When Pearl Abyss purchased CCP just over a year ago, one of the concerns voiced by many Eve Online players was that it would become a Pay-To-Win game with tons of micro-transactions. In essence (no, not the region) this would turn Eve away from the Pay-To-Play and later Free-To-Play model into a Freemium game. For anyone who doesn’t already know what these terms mean, I’ll provide some basic definitions and let people nitpick their exactness down in the comments.
Pay-To-Win (P2W) – The ability to purchase in-game items/benefits/content/cosmetics, with out of game money, that give an advantage over other players in the game.
Micro-transactions – A business model where players may purchase in-game item/benefit/content/cosmetics with out of game money. This is often seen as creating a P2W scenario.
Pay-To-Play (P2P) – A game that requires a payment before enabling game-play.
Free-To-Play or Free-To-Start (F2P) – A game that does not require payment before enabling game-play.
Freemium – A combination of the words ‘free’ and ‘premium’ that refers to the use of a F2P model and micro-transactions to purchase premium content.
THE UGLY TRUTH
Now what I have to tell you may be upsetting. It may make some people scream, cry, and call me a liar. This may even drive readers to post lengthy comments explaining how I’m wrong. Eve Online is already a Freemium game.
MINERALS, AND MODS, AND MORE, OH MY!
Okay I said it, so let me explain why since this isn’t exactly a new thing. When CCP introduced PLEX to the game it changed everything. Players could now use real world money to purchase an in-game item and exchange it for the in-game currency, ISK. This in turn allowed those players to use that ISK to buy whatever they wanted; ships, mods, minerals, etc., thus using out of game money to purchase in-game items.
Now as you take a breath in preparation to claim, “but skill points were still strictly time based, and anyone could purchase those same items,” I’ll explain how that wasn’t really the case. Those same players could also use a combination of PLEX and ISK to purchase characters that other people had trained, effectively getting a pilot that could do whatever they wanted on day one. This was even further eroded by the introduction of skill extractors and injectors which allow skill points to be traded even easier. More skill points means more skills trained which provides increased benefits (does anyone even still use the buy character function anymore?)
Okay, so items and skill points can be purchased with out of game money, but there aren’t any advantages that can only be purchased. In comes the introduction of alpha and omega states which changed the model away from P2P to F2P. Now instead of a trial, (yeah I guess you could play before paying, but only for two weeks) there is an option to buy benefits (Omega) that give you an advantage over players who don’t (Alpha). If you don’t know already, only Omega players can fly certain ships, use specific skills, and all of the other things that Alphas can only sample. The one loophole is that players can buy PLEX with ISK and then use that PLEX to upgrade. But basically people are using out-of-game money to have access to more content.
This is probably the simplest part of the whole argument. Various SKINS change the color of ships but have no impact on the game-play itself. (I don’t count trying to create TiDi by massive numbers of people re-skinning in space, though I think it’d be kind of awesome to see it tried.) While some SKINS are dropped in events, there are others that can only be purchased with PLEX. So, once again, out of game money is used to purchase in-game cosmetic upgrades.
Well, so all of this hits a small speed bump by a minor technicality. I’m talking about the fact that players can buy PLEX with in-game currency. For some people this will be the wrecking ball that destroys the whole argument out of hand, but let me try to convince you otherwise. Outside of a very limited number of events, PLEX, I’m talking about newly created PLEX, can only be purchased with out of game money. Just because you personally didn’t do so, someone did. The transaction happened. It has been happening for years. Pearl Abyss doesn’t need to turn Eve Online into a pay-to-win game. It already is one.