Monday, 15 February 2016

Snakes and Ladders

The relationship you have with any online game is unique to yourself. You pay for a service and in return you receive an experience that is hopefully engaging. The manner in which it engages you down to your own individual peculiarities. When a game hits the spot the experience can become passionate. Something to fight for. And when, as they always do, a game starts to deviate away from that spot it can be similarly emotional. You have devoted time and perhaps money to a partner. You may even have a sense of entitlement because you have been loyal afterall. But in the cold light of day, this is to misread the relationship. The game company values your custom if it has any business guile. But not to the extent that it depends on you. You are at the end of the day just another data point on their spreadsheet. They would love to keep you on board but devoting time and energy to special snowflake customers is not necessarily best investment of time and resource. Making and selling games is a business not a romance.

CCP and Eve Online are no different of course. The product they make is more boutique than most and is an acquired taste perhaps. It is a mature game and has a small following that isn't growing any younger. It is ticking over. For the future, there are high hopes for Eve Valkyrie and Gunjack hasn't caused them any harm, bu the closure of DUST just leaves CCP with Eve Online as a consistent revenue source. A revenue source that not only has to fund the development of Eve Online, but also any new projects - such as the DUST replacement. The investors in Eve's VR commitment - which maybe more than just Valkyrie and Gunjack will naturally want a return on their investment. If the VR projects fail to deliver then it will be Eve Online players that foot the bill. Now I hope that they will succeed but it is a strategy seeking to pursue an untested immature market. There could be great rewards but there is no doubting the risk. But then again it is not as if CCP has much alternative. Living off Eve Online alone is not going to be sustainable forever. 

This poses a dilemma. To break the single point of failure - the dependency on Eve Online, CCP has to invest in new projects. But to invest in new projects, CCP has to sweat their only consistent revenue source to find the investment funds. The very act of doing that could hasten the demise of Eve Online and in the worst scenario bring down everything like a house of cards. It is a difficult tightrope to walk. But the walk has definitely started with Skill Point Trading.

Now as I have said before, I am not a happy bunny when it comes to Skill Point Trading. Magnus or Inga (or any other made up name) from CCP marketing wouldn't understand why though. They way they see Eve is like a game of Snakes and Ladders. All they have done is allowed you to bribe your way past some of the snakes. Now Eve is obviously a lot more complicated than that but I genuinely enjoyed the constraints and finding ways around what I couldn't do and planning ahead for the day when I could be able to do things. Those challenges - which for a solo player are big challenges - are now gone. So much for the snakes.

I don't think Magnus and Inga from marketing have finished either. Flushed with the perceived success of Skill Point Training they will be eager to squeeze more money out of Eve Online. If Eve becomes a Free to Play plus Premium Player game as I believe it will, then in effect as a premium player I get to pay to go up all the ladders as well. Free players wouldn't get SP unless they buy it or grind it, whereas Premium players get SP as part of their sub as they do now. But the monetisation will be more efficient so well done Magnus and Inga. But a game of Snakes and Ladders becomes a game with no snakes and no ladders. Very dull so why play it?

3 comments:

  1. Kong,

    As often as not we don’t see eye to eye on things. That said, with stunning regularity you uncork deep insight that leaves me greatly appreciative. “Making and selling games is a business not a romance.” I’ve seen more than one bitter vet confuse the two. I’ve even seen bitter vets use ugly divorce language to explain how they felt but I continued to presume it was metaphorical . . . until now. The poor clods really meant it.

    ::sigh::

    Mundane reality, no matter how exquisite, lives up to imaginary marriage - especially long term. Care to hike it down to compulsion? With work one can navigate their own compulsions meaning when it comes to games like Eve such approach has the added benefit of not showering disappointment on a partner who not only didn’t know, but doesn’t want a romantic cheek to cheek slow dance.

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    1. Thank you. To be fair, few people do agree with me so the discord is likely more to do with me than yourself. I do like to challenge existing assumptions. Sometimes it leads somewhere. Sometimes those assumptions are there for a valid reason and I just missed it.

      Another thing you see are Denial Vets. It's the "I'm alright Jack" crossed with the "Everyone else should HTFU" hybrid. They think the relationship is just fine despite the affair going on in plain sight. They have furthest to fall.

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  2. A fantastic post Luobote and well worded. You may have convinced me of your theory of a F2P model coming with this post. I couldn't agree more

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