EVE? Never heard of her

Eve? Never heard of her

In a world… where nobody has ever heard of EVE Online

Picture if you will, you are getting ready to see this summer’s big Sci-Fi blockbuster with your friends at the local cinema. The lights dim and the trailers start rolling and flying across the screen is a spaceship headed into a huge battle. Suddenly that ship emits a burning bright beacon and dozens upon dozens of giant combat ready space ships warp in from nowhere around this beacon. An assault begins as these mesmerizing but deadly machines slice through space and go head on with an enemy force.
You hear a pilot giving commands, directing his team where to mass their fire, and which enemy to target next. Ships are being torn apart on both sides by salvos of missiles and small fighter craft are weaving around ships to get in on the action. The bass in the theater is pumping, lights are flashing across the screen, and there you are: glued to the action while you throw popcorn in your mouth. Finally, words appear on the silver screen and read “EVE Online. Now free to play.” You think to yourself ‘Wow, I can’t wait to play this new game.’
There are two things you have to realize with this scenario, however. The first being that EVE Online is not a new game, but in fact a game that has been played for more than a decade. You just have never heard of it. Second, you can exhale because this is something (as far as we know) that you will never see. To be honest, I can’t recall ever having seen an advertisement for EVE Online in print or video.
Now before you start auto-raging at me in the comments section about how there are thousands of EVE Online videos on Twitch and YouTube, or how you see EVE banner ads all the time on websites, hear me out. Those videos that you see are, for the most part, player=generated content excepting release trailers, FanFest/EVE Vegas recordings, and The o7 Show. As far as I and other fans can remember or dig up, there hasn’t been much of a presence made by Crowd Control Productions (CCP) except for this 30-second trailer that was played during a commercial break for an episode of Battlestar Galactica back in 2008, “So say we all”. Similarly, all of the website banners that you have seen are directly related to your own internet browsing history and nothing to do with the game developer advertising intentions. After all, what do you need to see ads for? You already play the game.
In regards to that trailer, much was said about it in a forum thread where someone was asking the same questions I’ve been trying to pinpoint as well. One player, TigerXtrm, commented that “I think that commercial should get a prize for least effective advertisement campaign in the history of anything. If that was meant to sell a product I don’t think they could have done a worse job…”. To that, I couldn’t agree more. However, there were many players who share the sentiment in that forum thread and in discussions I’ve had with other players that EVE Online doesn’t need advertisement because our word of mouth is the best method for recruiting new players. To that, I couldn’t disagree more.

Where do these people come from?

Around 2008 when the SyFy channel was displaying this ad spot, you can see a jump in player rates. See the below EVE-Offline.net snapshot

Chart showing peak large jump in 2008

Notice the big jump in players between 2007 and 2008


This jump more than likely was from new eyes seeing the world of New Eden for the first time. A few years later, in 2010 and 2011, as video game streaming started to take off and showing large battles with thousands of players live, player count again spiked. Every EVE blogger and news site was talking about these battles, but more importantly so were major non-gaming news outlets that headlined articles about large scale corporate theft, the announcement of Dust 514, and the famed Monocle-Gate scandal. All of those incidents made real headlines at a time when the story-line was really taking off and new content was coming out in major releases.

In 2012, the community mourned the loss of an influential player, Vile Rat. Known out-of-game as Sean Smith, a US State Department official, killed in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Again, EVE online was in the news, albeit for a tragedy, and there was another spike in the number of active users.

Fast forward to 2014 and the Bloodbath of B-R5RB. It blazed across the typical game news sites as well as business and technology news sites, spurring another spike in player activity. CNN mentioned EVE Online broadcasts, written about by BBC and Wired Magazine, and is a constant for sites like PC Gamer
It almost seems that whenever EVE Online is in the news, there is a player uptick. Call it science or magic, there seems to be some sort of correlation there. Still, the only press that seemed to be circulating about the game was coming from sources other than the developer itself. More importantly, most of the news produced about the game shows players in a negative light like we are all a bunch of thieves and psychopaths.

