On Wednesday, March 9, members of the Council of Stellar Management published an open letter regarding CCP’s monetisation strategy. This is the first time in a number of years that the CSM has published a public, collaborative condemnation of CCP’s strategies, having typically favoured more direct interaction with developers. The letter, posted by Brisc Rubal and available on the EVE-O forums here, will be printed in full at the end of this article. First, however, some context, and the clear position of Imperium News’ editorial staff on this topic.
On March 9, CCP released a devblog called “Prospectors Path”. This devblog contains a number of news items surrounding the most recent EVE Online patch, including an expansion of the New Player Experience (NPE), the long-anticipated changes to the compression of mining products, and also a new mining event, which runs until March 16. The devblog also announced a couple of new real-money item packs for the EVE Store (which we will not be linking here), all themed around the mining event and patch. One of these packs was not like the others.
The ‘Prospector Pack’ is positioned as “the perfect starter kit for any prospective mining tycoon”, and is pretty blatantly designed for new players. It contains a number of fairly standard pack items, such as 30 days of Omega subscription and 100 PLEX, but also a couple of very non-standard real-money items, such as a ‘fully-fitted’ Retriever mining barge and “tokens to redeem for Skill Points and ship insurance”.
This is, quite frankly, appalling. CCP have stepped over the latest in a long series of lines that started back in February 2015 with the introduction of Skill Extractors Injectors. CCP are now selling ships, for use in EVE Online, for cash. If you have £19.99 GBP, you can get a month of game subscription and a shiny new ship.
Here at INN, we are glad to see CSM members take a stand against such a horrendous shift in CCP’s monetisation strategy. We have not supported CCP as they have traveled this monetisation path, and we continue to believe that a player-driven economy in EVE Online is, as noted by the CSM, sacrosanct. The undercutting of the EVE Online community by selling items that are producible in-game for real money should not be tolerated, should never have been tolerated, and shows a distinct lack of understanding of their own game by CCP.
We are no longer at the thin end of the wedge. We haven’t been anywhere close to the thin end in a number of years. But we are now officially standing on the precipice, and CCP are driving a monetisation train right at what is left of EVE Online’s integrity. CCP needs to back the fuck off this strategy, right now, if not sooner.
The CSM’s Open Letter
EVE Online is 19 years old, and throughout those 19 years, a few things have been sacrosanct. Things like actual loss, player agency, the ability of the players to write their own stories, the player driven economy, and the age old “never fly what you can’t afford to lose” have been fundamental to creating the backbone of what this game is and has been.
One issue that has been a perennial player concern is that of monetization. As EVE transitioned from a subscription-based game to free-to-play, and with the introduction of cosmetics and skill extractors, players have focused heavily on how CCP monetizes EVE. From the 2010 “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.
The one line we have always said should never be crossed is the selling of fitted ships. This has been consistent. It has been long-held, and passionately held, by most core players. None of us have talked with any of our fellow CSM members who believed that selling fitted ships was an acceptable means of monetizing the game. Any sale like this would have a negative impact on the in-game economy, for a variety of reasons, but most importantly because it would both set the in-game price for ships (as a function of the real-life cost of the sale, as we see with SKINs) and because it would edge out producers by introducing “free” ships that did not require in-game time and materials to produce.
CCP has been selling a new player “destroyer” pack in some form for many years now (with the newest incarnation coming out in June 2021), and despite repeated statements of concern from the CSM, you continue to sell this today. Many players are unaware of this, because it’s targeted at new players, and it’s also less egregious because new players receive free, fitted destroyers as part of the rewards for engaging in the New Player Experience (NPE).
Today, you announced a $25 sale that includes a fully fitted mining barge. While this is not the first time that the bright line against the selling of fitted ships has been crossed, it is certainly the most egregious example of it.
Let me be clear – we do not support this sale, we cannot speak for all of our colleagues but we have not yet spoken with a single existing player who supports this sale, and we think it represents a serious misjudgment on the part of senior CCP leadership that the player base would accept such a sale.
We are aware of the arguments that can be made in favor of this sale. That this is marketed to new players is obvious, given the addition of all the skills needed to fly the ship, and the rest that is included with this pack. That does not make it acceptable. If CCP wants new players to have an easier transition into the mining business, making this ship the final reward for completing the new mining NPE would be the better option, even though that also is fraught with potential impacts to the in-game economy that should be reviewed. And yes, while it is possible for a new player to purchase via plex all of these items if he or she chooses to do so, that at least requires them to exchange real money for isk in the game, and go through all the usual steps any player needs to train, fit out, and use a ship – all skills that new players need to have and should have reinforced.
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.
This week we saw the introduction of a patch that represented a major step forward in rebuilding trust between the players and CCP after more than a year’s worth of changes to the game that have been deeply unpopular. This type of sale, especially sprung without consultation with the CSM, has the potential to wipe out all of that progress – if it already hasn’t.
We urge you to listen to player sentiment and pull this sale immediately, and commit publicly to acknowledging that the monetization line of selling fitted ships – or, frankly, any object in the game that is designed to be created by players (through ratting, industry or some other in-game action) as a part of the in-game economy – be off-limits for future monetization.
TL;DR – Please stop this sale and don’t do it again.
Brisc Rubal, CSM 13, 15, 16
Innominate, CSM 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
Mike Azariah, CSM 8, 9, 10, 15, 16
Merkelchen, CSM 13, 14, 15, 16
Gobbins, CSM 14, 15, 16
Kenneth Feld, CSM 15, 16
iBeast, CSM 16
Arsia Elkin, CSM 16
Steve Ronuken, CSM 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Sort Dragon, CSM 8, 10, 12, 13, 14
Jin’taan, CSM 11, 12, 13
TheJudge, CSM 11, 12, 13
Maria Taylor, CSM 15
Phantomite, CSM 15
Torvald Uruz, CSM 15
Exookiz, CSM 14
Sullen Decimus, CSM 12
Xenuria, CSM 11
Chance Ravinne, CSM 10
Corbexx, CSM 9, 10
Mangala Solaris, CSM 8, 9
Chitsa Jason, CSM 8
Ripard Teg, CSM 8
Seleene / CCP Abathur, CSM 6, 7
T’Amber, CSM 4, 5
Alekseyev Karrde, CSM 4, 7