Header Art by Major Sniper
By now, most readers are probably familiar with the Prospector Pack fiasco of this past week-and-change. Many of CCP’s customers are celebrating the removal of the pack. Multiple members of the CSM have expressed a sense of relief that CCP finally listened. Except the people in charge at CCP didn’t listen. Not only did they turn a deaf ear, they waited nine days to send out CCP Swift to issue a statement any competent PR flack would have run screaming for the hills at being handed. The statement was, by turns, dishonest, dismissive, insulting, and even downright alarming. Because buried in among the half-truths and careful manipulation of appearances, CCP told us that Play To Earn is coming to EVE. The only question is whether or not the people Playing will get a slice of the Earning.
And either way, it’s shit.
“Economic impact and the integrity of the player economy are a top priority. We have limited this pack to one per account and are closely monitoring its effect on the player market. One of the topics for Fanfest is a new project that we’re in the middle of developing, that will transform these and any future packs – a paradigm where packs of this type will be supplied by players, ensuring that any ship we offer to new players through sales, will have origins from actual player work in New Eden: Made for new players, by veterans. This feature will also not only supply each ship from the player base but allow the community to influence which ships will be put in these packs.-CCP Swift
In other words, CCP plans to keep on selling fitted ships. But now, those fitted ships will come from the in-game labors of CCP’s existing customers. So that’s good, right? That means the packs won’t infringe on the in-game economy, because what’s being sold will come from the in-game economy. And I agree, in that one regard, it is definitely an improvement over simply conjuring fitted ships out of the aether to dump into someone’s redeem queue.
The problem comes into focus when you look at what that really means, though: Someone out there in the real world will be paying for the labor you performed in-game. There are, at that point, only two possible scenarios: Either you will get a cut of that real-world money, or you won’t.
Case 1: You Get A Cut
There are a lot of things I could say about this. I could highlight how the ‘Play2Earn’ concept only barely worked on Second Life, which was built to support it. Or rant about how the modern iteration is just corporate buzzword bingo to try to scam investors out of holding or buying shares for just a little more time. Yeah, there are P2E true believers out there, but there are also people who think NFTs are a real, valuable thing. To quote Francis Ottoman on NFTs, “You sell an idiot nothing and give him bad art as a receipt.”
Pay to Earn is just as much a pile of Ponzi vaporware. But to the extent that it’s not, here in the MMO community—hell, online gaming in general—we’ve already got a term for the process of licensees generating real-world income by performing tasks in-game.
And that’s all that P2E, in it’s most benevolent form, is: it’s RMT where the company takes a cut, so they don’t bitch. And I think we all know that once that camel’s got its nose under the tent, the hump ain’t far behind. After all, if CCP can benefit from selling the labor of one group of customers to another, then why shouldn’t they widen the scope? Where’s the grounds to object to say… selling SP packs as long as the injectors come from the skill farms people pay to maintain? Maybe give those customers a little kickback, too, to make sure they feel like they’ve got buy-in.
Hell, the SP packs would be especially brilliant: Omega generates real-world $$ for CCP, either from the account holder, or from the guy they buy their PLEX from. Multi-Character Training generates $$, too, again, immediately or indirectly. And wouldn’t you know, Skill Extractors also generate $$ for CCP. Why, if they started offering SP packs from injectors made by their customers, they might drive demand to that kind of in-game activity, and quadruple-dip on the monetization.
But that’s best-case, after all. Just officially-sanctioned RMT with company buy-in, so cry Havoc! and let slip the bots of play-to-earn.
Case 2: You Don’t Get A Cut
CCP has, for almost two decades, made money off of us. Their marketing campaigns have consistently been about what we do. Their big splashy press releases are all about our achievements: Largest fights, most destructive wars, blah blah blah. But that’s all indirect, and we do the stuff we do with no intention of ‘let’s fuel CCP’s free PR machine by doing something the gaming news will cover!’ Vily doesn’t send his coalition’s supers into a buzzsaw thinking ‘hey, you know, I bet Hilmar’ll love this!’
With this, though—if there’s no RMT element—CCP will be openly telling us ‘you will invest time and effort in a task that other people will make money from, and you will do it for free’.
Which, y’know, could be seen as frikkin’ slavery. But we’re here voluntarily, so let’s just call it ‘exploitation’. Especially since not only would we not be getting paid for doing work in CCP’s hardware and software framework that they explicitly intend to repackage for sale to someone else, in a lot of cases… we’d be paying them for the chance to do it!
I gotta say, if I could get someone else to pay me to do my job for me, and let me still collect my normal pay for that job? Yeah, I can totally see why CCP’s so reluctant to let this idea go. Can’t you?
