Friday, July 5, 2019

Drifting into the Abyss, Part 2

Previously, on MinerBumping... For years, highsec carebears begged CCP to give them immunity against wardecs. In a bid to meet their Pearl Abyss-imposed business targets, CCP granted that wish--against the sage advice of the Saviour of Highsec. Six months later, the wardec nerf completely failed to increase player numbers.

As we've seen, CCP has made plenty of mistakes in the past. Far too often, CCP succumbed to the temptation to nerf highsec PvP in the vain hope that it would improve player retention. When the disappointing results inevitably landed, CCP learned to, let us say, roll with the punches.

But EVE belongs to Pearl Abyss now, and $200 million in contingent payments is at stake. The cost of CCP's failures today is much more tangible, much more measurable. In earlier years, one could only vaguely imagine the cost of failing to make EVE a better game that attracted more players. It was not so easy to quantify, for example, the amount of new players lost due to a terrible monochrome UI.

Today, by contrast, CCP knows exactly what they're losing when they fail to hit a business target; it's written in their contract with Pearl Abyss. They can watch the millions of dollars as they fly out the window. They can track the winged money's escape in real time.

It's fair to say, then, that CCP observed with far more urgency as the months of 2019 rolled by and their wardec immunity gambit failed to bring in the promised subscription fees of new and returning carebears.

So what does CCP do in a situation like this? Anything it can think of.

CCP has slowly but surely been attempting to ramp up the monetization of its playerbase. If they can't get more players to pay subscription fees, they'll focus more on selling SKINS, PLEX, skillpoints, damage boosting (i.e., golden ammo)...

Ah, golden ammo. Back in 2011, "golden ammo" became part of the shorthand for the unfolding scandal, along with terms like "Monoclegate", "Summer of Rage", and "Greed Is Good". Players revolted against CCP's plans to lurch toward a pay-to-win model. CCP's incentive was without disguise or pretense: Make a bunch of money. The motive was "greed", as the internal CCP memo put it.

Last week saw an echo of the Summer of Rage when players forced CCP to withdraw/retool a plan to sell skillpoints, among other things. CCP Falcon, the leader of EVE's community team, wrote an apology announcement. He explained that CCP never intended to make money by selling skillpoints; the goal was merely to help new players.
We're also very aware of the community's concerns regarding this kind of sale being a cash grab. For reference, historically the sale of these DLC packs makes up less than 1% of our daily revenue... We see them as a service to our new players, not a way to make money.
But didn't the CSM--which became so prominent during the Summer of Rage--warn them about the likely reception of this service to new players?
We also should have spoken with the CSM regarding this pack before we released it. That one's on me, and we'll make sure that the CSM are looped into this kind of discussion going forward.

CCP Falcon hoped to appeal to EVE's pro-newbro spirit. But his defense of the program included another angle:
4.09% is also a hard number. That's the percentage of new players that have stuck around in EVE after 30 days during Q1 of 2019. We've already talked a little about the challenges that face new players this year at both EVE Down Under and EVE North.

"EVE is dying." -- CCP Falcon, 2019 Q1.

I kid, but only a little: For the first time in its history, CCP is openly promoting the idea that its new player retention is terrible and that if something drastic isn't done to fix it, equally terrible consequences will result. Therefore, EVE players need to accept things that they opposed in the past. For the sake of the newbros--and CCP's subscription revenue. You don't want EVE to die, do you?

If that line of reasoning sounds familiar, it's because we hear the same nonsense from highsec miners all the time: "Don't shoot my AFK, bling-fit, untanked Hulk, or else a new player (who's been here since 2015) will unsubscribe and CCP will go bankrupt."

This negative approach is a significant departure from the "positive" version of the same idea that was always being pitched by the theme park crowd of yesteryear. Back when Ripard Teg and Trebor Daehdoow were on the CSM, it was always proposed as a Faustian bargain: "If we nerf highsec PvP, CCP will have more money to spend on developing new features for EVE." This was a two-part lie. First, it was a lie that nerfing highsec PvP would lead to improved player retention. Second, it was a lie that CCP would spend extra cash on developing EVE instead of Dust 514, World of Darkness, and other trash.

To be sure, they talked about improving player retention. But the carebears' focus was on all of the extra stuff we could get with all of the theme park money. And CCP certainly didn't go around talking about how abysmal their stats were. No one would want to buy their company if they did.

The Greed Is Good memo, too, was framed in terms of what would be gained: "If we sell gold ammo, etc., we'll get lots of extra money."