Saving EVE

The most recent debacle of press and advertising gone wrong is in the release of one of EVE Online’s biggest change in the history of the game. The developers added a free to play model with a lower tiered clone state after 13 years of the game being online. And yet, there was no paid advertising placed in any magazine, newspaper, or television. The current player base—at least the ones who paid attention to the EVE “meta”—were aware of the impending update, but new potential customers had no idea. Worse, however, were the headlines by websites and blogs such as “EVE Online Goes Free-To-Play, Hopes to Salvage Player Base” and “Why free-to-play could save EVE Online”. They insinuated that the game was dying and needed saving by adding the F2P model. Again, besides YouTube videos and blogs on the EVE homepage, there was no real formal advertising campaign to announce this amazing new update that would revolutionize the entirety of the game.
Coupled with the lockout of so many characters during the two-factor authentication requirement roll out and the still buggy “New Player Experience”, the news of going free-to-play got somewhat lost in translation. While there was an immediate influx of perhaps tens of thousands of new players who either never heard of the game or avoided playing because of the monthly subscription, it has since tapered off and is now back to a “normal” concurrent player count. As far as the player base goes, we know nothing more about the future of the game now than we did prior to the Ascension release besides a few minor tweaks and bug fixes here and there. Still CCP and its developers have given no indication that they plan on releasing any type of mainstream advertisements. Not only that, some of the developers have expressed that they have plans to advertise once they work out all of the bugs of the expansion. Wait, what?
I have to say that I do not believe that EVE Online is dying. Far from it in fact: I believe that the game will continue to be online for another decade or more. A game with such a strong cult following will never die. Even if The Mittani himself has to put the servers in the basement of his mansion to keep the game going until 2116 and beyond. It will not die. I do, however, strongly believe that there could and should be a more concerted effort by the people who make this game that we love so dearly to market this game more positively and to a wider audience.
There is no reason that when you tell another gamer you play EVE, they say they never heard of this 13 year old game. It’s time to stop trying to keep this game a secret. Time to stop pretending that we need to keep our world locked up and specifically “niche”. More importantly it’s time to stop thinking we need to be an exclusive “community”. If we want EVE Online to best game in the history of the games, more people need to know about it.

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  • Bill Bones

    According to various CCP sources, they don’t have a problem reaching to new players. Last one, CCP Ghost stating that EVE got 2 million new players in 2015. Then the sad truth about the appalling retention and how half those players where gone in under 2 hours.

    Like it or not, EVE is a niche game. Long-time retention is a completely freak matter. Long term EVE players are the basket cases of nerd gaming. In order to enjoy EVE to the full, a player must enjoy doing what is impossible, illegal or stupid to do in any other MMO. And no matter what you do, less than 1% of the people who try EVE will become one of those long term players.

    EVE is not supposed to be a big game. EVE is not supposed to be a popular game. EVE is not supposed to be a commercially succesful game. EVE is a freak game, and as such, it will never die, even if it’s on a player-run and paid server.

    Yet there is one thing that should be clear: back in 2013, CCP rejected to make EVE a bigger, more popular game. They also dismissed keeping it at the size it had back then, rather decided to focus on a minority of the player base and backburn everybody else. Thus EVE will never be larger than it was in 2011-2013, and certainly it will become a smaller game in the next years. PCU is bound to stabilyze around 15,000 people online, because that’s the amount of people who enjoy the content CCP has been focusing on since 2013.Everybody else has been backburned, dismissed or left to dry on the vine, and thus have left, or are leaving, or will leave.

    Of course, CCP, being the amateurish company it’s always been, still can’t agree to its own decissions. So they struggle to improve retention and the NPE, hoping that a little more people will become basket cases of gaming like CCP’s beloved long term players. The ones with an opinion, ready to voice it through the CSM or at Fanfest or whenever CCP needs to be reassured that they’re doing the right thing by losing 60% of their peak player base… and thus their income… and thus their resources to keep developing the game.

    EVE used to have lofty goals. Now it aspires to being an even freakier version of itself, to become a smaller yet more devoted cult. And that effort is being successful.

    The real question is: are YOU faithful enough to stick through the thin and thinner times coming to EVE?