Language, Messaging, and Trust
As an aside, I chose my language very carefully in this piece when referring to the people who—either via a limited ‘Alpha’ license or by paying for an ‘Omega’ license—license access to CCP’s servers. That’s what we do, after all. At no point do we own any of it. We license access to manipulate CCP’s data, within CCP’s IP, in CCP’s proprietary software, running on CCP’s hardware. To reflect that, I’ve used ‘customers’, or ‘licensees’ in this.
I very intentionally avoided the term ‘players’. Because CCP has a problem with framing that appears to come from the ‘P’-word. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they only think of us as ‘players’. To them, we are people playing a game—friends of theirs engaging in a frivolous activity, getting together to have a good time and party—and if there’s a bit of a rough spot, hey, we’re all pals, it’s just a game, right?
Wrong. We’re not their pals, we’re their customers. We’re the people paying them money to license access to a service from them. And for a long time now, it’s a service they’ve repeatedly screwed up. They’ve made the idea of paying to license access to their service less and less attractive, and it’s high time they stopped treating their customers as fun and games frivolity, and started recognizing that if they want our money, they’d damned well better earn it.
Money Ain’t All They Need To Earn
They also need to earn our trust. For years now, we have been told that we just have to trust them on all this. On the economy. On ship balance. On structures. On monetization. And every time they tell us that, we respond the same way: Trust is earned, and you haven’t earned.
Once upon a time, we did trust CCP. But then they wasted that trust. They abused it and betrayed it, by insisting over and over that player concerns were important to them, and over and over completely failing to listen. Time and again, they have engaged in shockingly naked cash grabs while standing right in front of us and telling us to our faces that their only concern was making the best game they could. They spent years maintaining that they understood the game far better than we did, despite our predictions consistently being borne out, and their intentions consistently going horribly awry.
They betrayed our trust. They squandered our trust. And then they spent years telling us ‘hey, trust us’. And finally, in just the last few months, it almost started to look like they really were working to rebuild that trust.
Two Steps Forward, Four Leaps Back
They announced mining changes, concerns were raised, and they revised those changes. Sure, they kept the whole stupid-ass ‘waste’ mechanic (because apparently, nobody at CCP understands that when you frame your mechanic in a negative way—potential resources lost from the rock—people have a negative reaction. SHOCKING!), but in general, the mining changes have worked well, and were considered a step in the right direction: Announcement, concerns, revision. Good stuff.
Then we got the compression changes, and more of that good stuff: they announced it would work one way, and got told ‘oh my god, this is terrible, did you not think this through at all? Look at what this would mean’ and stepped back to re-evaluate things. It was a lesson, and it looked like they were learning it.
Then this crap happened. I don’t mean the pack itself. That could easily be fixed. Let’s say the CSM sends their open letter a week and a half ago, and CCP Swift responds the same day with ‘Guys, I hear you. I’m gonna be talking to folks about this to make sure they hear you, too’.
Immediately, you’d see people start to uncoil from the RARRRR. Maybe Swift can’t do anything about it, but their concerns are being listened to and taken to the Powers That Be. Maybe a reddit statement or tweet from one of the devs, a little later, saying ‘This was something Marketing had control over, we understand why you guys aren’t happy, we’re gonna try to avoid this in the future, but due to contractual stuff with Steam, it’s gotta run its course’. BAM, situation’s mostly defused. People love to blame marketing guys for crap. It’s like blaming lawyers, but even more fun, because most people believe the marketing guys are even more dishonest than the lawyers.
But That’s Not What Happened
Instead, we get stonewalled. Absolute silence. When EVE Partners like Redline XIII take to Twitch to protest—something that could have served as a sort of release valve to let people vent—CCP threatens them. And yeah, sorry, Convict, but when you tell people ‘you have until Midnight to fall into line or we may take action’, that’s a threat. And when you go and start publicly whining about how people need to understand that it was their choice to stop or not, you didn’t force them to, you can just fuck right the hell off with that dishonest, chickenshit horsecrap.
And then, almost 10 days after the original post raising concerns (and weeks after the CSM began raising them quietly to CCP), we get this insulting bullshit post from Swift. They pulled the pack? Really? The pack that was part of an event that had ended? That pack?
Awesome. They got all the money they were gonna get from the pack, and ‘pulled’ it right when they were planning to, anyway. Thanks guys. Really. Not for pulling the pack, because obviously, you didn’t. No, thanks for demonstrating just how fucking stupid you think we are, and how little respect you have for your customers.
And that’s before you tell us you want to turn us into another revenue stream in a virtual sweatshop.
Fuck it. Burn it all down. It’s what you’ve been doing for years, you might as well go ahead and get out the accelerants.