By contrast, the new sales pitch is: "EVE will die if you don't let me do what I want."

For a highsec miner, "what I want" translates to violating the Code with AFK Hulks. For CCP, it means making another attempt at the same monetization plans that the playerbase rejected during the Summer of Rage--and anything else CCP can think of to try to hit their business targets for Pearl Abyss.

One more item from CCP Falcon's apology, which lays out their plans for the future:
We're working on improving our early player retention numbers and part of doing so means that we're going to keep experimenting with various ways to make a new player's life easier... It's going to mean different DLC packs, it's going to mean collaboration with new player organizations in EVE, and it's going to mean changes to the way we do things...
I could unpack this quote, but I don't need to; I already did it 8+ months ago in the Truth About Wardecs series:
Suddenly the picture becomes clear. CCP's payday depends on hitting their business targets, and they need to hit them right away, on the timetable set forth in their deal with Pearl Abyss. As a result, it looks like CCP has gone into full "frantically turn the dials and see what happens" mode. If so, we can expect a lot of experiments and violent shifts in policy in the near future. Not only in highsec, but in the rest of the EVE galaxy. I suspect nullsec dwellers might be in for some interesting changes, too.
Oh, did I mention something about nullsec?

To be continued...


  1. I've said it many times. EVE is supposed to be difficult and unforgiving. That's what makes it special. Persistence is rewarded and the ability to delay gratification is required. That's why it feels so good when you finally achieve success. Each time EVE is nerfed and each time handouts are distributed, that feeling of accomplishment is diminished, not only for new players, but for the entire player base.

  2. When the game finally dies...and the writing is basically on the wall....check out Elite Dangerous.
    The devs there are old, old hands, (Elite was one of the inspirations for EVE, after all) and while its more of a flight sim than MMORPG, you can be an actual pirate, bounty hunter, assassin, explorer, etc.
    Hell, mining in ED is actually fun.
    Plus collision mechanics are on so you CAN ram people..:)
    CODE is there as well.....:)

    1. No you can't,

      Elite is softer than a rookie starter system in eve.

      The bears in ed just combat log whenever they see another actual player in open play.

      That is if they even play in open play.

      And that hinges on the fact you are in the same system as another player out of the actual billions that are available.

      I tried ganking in the community goals and the nerfs to aggro in that game are truly pathetic.

      Fuck the crime and punishment mechanic off and you might come close to bringing the biff back.

      Until then......... just log off in solo mode and be the limp wristed carebear beta male.


  3. Eve has been nerfed and nerfed since I started playing back in 2013. Each nerf makes it less interesting.

    Ran for CSM twice on a platform of stopping the nerfs and the second time when it seemed like I was getting some traction my character was dropped from the balloting a few days before the election without real explanation.

    If and when Eve goes down it'll be because of the disconnect between the decision makers at CCP and the players who understand what made Eve special - not hisec being a theme park/safe space to boringly grind ISK but the challenges and risk of somewhat tangible loss. Without the gritty dark side of hunting/being hunted/competing in various way and risks of loss balanced against gain that takes effort Eve gets to be a very boring game very quickly.

    Trying to turn Eve into WOW in space will result in one thing, and the handwriting has been on the wall with each nerf but if the decision makers don't want to see it - well people can be doggone stubborn in denial of reality until the teeth are in the ass.

    Bait'er De'Outlier

    p.s. on the new forums look up the topic "Panic Button" and see a suggested reversing/toning down of an old nerf that should be done in my opinion.

  4. When Falcon says "collaboration with new player organizations", that had better include CODE. - the most new player-friendly organisation there is!

  5. One of EVE's problems is that the window for revenue is so narrow.

    New players are generally reluctant to pay, and limp along on alpha mode for a few weeks or months before quitting. For the most part they're a wretched bunch of choosing beggars.

    The big money comes from the few of them (4% apparently) who catch the bug and become eager to advance. These intermediate players usually subscribe and are more likely to buy pilot services to speed training along.

    Once seasoned, players pride themselves on cultivating in-game revenue sources to PLEX with, are not amused by SKINs and other paraphernalia, and generally stop paying.

    Some bittervets recognize that time is money and would rather pay than grind. Many of us are eager to support CCP but are disheartened to see them repeatedly divert all their EVE profits into a string of unrelated games which inevitably fail. And when they do reinvest in EVE it's usually spent on graphics, gimmick events, and nerfs.

    Once CCP adopted the negative approach of "we have to do this or EVE will die" it just became sad.

  6. Praise James and his mighty wisdom! May he reign 1000 years!


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