    January 26, 2017 at 8:05 AM
    • Kael Decadence Bill Bones

      If you have ever been reading my articles and actually listening, and further maybe listening to my podcasts, you would know I’m not going anywhere. I love this game and will never leave. I even said it in THIS article that the game would continue even if it was placed on a player owned server. Did you read that?

      However, I don’t think that this is a “freak” game, or hinkle that it is SO damn special that more people wouldn’t enjoy it if it suddenly became “cool” to play. What is it that you are afraid of? Are you a hisec miner afraid of losing all your precious Veldspar? You need to get over yourself and accept the fact that IF this game is to survive a second decade, we need fresh blood AND a more easily navigatable learning curve.

      We aren’t that special bud.

      January 26, 2017 at 9:30 PM
      • Bill Bones Kael Decadence

        I didn’t meant “you” as in “Kael Decadence” but “you” as in “the players who would stand a chance to become long term players if EVE was going somewhere”.

        EVE doses’t just needs fresh blood. EVE needs to be a good game even if a player never joins other players, never PvPs and never leaves high sec space. Because that is what the majority of players do before they leave, and when they leave they do it for the very good reason that EVE is a steaming piel of manure under those circunstances… for absolutely no good reason.

        January 26, 2017 at 10:08 PM
        • Kael Decadence Bill Bones

          You’re right, a player needs a reason to play. I am not the person who is gonna say what is the right play style at all. I mean if hisec was engaging and had a dynamic feel to it where I felt like I was progressing towards a goal, I would be a hisec dude. It doesn’t matter. As long as the game I am playing feels alive. Unfortunately as it stands, it doesn’t do that for me. Its the other players that keep me going.

          Now, as far as the main point I was trying to make, if more people knew about the game and got interested, the more reason CCP would have to actually develop the STORY of the game. The more reason they would have to actually put forth a product that can be UNDERSTOOD almost immediately without having to sift through hours of video or blogs just to “grasp” core mechanics.

          Fun fact about me. I started my trial in 2006. Didn’t make it even to that 2 hour mark. I didn’t get it. Didn’t make sense how to move and the tutorial…. what tutorial? I came back again in 08 when I got an email about a free trial weekend. Still couldn’t make heads or tails of what the game was or how to even navigate it. Nothing was obvious to me by looking at the screen. Again in 2011, same thing. It wasn’t until I was in Afghanistan in 2013 and I was reading some news about B-R that got me going “Hmmmm, maybe there is something to this game”. So for the rest of the deployment I would read about and watch youtube videos about the game, so that by the time I got home and installed it…. I could actually play.

          What Im getting around to is, it shouldn’t take someone having to do actual damn research on JUST TO PLAY! That’s insane man. No other game is like that. Please give me a justifiable reason why you should have to pre-research “how to” play any video game for months prior to actually installing it and making a character, just to feel comfortable enough to actually try it. Ridiculous right? It shouldn’t be this way.

          Yes I went into a tangent, but I think if I would have known what the game was when I got into it, or if there was some sort of new player guide put out by the developers… I probably would be a lot further along right now.

          January 27, 2017 at 11:27 AM
  • Andy22

    Yeah unfortunately one of the main problems is that EvE is incredible time consuming and can feel like a second job. The payoff might be worth it to some, but i got burned out after 1-3 months of playing on my 3 attempts in the last 6 years. Every-time i noted to myself: “This time i will do something cool and stick with EvE!”

    In theory and from a outside perspective EvE looks cool and intriguing, yet the reality is that EvE in its core game mechanics is not a very good game. The core gameplay is “innovative” and “different” at best and “boring” and “complicated” at worst. So for this reason every time i tried to get some friends to try play EvE with me, they reflect what Ghost has also stated. Most of them left EvE just after 1-2 hours and that was while i was trying everything i could to keep them “happy”. Only one friend managed to “hold out” a full month, but quit after he felt the progress we made was just to slow and “painfully”.

    PS: Yet EvE is the only game that i actively check news sites and blogs from time to time or make posts like this one, even if i do not actively play EvE or plan to return. So EvE seems to have something special :p

    January 26, 2017 at 10:36 AM
    • Bill Bones Andy22

      EVE is a better read than a game. It’s like the military, reading about it is better than doing the real thing.

