The Mittani has just released a CEO update for goons and I think he sums up the current shit storm with CCP quite well. So here it is:
It’s been a busy few days. You may have noticed: EVE is on fire and reeling, and not in the fun “we’re at war and having space battles wheeee!!!” sense – though there are space battles taking place – but in the slightly more hysterical yet increasingly real “holy shit, CCP seems hellbent on becoming the next Sony” situation.
What The Fuck Has Happened?
First, some context. Within the course of about two weeks, CCP stunned the playerbase with a series of hijinks. First was the Golden Scorpion controversy, which CCP climbed down from – using AUR to buy a Scorpion with a golden paintjob from the ether. Then there was the $99 Monetization scandal, where CCP announced that they wanted a hundred bucks a year for “3rd Party Apps” which might also include fansites. Again, CCP climbed down in the face of howls of protest. The Alliance Tournament Final ended up rigged, which wasn’t CCP’s fault but infuriated many of the viewers (I thought it was funny, but w/e). Then Incarna was released with $70 Monocles, and EN24 leaked the Greed Is Good CCP internal newsletter, which showcased their apparent love of all things microtransaction.
The real controversy, of course, is not the silliness of a $70 monocle, though that does seem to indicate the venality and greed of the CCP higher-ups to many players. The controversy is the shadow lurking behind the monocle, hinted at in the Greed is Good newsletter: gold in the sandbox, a “pay to win” gold-ammo situation in EVE. Pay to Win is common enough in Free to Play MMOs, and quite profitable, but the fear among players is that CCP is trying to meld both subscription and FtP revenue models into an especially shitty, expensive product.
A product that allegedly is busy melting down ATI video cards.
So hot on the heels of Greed is Good, CCP posted an absolutely comical “please be nice to us” thread on eve-o, which has become the largest threadnaught in history. This went about as well as could be expected; reports of mass-unsubbings became rampant.
In order to try to staunch the bleeding, CCP Zulu posted a devblog which has now famously equated virtual widgets with real-life goods. PC Gamer has picked up on this blog, and not in a good way. The tone of the blog and the follow up post, which amounts to ‘shut up ugh ‘ is readily apparent.
Meanwhile, Jita, Amarr and other hubs have been brought to virtual shutdown by ‘protests’ of pubbies shooting statues and overloading the nodes while howling for CCP’s blood, mad about the NeX, the Captains Quarters, Incarna sucking, the spectre of gold ammo, or just setting things on fire for the sheer primal joy of watching everything burn.
And to think, it gets worse!
Last night, while I was on Eve Radio discussing the unfolding crisis with some other CSMs, another leak broke: a global email sent from Hilmar, CCP’s CEO, congratulating the company on the ‘successful launch’ of Incarna and selling a whopping 52 Monocles. Most froth-inducing was the statement that:
“Currently we are seeing _very predictable feedback_ on what we are doing. Having the perspective of having done this for a decade, I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say. Innovation takes time to set in and the predictable reaction is always to resist change.”
So that went well. CCP appears to be leaking like a sieve. Given the recent authenticated reviews of the company that have popped up on Glassdoor during the past month, that’s not a surprise.
What’s happened here is a whole nexus of rage from many corners of the playerbase was ignited by one catalyst. Some are angry that Incarna has no real content for veteran players. Some are angry about NeX vanity items being too expensive; some are angry that NeX exists at all. Most appear to be horrified by the lurking shadow of Pay to Win, and just about everyone is pissed off at the dismissive, condescending and money-hungry attitudes displayed in the CCP newsletter, the Hilmar email, and the damage control devblogs.
Why Do We Give A Shit?
I and the rest of the CSM have been extremely blunt in our demands that CCP issue a formal disavowal of ‘gold ammo’, non-vanity microtransactions, or otherwise bleeding gold into the sandbox of EVE. My impression is that a quick “Look, the monocles are expensive, but we’re not doing gold ammo” would have ended this crisis days ago and CCP wouldn’t be down at least 2500 accounts. The fact that CCP has remained silent on the issue is increasingly being taken to imply what everyone fears – that a company which would without irony charge $70 for a space monocle will issue $250 i-win lasers.
A few years ago, we saw the impact that ‘oligarchs’ had on the nullsec metagame, when Red Overlord had SerLordex spend a hundred thousand dollars on Eve Online, A Bad Game. The kind of economic distortion that would come from a legalized and pervasive ‘gold ammo’ style of gameplay would mean that, in order to stay competitive, every PvP entity would be obliged to acquire and use gameplay-enhancing gold items or suffer for their austerity. Perhaps some of you think that ‘Pay to Win’ is acceptable in a competitive subscription MMO; I do not.
What The Fuck Were They Thinking?
This is my impression of what happened, not based on any NDA information or CSM Secret Squirrel shit.
CCP’s Virtual Goods store tried to imitate the business concept of Starbucks. The great Starbucks trick was coming up with a fancy setting and bourgie babby coffee shops, changing the environment of ‘buying coffee’ enough that the consumer was willing to pay $4 for a cup of coffee where previously he would buy the same drink at Dunkin Donuts for a $1.
Reading Zulu’s blog where he emphasizes that EVE is a ‘premium experience’ and references designer jeans, it seems like the CCP Marketing department hoped to do the same thing. EVE is so special and spiffy and cool, you see, that in EVE you’re not buying a hat for a dollar or two like in Team Fortress, or an entire wardrobe in Star Trek Online for seven bucks. Those games are Dunkin Donuts. EVE is Starbucks – it’s just so different that you’ll buy ~virtual goods~ that are almost ten times the prices of comparable MMOs.
The problem, of course, is that EVE is a broken game. The ship balance is terrible, nullsec desperately needs a revamp, the PvE is laughable, and playing without goons is like stabbing yourself in the balls over and over again. EVE is not a ‘premium experience’ as it currently stands – particularly if your ATI video card just overheated and died when you tried to load your Captain’s Quarters.
So it flopped. CCP tried to distinguish EVE from other MMOs in terms of microtransaction pricing, and now people are running around in lynch mobs wardeccing and blowing up anyone who’s actually bought something from the NeX. Selling a virtual shirt that costs more than the real shirts in your own company’s store was probably not the suavest move, either.
Where Could This Go?
Rumors indicate that ~5000 unsubs have occurred already; there is already significant media blowback over the Monocle, the protests and the CEO letter, with the gaming press unilaterally taking the side of the outraged playerbase. Unless CCP deploys effective damage control and takes charge of the situation, the risk is that the game itself could see an exodus and abrupt subscriber deflation. Meanwhile, a number of ‘famous players’ such as Ombey, Helicity Boson and Lallante have loudly thrown in the towel and are playing Perpetuum or Tanks or whatever.
Even without the head-up-ass public relations crisis, the Incarna release doesn’t look good for CCP. Usually an expansion results in a huge activity spike in subs and online users. While we don’t have access to subs information, anyone can chart the downward slope in average users online since January 2011.
While in nullsec we have ties to this game that are primarily social and competitive, Joe Pubbie just wants to spin his CNR in a mission hub; there’s not much holding the 80% of the Empire subscribers in this game, should there be an obvious stampede towards the exits. And if they do, the economy of the EVE goes into the shitter overnight, CCP’s planned ‘revenue stream’ to fund DUST and WoD vanishes – which will make them even more eager to extract capital from what players remain in the game – and the media has a field day making Horse Armor and SWG:NGE jokes. That’s the Doomsday Scenario.