Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2017 and all that

2017. In the real world, it is fair to say there was a bit of a transition going on. Old certainties and assumptions have taking a bit of a hammering. New opportunities are emerging. Some exciting, many quite scary. Historians will feast on this period for years to come. Feel sorry for your grandchildren. They will have to learn all about this seeming nonsense. They won't forgive you.

In this context, Eve Online is a rather insignificant footnote. But it has been an important year for CCP. Like Caroline's Star, it flashed briefly onto the main stage, only to fade into the background. The VR portfolio it had such high hopes for as late as Eve Vegas has had the plug pulled from it. What really happened remains a mystery at this point. The announcement came via an Icelandic news site and little has been said since. Most likely, investors pulled out of their VR investment and CCP had to resolve the liquidity squeeze. Certainly there is blood on the corporate carpet. The closure of offices in Atlanta and the sale of Newcastle are the physical manifestation of the retreat. The job losses are the tragedy. Quite what is happening in Shanghai is not clear. Certainly nothing with to do with Serenity where Tiancity appear to have given up bothering with Eve. There have been no expansions and little online activity for a while.  

Initial noises from CCP indicated that Eve Online would be ring fenced. But the slaughter of the community devs, which was the most visible of cuts to the playerbase - we don't know what is going on behind the scenes, showed this not to be true.

Once again, CCP are in the position of being a one trick pony. Eve is their only certain source of income. A position they have never really escaped from. Milking Eve to seed new game development is the only real option open to them. So long as Eve returns a profit. 

This is where the tension lies in 2018. Eve has been increasingly monetized and development has suffered as has the gameplay. Unrelated but part of the problem is some of the development that has happened hasn't been well judged. My particular beef about the focus being on groups rather than casual solo players being one of them. But you can't see that changing. While the world around us changes - to the extent I can play Eve on Raspberry Pi or mobile phone, CCP still have the point problem of funding new developments and keeping Eve viable both as a source of revenue and a game that people want to play. 

Will mobile Eve or New Dust break the cycle? I can't see that happening in the next 12 months even if they are eventually successful. 2018 is going to be a tough year from CCP and it is hard to suggest what would be the best for them. But to get through it they will need its loyal Eve players behind them. Leadership and vision are usually cited as being key to navigating troubled waters such as these. In that respect CCP needs to do a better job. If world events have taught us anything over the last year, lack of leadership gives rise to the opportunist and dissent. CCP needs to own the narrative and not become the victim of it. 

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