      January 26, 2017 at 10:10 PM
      • Kael Decadence Bill Bones

        I’m in the Army, so I can atestt to that

        January 27, 2017 at 1:14 AM
    • Kael Decadence Andy22

      I completely understand. It took me years before I actually was able to work up the courage to stick with it. But here I am now, making nerds made every week.

      January 27, 2017 at 2:01 AM
    • amon_schi Andy22

      “So for this reason every time i tried to get some friends to try play EvE with me, they reflect what Ghost has also stated.”
      /me being happy that those casual players who just want to pew pew without using brains and without any creativity left the game…

      January 27, 2017 at 6:05 AM
  • Mynxee

    It’s an interesting question. The answer is probably “potential return on investment isn’t enough.” Advertising in theaters and on television is very costly when you consider the costs of a global campaign…or even a national campaign in the US. Alphas haven’t been around long enough for good conversion data to exist yet…at least, not sufficient to support the risk of potentially hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in expense for advertisement to lure more of them to EVE. No one but especially not a company the size and profitability level of CCP throws that kind of money around (these days, anyway!) unless there is excellent data to support it paying off. I’d rather see them invest such sums in making the game better and bigger anyway. THAT is what will attract new players more surely than money spent on theater/media ads.

    EVE gets a considerable amount of press in the gaming media and in the last couple of years, I’ve seen plenty of coverage that focuses on the game’s appeal to its (rather fanatical) fan base and its change to FTP. And CCP does attend big game cons…no idea how many or which; that would be interesting to see summarized. But the point is, I bet most MMO players have heard of EVE. Expensive media advertising of EVE doesn’t seem to be the way to create a new generation of them that flock to EVE as their first game. As Bill Jones points out, attracting new players does not appear to be the issue; retention does.

    January 26, 2017 at 11:51 AM
    • Kael Decadence Mynxee

      I agree and disagree. Yes, retention IS the most important aspect of it. I get it. But at the same time, how are we supposed to attract those people to begin with? Do you honestly believe that the Ascension release with its lackluster premier actually did enough to boost the number of new players? Heck no. If anything, it did more to bring BACK older players who haven’t wanted to pay for a half assed game. Lets be honest here.

      January 27, 2017 at 2:03 AM
      • Bill Bones Kael Decadence

        My tinfoil theory about Ascension is that CCP needed to makeup EVE’s numbers before the end of year. Even CCP is too competent to launch Ascension as they did if they had free control on the launch date an circunstances.

        Untested and sorely incomplete new NPE, no advertising, unreliable backend code and a list of features totally irrelevant to new players… why not wait to get it right before spending the single use F2P shot in the arm?

        January 27, 2017 at 7:59 AM
        • Kael Decadence Bill Bones

          Yeah, like we discussed last night on High Drag Podcast, CCP kinda blew their load on this. They took a chance and in my opinion, squandered it.

          January 27, 2017 at 11:28 AM
  • alfius

    “Even if The Mittani himself has to put the servers in the basement of his mansion to keep the game going until 2116 and beyond”

    Oh, what’s that? Goon supers eating shit in *system*? Oh no, power cut in Madison, how unfortunate, it’s like that one time in the Fountain war, when this literally happened with Test caps on field.

    January 26, 2017 at 12:53 PM
  • Apostophe Noodle

    I agree it’s a problem. If for no other reason that the narrative gets driven mostly by people that don’t play Eve.
    When I came to Eve in 2011, I knew no one that had ever played this game. Many people in other MMO’s had opinions of Eve (all negative in the extreme) but also probably hadn’t actually played. Before I played Eve for myself, I had not heard one single positive thing about the game. And 100% of what I had heard was from other gamers…CCP itself was silent on why I should play their game.
    This lack of CCP driven narrative is obvious when you read the forums. So many people come to Eve believing it’s a flight simulator. Others see WiS and think we dress up avatars. Even people interested in Eve, willing to try the F2P model don’t know what Eve is about. That is a massive failing on CCP’s part.
    I believe it’s more damaging to crush someone’s expectations than it is to not have them in the game at all. People who just pass on by Eve don’t damage it- but people who come expecting a flight sim leave bitter and vocal when they find out it isn’t. Even if that isn’t really fair to CCP or Eve, it’s the ground truth. CCP does nothing to counter this.
    CCP often reminds me of that lazy room mate that points out the dirty dishes in the sink, but totally expects someone else to deal with it. Problems and fixes are often not even on CCP’s radar until players take to the forums. Often their ‘fix’ is terrible and suggestions on the forums are far better than what the devs come up with. After a minimal NPE established players are expected to teach and retain new players. And as this article points out- players are also expected to do the advertising for Eve as well.

