Header Art by Major Sniper
Be warned, dear reader, that I am writing this in the heat of the moment . My cynicism has taken the helm, and we are at full throttle.
Raise the Rates, Full Speed Ahead
Reddit, Discord, and all EVE related communication channels are on fire. Yesterday, April 22, CCP announced a series of rate changes to their subscription and PLEX billing plans. When raising rates by a modest amount, its not unexpected to see a modest amount of push back. Who wants to pay more after all?
Unfortunately, this is not a modest amount of change, and this has garnered a commensurate amount of (ahem) feedback.
For an initial overview (and response) of the actual changes, please see the breaking coverage by Bardghost. For the overly simplified and reactionary opinion, though. CCP has taken an already hard message and made it harder. Their approach appears to say F*£% the players, F#%* your opinion, and F^&£ your good will too – it has no value to us.
Look, this messaging was going to be tough to sell. I get it. I’m just spitballing here, but given the way things have been going, maybe some kid gloves (or better, some actual PR tact) is in order. Read the damn room.
Investors, Employees, and Customers
My first reaction is that CCP has forgotten a very important fact about the nature of their business. We, the players, are not their employees. We are not their investors. We are “merely” their customers. So while raising costs can be somewhat expected over time, they have to remember that they are trying to sell us a service. A recurring, regular, subscription, service.
In a perfect system [I know there isn’t one, but lets pretend], there is a healthy balance between providing value to investors, compensating employees to keep producing content, and feeding content/features to get customers to keep buying your products. In such a system, raising rates needs to be framed in terms of a cost/benefit ratio for your customers, in order to maintain profitability.
For example, say I own a microbrewery, and my production costs have doubled. To raise prices, I need to make sure that I am doing so in a way so that I can stay profitable while producing my beer, but also stay competitive within the market. Failure to do the first will force me out of business eventually. Failure to do the second will force me out of the market just as fast as people can avoid buying my beer.
Another way to balance that increase in price is to frame it as a value proposition; an example would be “my craft beer is so good that it is worth buying at any price”. This is the avenue I would push CCP towards, if it were up to me. I forestall the rate increase for the rest of the year. Then spend the remaining 8 months of this year spilling out content of all kinds. New anoms, new beacons, new everything. Missions that use the reactive mechanics from the diamond rats and crab traps. All of the things.
They would need to focus on producing lots of good things and good will, and minimising anything negative. Then, tell your customers, “Look, we want to keep supporting you and improving the game. We want to buy new tech and create new ships and provide exciting ways to crash them. To do that, we need you to invest in CCP by way of your subscriptions.”
After seeing half a year of producing results, I would be inclined to believe CCP and really consider the value.
What CCP Chose Instead
Instead of that messaging, we got, well ,the devblog you saw. We saw another round of public mass unsubs on a Friday afternoon. We got CCP losing control of their new Discord server as players revolt.
“It’s like paying for an escort, but one day she shows up. Then she charges you more, and also gives you an STD”Colton McCune, Karmafleet
I’m pretty grumpy about this. I was planning to have a nice, calm day working on art. Instead I am here writing angry posts on Reddit, Discord, and INN. This didn’t need to happen. Quite literally, a business school intern could have told you this was a very bad idea.
But What About Inflation?
Ok fine, lets talk about the inflation element. Several shills on r/Eve have been trying to defend CCP with the inflation cry.
‘Inflation is absolutely happening. As we look at this, we can be generous and give CCP the benefit of 10% inflation and consumer price indexing rises. HECK, we could be super unreasonably generous, and double that 10%. That 20% is still less than the 33% hike on rates from the post.
But Froggy, what about all the inflation since 2004? What about it!? Sure I can maybe see a sliver of a (disingenuous) argument for CCP deciding now to adjust for all that lost inflation. But I would counter the argument with depreciation of their product. We must not forget, this is a nineteen-year-old MMO. Every other game on a major platform (including VR) within the EVE IP is either in maintenance mode, or just plain dead.
Can anyone honestly agree that EVE Online is worth a $20/account investment every month? If CCP wants to make that case, I am open to it, but I am very skeptical.
Where in the heck is that money going then? Is that going to paying electricity and wages? Sure, absolutely, some of it is. That portion could be justified. But I would be interested to see the numbers on how much their HR costs account for the budget – (ahem, C-Suite, that includes you)…
Is the money going to pay new developers for EVE Online? And I don’t mean developers trying to spin up the fourth, fifth, sixth iteration of a Fortnite-esque shooter within the EVE IP…
Not so far as I can tell. Its been rearranging numbers on the Titanic’s spreadsheet so far this year. In point of fact, the only ‘new gameplay’ we’ve seen this year has been the mining and compression changes. Unfortunately, we all know how Quality Assurance went on those. Missing books, blueprints, and broken mechanics are just the tip of the iceberg.
But is the money going to meet their investor’s earning expectations? (Cynicism Warning!)
Just suppose that CCP as a company, and Hilmar personally, have been talking about NFTs and Cryptoscams (they have, nonstop, for years). Imagine that these same people set unreasonable expectations for investment in proverbial tulips (which they did).
Now, the pressure is on to deliver. But the players have shunned NFT ponzi-schemes, and rebuffed all the Cryptobros. What ever shall CCP do? Raise rates and shrink costs immediately to meet investor demands, obviously.
Watch closely for the MMO death-spiral of reduced players (have you seen the player count?) that leads to less content. This is followed by fewer players, and less income, and fewer players, until the IP is sold off to a holding company with literally nothing but maintenance in mind.
For the first time, I am seriously considering unsubscribing. Not that I am a big player in things – I only manage three omega accounts – and next to the people claiming to unsub ten or more this morning on Reddit and Discord, I am just a small drop in the bucket. But I am upset. I am worried that this IP that I really love is about to be scrapped and sold for parts.
I want CCP to have a healthy game. A game that makes money, and that money is used for improving that game.
I implore CCP to please stop trying to build other games. You have tried several times, and each time it has driven existing game titles into the ground.
I also want CCP’s investors to make return on their investment. To fund development, capital must be managed and acquired. PA has an interest in keeping EVE Online going, and their health and wellbeing must be accounted for. However, the goals and expectations need to be balanced with the market audience. This is not a Korean MMO. You can’t sell the grind that way to EVE players.
Lastly, I want healthy game play! I want people who spend time in space to be getting space rich. I want people who care nothing for money but love the hunt, the trap, the ambushing of other players. I want player-driven wars that are easy to finance, both between the megalithic super-organizations that drive publicity, but also between the hundred-player corporations who have to budget alliance maintenance costs, never mind their structure investments, but are nevertheless led by their charismatic space-leaders!
However, I fear CCP, alongside many other game companies, have put their carts before the proverbial horses.
To put it another way; keep the game running by paying developers and growing their skills. Use those developers to make a better product that your customers want. Next, improve customer counts by having the best damn spaceship game around. This builds revenue both in the short and long term, which earns money for investors. These price changes are an amber flag to most of EVE Online’s current players, and a red flag to some.
Frankly, CCP, if you don’t bolster your existing customer base, and soon, while also looking to help your new customers… You will die.