Failure to Launch
Over the past few months, I have been racking my brain trying to write this article regarding demographics and how to target a specific genre of gamers or interest people that might play EVE Online. More importantly, what motivates these people to seek out a game like it. My motivation and drive to seek out these answers has everything to do with what I might consider a “Failure to launch” scenario after the Ascension release that solely relied on word of mouth, social media, and poorly worded articles written by magazines and blogs. With a release this ground-breaking, I couldn’t believe that CCP would have decided to not buy out advertisement anywhere on any medium besides the those that pop up from web search analytics. To make matters more confusing, there was a tweet from one of the developers that generally stated they didn’t want to advertise Ascension or EVE until they “worked out all the bugs” (for the life of me I can’t find this tweet or recall which dev said it). Sounds like a master plan.
So how do people find out about EVE online then if it isn’t advertised like every other successful and popular game? For me, I simply found a link to it as a result of searching for an MMO that I might like to play that was space based. At this time, Star Trek Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic weren’t out yet, and I was getting somewhat tired of Guild Wars or waiting for the promise of GW2. It wasn’t a colorful ad or cleverly placed trailer that led me to EVE, rather it was me doing a Google search based on keywords and nothing else. I had never heard of the game before finding it in the search results, nor had I ever seen any type of advertisement for it. From what I could tell in 2006, it was a brand new game that just came out and hadn’t received any traction at that point.
Real People… but not the same
Asking around on Twitter, the EVE-O forums, Discord servers, and in-game I was able to gather responses from a few people to help me try to help me better answer the question of how CCP could market to and target a demographic. Coincidentally enough, one player that saw my question on the forums admitted that he found this game the same way I did. A search based on certain criteria. Khergit Deserters from Crom’s Angels [-CROM] who typically frequents planted tank aquarium forums, reads Guitar World magazine and The Economist and is a big sports fan would never have seen an ad for EVE. His Google search wasn’t even geared towards a space-based game, but instead fulfilled his requirements for a sandbox game that was competitive and social, while all on a persistent server.
Morgan Starkiller is an EVE-Radio DJ and member of The Mjolnir Bloc who is also openly transgender and a part of the EVE LGBT community in and out-of-game. A candidate for CSM XII, Morgan said that she only heard about the universe of New Eden after a friend introduced her to Dust 514. A slowly decaying first person shooter on an outdated console was the drive behind getting into EVE for Morgan. Conversely, we have David Kraznayevsky from Stay Frosty. [ST-FR] who is a machinist by trade and a reader or tech and space magazines, never had any interest in anything like sci-fi and found comics and tabletop gaming to be boring. He would rather be out riding motorcycles and shooting guns, but randomly saw a Reddit thread about the Battle of Asakia and was intrigued. His first gig was with a “new group” that was calling themselves Brave Newbies.
Well then, who are these people?
Talking with people or reading bio’s on social media you can clearly see that our player base comes from so many cultures and demographics that it would be almost impossible for CCP to market to any one group. EVE had doctors and actual rocket scientists that work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, grandmothers and housewives, as well as high school students and hard-charging military veterans that have been back and forth to real combat. Not one group remotely stands out as a “target audience” that could guarantee a successful ad campaign.
Many players are still going to argue though that CCP doesn’t need to advertise, and that we need to be a niche game and a special club with a special handshake to get in. Some think that the servers couldn’t handle a mass influx of new players, which might be somewhat true based on the many issues CCP is still having with customer support and player retention after Ascension. There are those however who will agree with me that there could be more that the marketing department of CCP could do to encourage more growth.
What would the game as a whole lose by adding a million new players after seeing a sweet trailer before the start of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? Would the server break if every guest at the San Diego Comic-Con received a special EVE Comic with a fee month long Omega subscription code? Even if it did just crush the hardware in Iceland, that would be an indicator to our community that we need to expand our horizons just a bit more. It’s absolutely sad that the developer-run stream for Star Citizen—a game that is still in Alpha—had nearly 10,000 live viewers on Twitch for their Christmas special. Just a few days before, CCP held their special with just over a thousand live viewers to talk about a game that’s been in actual production stages for over a decade.
This doesn’t sit well with me for many reasons, but first some number crunching. A quick check on #hashtag statistics over at www.ritetag.com shows that #StarCitizen is leading both #EVEOnline and #TweetFleet in usage.
What I do find interesting about this statistics is that the #tweetfleet use and visibility are much higher than #eveonline itself but this is more than likely due to the “meta” followers. Those who are following and in the know are typically using that hashtag more than they are just for the EVE Online hashtag, so it isn’t hard to believe. It just goes to show you how niche the EVE community actually is, but it is still beat out by a game that is still in development.
That funny feeling inside
So on to why this doesn’t sit well with me. For a company who has had a fully operation and public game for over a decade, it’s striking that they continue to rely solely on word of mouth advertising in hopes that they will have a steady growth. As I have discussed in length already, targeted advertising is going to be a veritable nightmare but this does not mean that there shouldn’t be ANY advertising. In my previous article “EVE? Never heard of her”, I had said that when mentioning this game to “gamer” friends, none of them had ever heard of this decade old game. When I asked these same friends about Star Citizen, they all have heard of it and can’t wait for it to come out. Even though technically Robert Space Industries has done about as much self-advertising as CCP has done for EVE, but it’s kind of hard to miss when you are the highest grossing Kick Starter on the face of the planet right now. Everyone is talking about this. Nobody is talking about EVE except EVE players. Face that fact whether you like it or not.
When Star Citizen goes live, and if they take some of those gazillions of dollars that Christ Roberts has pilfered from all those backs to put TV, Movie, and print ads… EVE is going to take a serious hit. CCP may have gotten Katee Sackhoff to voice act for Valkyrie, but when you hear Mark Hamill (you know, Luke Skywalker) as a character in that TV commercial, you are going to take interest immediately. Like I’ve said before: if we want this game to survive past two decades, CCP is going to need to start an advertising and stop letting the 1337 players dictate who they want in their “community”. If something bigger and better comes along and shows even remotely more momentum than what EVE Online currently has going for it, that “community” will find a new home.