My Thoughts on the Recent CCP Debacle

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Thought I'd repost this here -- a summary of my thoughts on the situation with Eve and CCP that continues to unfold. Originally posted at Quarter to Three:

I've played Eve since beta (with a few breaks here and there) and this sort of thing has happened before -- people threw shitfits over T20 and other such scandals, but for me the big difference with this is that it is getting such traction, snowballing so fast, AND -- most importantly -- it is so one sided. There are very few people trying to defend CCP at this point, especially after it was confirmed that the newsletter was the real deal, when before there's always been a fair number of people defending game changes (like removing jump bridges or the carrier changes or sovereignty changes or whatever).

I think, after the last year, people are just sensing a real change in the way CCP is running things. I don't think anyone is under the delusion that CCP doesn't want to make money, but the problem is that it seems like CCP has changed from being focused on making money through providing a strong game attracting players through word of mouth and customer loyalty to making as much money as possible while they churn and burn the player base. They've forgotten the lessons Eve should have taught everyone else -- that starting small and building your numbers slowly is the way to go, that making a game focused on providing a quality experience players can't find anywhere else is the key to maintaining profitability. The last year has shown that CCP seems to be more concerned about using Eve as a means to an end, milking it for as much cash as they can so they can get Dust and WoDO out the door, rather than making Eve a good product with a loyal following that brings in consistent revenue. Between the "18 months" fiasco of last year, the $99 dollar licensing fee for community tools, the completely underwhelming delivery of Incarna which has been hyped for more than half a decade, and now the completely two-faced discussion of microtransactions (if you can call a $70 monocle a "microtransaction) and their relation to gameplay, CCP just seems to be making a series of decisions that are completely contradictory to how the game was being run until around 2008-2009.

Even the tone at this year's FanFest seemed completely off to me, very different from the two years previous. Everything was focused on how great they were as a company, but the discussion of how this was good for Eve and good for players almost seemed to be an afterthought. The Permaband video this year wasn't about how awesome Eve was, it was about how much bank CCP was pulling down. The party was swollen with Icelandic locals to the point that a lot of Eve players just felt unwelcome at their own party, and left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of the players. Instead of FanFest being a celebration of Eve and focused on how great the Eve community is (and it is great, despite the backstabbing and vitriol you sometimes see on forums and in game), it was more like a party CCP threw to show off. It was really disappointing, and I say that as someone who thought her first FanFest was literally one of the best experiences of her life.

I've poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Eve over the last 6 years. Eve has been the only MMO I've ever been interested in playing because it was the only one that seemed to be committed to delivering on the promise of the genre, making a true virtual world, and I know there are people at the company that still see that kind of promise in the game and want it to be all the things that people imagined for it. The problem seems to be that the money men have become the ones in charge -- and the same way Bobby Kotick and his people from the packaged goods industry turned Activision into a CoD and GH churning machine, they seem to be turning CCP into a company focused on squeezing as much money out of the player base in the short term without regard to the company's long term profits or reputation. For a company like CCP, which basically got its start by winning the hearts and minds of its players by building a strong brand and a player-focused game, and thrived on word of mouth and good press, this seems like suicide. I don't even understand a lot of their decisions from the "get money above all else" standpoint -- surely you'd sell more than ten times as many of those monocles at $7 than you would at $70. That's what's just baffling.

The newsletter is problematic because, at least to me, it clearly comes across as an attempt to socialize an idea that may be very unpopular among the rank and file in the company. If you look at it, the people on the pro-MT side are Principal Game Designers, Lead Game Designers, Directors of Content...people in management who are going to be driving those policies. Who is speaking against it? One person who is in the Research and Statistics group. If it was meant to provoke discussion, it is not providing a very balanced view, or a feeling that dissenting opinions are going to be welcome -- so either it's a very poorly made internal publication or it's piece of propaganda, neither of which reflects well on the company.

And then to see Pann's post that started that thread completely ignore the newsletter is even more baffling. When the problem with your image is that people think the company is lying to its customers, why would you ignore what is clearly the root of the problem? It is only going to reinforce the belief that you are being disingenuous. At least acknowledge it, even if you have to say "a further statement on that issue will be forthcoming." I just don't get it.

CCP thrived on being as open and honest with the player base as it could be in the early days, and had a lot of customer interaction up and down the management chain. Obviously, as the company grows, that becomes infeasible, and no one wants to see another T20 debacle. But CSM exists for a reason, and CCP appears to have completely cut them out of the loop, and I don't understand why -- or rather, the only reason I can see why they would do it just makes them look like cowards. I don't think most of the player base is so opposed to MT to completely rule it out, and I don't think most people have anything against CCP making more money from Eve, as long as the health of the game is maintained. If CCP wanted to have an open and honest discussion of microtransactions, up and down the spectrum, I am sure that would have given them a great deal of ire, but I can almost guarantee that it would have gone better than hiding their true intentions from the player base until it was too late. Now they've not only lost the lunatic fringe, they lost the trust and goodwill of the players who may have been uneasy with microtransactions but were willing to work to a solution that benefited everyone. The loss of that trust and goodwill is something that will hurt CCP more than any number of ragequits, because the more they make it look like nothing they say can be trusted, that the CSM is as much of a sham as its biggest detractors claim, and that they are focused only on what they can squeeze out of the game in the short term, no one is going to buy an apology or any sort of reforms as anything more than damage control, not a sincere effort to make things better.

And in the long run, that's bad for the game. And that's bad for those of us who really love it, even if we don't have time to play as much anymore, because we want to see it succeed and show that there's a better way to do business than the churn-and-burn model.

As my parents would say, I'm not angry; I'm just disappointed.

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This page contains a single entry by Chas Blackwell published on June 24, 2011 10:05 AM.

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