the EVE store at FanFest? Probably not… but at the very least, this ‘news’ post hasn’t ruled it out.
Finally, nothing in this statement addresses any of the issues about selling fitted ships, or pushing play-to-earn in EVE. So as of now, they’re still committed to selling those fitted ships, and making sure you put in the work to make the ships that CCP will sell for real coin.
Put it all together, and what do you have? Absolutely nothing. Seriously, this whole ‘news’ post is a great big nothingburger. It’s a bunch of pablum, clearly intended to make people feel like they’re being listened to, while actually addressing precisely none of their concerns. What we’re left with from CCP is a commitment to try to squeeze not just every last dollar out of their customers, but to sell their customers’ labors to someone else, and a little bit of fluff about not doing a thing that realistically, they were never going to do anyway.
All of which comes form CCP Hellmar, the guy whose most famous bit of writing among long-term EVE players was also all about monetization. Greed, it seems, is still good in Iceland. Back in the days of the $70 cosmetic monocle, CCP also mostly focused on getting every penny from their customers, after all.
Don’t get me wrong about this latest ‘news’ item. It’s not a lie… but it is a con. And in my opinion, the reason is fairly obvious. Hilmar even gives it away, after a fashion, with his closing paragraph: It’s about Fanfest. On April 11, less than a month from the event, Eventbrite still has Early Bird tickets available, and the full price tickets haven’t started selling yet.
Now, maybe, just maybe, CCP intends the ‘full price’ tickets to be the ones you buy in the last week, days, or hours before Fanfest. Hell, maybe they’ll be expecting people to walk up to the doors of the event with $300 in their hands, who the hell knows? But personally, and obviously I have no way to audit this, but between the Early Bird tickets still being up, and the sheer number of people who I know have gone in the past, but won’t be attending this year… I don’t think they’ve sold a lot.
I think they’re worried. If their sales are as bad as I suspect… maybe they should be.
Maybe, instead of trying to keep the cash cows mooing happily in their stalls, waiting to be milked, they should try actually listening to their customers’ concerns.
After all, getting our money isn’t a God-given right.