house-of-cards-season-4-750x400

I Can’t Disagree Enough

I woke up this morning and started paging through Twitter and blog feeds. Eventually I came across Talvorian Dex’s most recent post over on Target Caller: The CCP Dichotomy. As I read, I really couldn’t help but disagree to an increasing extent with the main thrust of his post. However, before I dive right in on it, I’d recommend everyone give it a read – it is a sentiment that I see repeated time and again, in relation to almost every game these days. Okay, all done? Great, let’s jump in:

We go from:

More money for CCP means more development resources and money for salaries to draw the best and most innovative employees. All of that is a win for Eve players.

To:

To quote a reddit thread, it’s not that CCP doesn’t know what it’s doing; it knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s trying to squeeze the existing player base for what money it can. It’s identical to what it did with the price of skins. And that suggests a lack of faith in the future of the game; “get dank coin while the getting’s good!”

In the space of a single blog post. I take this to mean:

I want CCP to make more money, so that EVE can get better, but I only want them to make money in the way that I deem appropriate.

Sorry but that’s not how this works.

Micro transaction models are not a display of greed. Granting players the ability to level boost is a relatively new trend in the relatively young MMO market, but a trend nonetheless. Skins are a proven and effective method of earning money off of cosmetic improvements. Clothing for avatars? That’s positively old hat at this point.

Utilizing separate currencies and misaligning prices for buying into the currency and the products you purchase with that currency? An effective strategy that has been proven out by companies with a thousand times the market research capabilities that CCP will ever have.

I could go on but I feel like the point is made: optimizing the amount of revenue generated by your customer base is not greed. It’s how you keep your head count, and maybe even add to it. It is how you keep the lights on, how you keep your developers swimming in top of the line graphics cards and CPUs, and how you continue development.

In a situation where subscriber counts continue to dwindle (a situation, I might add, that is neither new or unique to EVE), you have some tough decisions to make. CCP has, to date, been fairly lucky – they’ve succeeded for over a decade on the strength of a single title. All things must come to an end at some point, though, and so now we’re on the slope down. Despite the most valiant and noble efforts of the developers that Talvorian heaps laurels on, sub numbers aren’t coming back up.

For five years CCP has been doing essentially what the players wanted. They have pulled back from being bold and instead resigned themselves to a subservient position with regards to the players – all due to the idea that if you give the players what they want, they will stay. They will bring their friends. And all will be well once more.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened. Talvorian states that “I’d be very frustrated if I was on the CCP development team right now” due to the “greedy, short-sighted decisions” of the marketing/client relations arm of the company. This sort of blame spreading is what kills teams. If I was a dev at CCP, I’d be looking in the mirror and wondering what I did wrong; despite doing my best for five years to follow player demands, the only metric by which I can really be judged – the success of the game – shows that I’ve fallen short. Numbers continue to dwindle.

Thankfully, in this hypothetical, others within CCP have begun to dig in and hit untapped revenue centers in the game, but ultimately if CCP is to continue to succeed subscription numbers need to come back up. Unfortunately, this is something that (short of spikes associated with large expansion releases) has never been done before in a video game. Ever. That trend has never, to my knowledge, been reversed.

Seeing that, the CCP plan is pretty straightforward: maximize revenue with your current customers, give them a game they think they want, and use these short term gains to bridge the gap to the next big title. The only real question is whether they believe Valkyrie to be that next big title, or if it’ll be the not-Project Legion that was announced recently, or something else altogether.

At any rate, I just wanted to throw it out there: maximizing revenue from a playerbase is not ‘greed’. It keeps people like me fed, my family taken care of, and your game progressing. If you don’t like the price of skins, don’t buy them~

0 comments