    January 26, 2017 at 1:51 PM
    • Kael Decadence Apostophe Noodle

      Did you actually agree with one of my articles??? Apostrophe I am shocked!! LOL. Thanks. Yeah I was talking to my wife today about this topic. Imagine if you will if you went to the store and there was a plain cardboard box with nothing on it… except the name of the product and a disclaimer that said “Free for 14 Days”, but not even a picture of the product, anything about it, instructions… nothing. Would you take one? Probably not.

      January 27, 2017 at 2:07 AM
  • Lrrp

    I first started playing in 2005 and never knew CCP stood for “Crowd Control Productions”. That aside, the question is “Why did I and so many others become attracted to the game when CCP did not make it easier to learn”? One thing back then, we didn’t have much in the way of alliances…BoB being the dominant one and we didn’t often run into them. Low sec was (and you can feel free to correct me as I haven’t really lived in low sec in a long while) more interesting. Back in 2005/2006 we had small inter corp pacts that would fight the pirates that came to kill us (we lived in Annancale) and had good mission agents there.
    There were no super carriers or Titans back then, and nothing of a lot of the things you see today. So with all of the tweaks and added content, why isn’t EVE much larger? I’d have to agree with the author here that advertising for one is abysmal in light of EVE have so much to offer. And EVE isn’t the only space sim on the markets. The second item would be the endless tweaks that ccp would enact without any thought to consequences. The very first that I remember was the allowing of missions to be scanned to satisfy the pirates in low and null sec. There has been reams of material pointing out how all you have to be is observant and the pirates wouldn’t get you. Well, be as it may, a lot of us were more focused on the mission and got wacked. End results was people leaving low sec (again don’t know how it is now) and the one draw (missions) low sec at the time had, was eliminated. And then, afterwards, there were numerous posts on how to get people out of high sec and into low. Simple answer, CCP took away the one major draw.
    There is a old adage in business, “If you ain’t growing, you’re dying”. Yes we see EVE is still groping along with CCP thinking all they have to do is tweak something else in get the player numbers up. Hasn’t really worked so far. I’m just wondering how much larger the player base would be if some of the money CCP threw away on other failed games, and instead used it for advertising. Just wonder if CCP hired a real business mgr if things might be different. Thanks for reading.

    January 26, 2017 at 2:47 PM
  • Andrew Sturgis

    Advertising is a fickle endeavor. You have to do it, but it can seem like a waste of money that can go to “better” use. CCP has had a not insignificant amount of free advertising by way of media coverage and word-of-mouth. Still, I think trying to hit traditional ad mediums would be good, especially with alphas.

    January 26, 2017 at 3:04 PM
    • If CCP does not understand targeted advertising, then it is just another reason to hire a professional business mgr.

      January 26, 2017 at 5:32 PM
      • Kael Decadence Lrrp

        I mean damn, a full page spread in PC Gamer. Hello!

        January 27, 2017 at 2:09 AM
    • amon_schi Andrew Sturgis

      “You have to do it, but it can seem like a waste of money that can go to “better” use.” – better use like development of World of Darkness or Dust514?

      January 27, 2017 at 6:12 AM
  • Lekly

    I discovered Eve through the news on B-R. I may have heard of it before then in passing, but only a small blip on the radar. Other than the “This is Eve” trailer that I then would play for friends, I’ve never seen any advertisements.

    January 27, 2017 at 2:35 AM
    • Kael Decadence Lekly

      I wouldn’t even call that an advertisement. An advertisement requires people other than the ones already using the product to see it. Otherwise it’s just an entertainment feature.

      January 27, 2017 at 3:08 PM