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EVE Online Players Rage, Protest Over Microtransactions 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the vote-with-your-wallet dept.
Several readers have written with news of a controversy that's been slowly building in space-based MMO EVE Online. "It all began with the Incarna update, which added an item shop to the long-running sci-fi sandbox. Players began to voice their concerns over the bizarrely high prices of items in the shop, with one particular item reaching an insane $68 US. Before this hullabaloo had the chance to so much as come to a simmer, an internal newsletter from CCP was leaked to the internet. The document outlined the introduction of microtransactions into EVE and mentioned that at some point, ships, ammunition, and so forth may be available for purchase with real-world currency. This naturally sent players into even more of a frenzy." Reader Ogre332 points out additional coverage, but notes that many publications are missing the punchline: "Players are angry that CCP has blatantly lied about their intentions and have responded to these customers concerns by basically telling us they know what we want better than we do. The purported e-mail from CCP CEO Hilmar Pétursson was like gas on a fire, and a response to some concerns in the form of a dev blog was not well received at all. Players are protesting, and many claim to be canceling their accounts left and right."
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EVE Online Players Rage, Protest Over Microtransactions

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 25, 2011 @04:17PM (#36571176)

    It's not that simple in the EVE universe. There are a couple of camps in the EVE player base. Mainly, they fall into 1) Just want to play the damn game and don't give a fuck about the larger issues. These people only yell when something they use daily changes. 2) Want to play the game, meta game, uber-meta game and think it all really really matters. 3) Want to play the game as 2, but don't have the time, so they want to pay cash to replace months of grinding.

    2 and 3 do not get along well at all. They make up the majority of the games players.

    The reason this matters at all, and what makes EVE unique is that there are no shards. The entire games economy, and the entire fictional universe (it's very big) are on ONE server. So when players replace months of "work" in game with $$ instead, it whacks the economy in game really hard. Which disrupts alliances, which disrupts the local economy, which disrupts the individual corps, which means that support and security break down and pretty soon entire regions of space are changing hands, which whacks the economy even harder. All because Corp B's CEO was able to replace a lost Titan instantly with his bonus check from work. (fictionalized)

    Another issue is the elite problem. I'm not sure CCP/EVE has ever come out and said it, but one of their biggest problems is how to balance the day 1 players against the guys that joined last week. Given the mechanics of the game, it's not possible, at all. But they have so far managed to make it competitive, to a degree. In that newbies can become specialized very quickly, and can match an older player (in that specialization) within a few months.

    But without micro-transactions, that newbie can't afford to fly with or against the older players. My day 1 character can make more money being logged off and idle, than any newbie could make playing 8 hours a day. In fact, my day 1 character(s) (oh you bet I have more than one) are all currently idle, because I'm taking a break from eve right now (see why?) and guess what? They are still making millions of isk per hour, EACH.

    I personally fall into the 1) player type. So I don't care if they bring in micro-transactions... just so long as they don't break the fucking economy in the process.

  • by sheetsda (230887) <doug.sheets@gm a i l . com> on Saturday June 25, 2011 @06:55PM (#36572348)

    The article is wrong. The protests are *NOT* in reaction to buying in game items. They are in reaction to buying skill points and faction standings (which is currently NOT possible) and the absurd prices of all the vanity items (lowest end items are around $20). Currently the rate at which you gain skill points is currently determined by your characters ability scores and the absolute best gear you can buy only increases this rate by around 20%. It takes several months worth of skill points to fly the best ships. This is the ONLY factor currently keeping day-1 players out of the game's best ships (money is not a factor because of PLEX as you noted). The WoW/other MMO equivalent would be buying completely leveled and elite geared character directly from Blizzard.

    Amusing tidbit: several alliances have declared players wearing the $68 item to be Kill On Sight. Spending that $68 is currently tantamount to putting a bounty on yourself, and the only place in EVE you cannot be attacked is while docked in a station.

  • by RoFLKOPTr (1294290) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @07:03PM (#36572398)

    The rage stems from the fact that CCP, which has historically been one of the most open and honest game developers on the planet, has been caught in what looks like a boldfaced lie. It started with the Aurum store opening with Incarna's release, then the last volume of Fearless, their internal newsletter, was leaked, then they did a crappy job at putting out that fire by making an empty apology and then making a long-awaited announcement that essentially told the playerbase nothing, and then Hilmar's email surfaced and we have yet to hear anything. CCP has stated that the Aurum store will be kept to vanity items only, but these leaked documents seem to directly contradict that. CCP has told us that Fearless was looking at the argument from an exaggerated point of view and didn't detail any actual specific plans, but they have yet since its leak actually definitively stated that the Aurum store will be kept to vanity items only.

    There are three general models for reasonably-profitable MMO's out there: pay-to-play, pay-to-win, and pay-to-accessorize. Pay-to-play (P2P) means the players must explicitly give money to the game developer every month in order to maintain active account status, and is employed by most successful MMO's including World of Warcraft and EVE. Pay-to-win (P2W) means the players have the option to give the game developer extra money in exchange for in-game items that offer an advantage over other players, or at the very least they cause it to be a fast track to the same items that everybody can gain by playing the game themselves, and is employed by most free-to-play games such as Battlefield Heroes and APB. Pay-to-accessorize (P2A) means the players have the option to give the game developer extra money in exchange for in-game accessories and vanity items that don't actually offer an advantage in gameplay.

    Free-to-play (F2P) usually comes about when a game does not have the appeal or simply isn't good enough to sustain enough monthly subscriptions to be profitable. APB was a good example of that. Their developer went out of business and the game was sold to a company that owns and maintains several F2P online games, and it is now sustained by a P2W model. Team Fortress 2, on the other hand, has been wildly successful in the P2P market. So successful, in fact, that it had probably tapped out the market and sales were dwindling because everybody owned it already, and it was a one-time purchase with no monthly fees. It has been converted to F2P and follows the P2A model with a microtransaction store that sells hats and other crap like that, and now Valve is making ridiculous amounts of money off it again.

    The F2P model works for many games as there's not much difference between playing the game to earn items or paying real money to gain them more quickly. Don't write me off as some stupid fanboy when I say this, but EVE is different. Half of what makes EVE such an intriguing game is the market which is almost entirely player-driven. Every item you buy on the market -- be it a ship, a gun, ammunition, drones, whatever -- was built by a player from blueprints that were obtained by a player and minerals that were refined by a player from ore that was mined by a player. And that's not including the countless possibilities for traders to make money at every point along the way as they play the market and buy and sell these things before they actually become a final product, and even after. It's also not including the fact that most mining and production is done by groups of people with their own specializations that all help work towards the final product: miners mine in groups and drop their ore to a pilot in an industrial ship who transports it to a station and transfers it to a person with maxed refinery skills who then refines it and transfers them to people with good production skill who own copies of a blueprint owned by somebody with good blueprint research skills who then transfer the finally-finished product back to the industrial pilots to transfer them to a market where

  • It's much more complicated than this, and right now a lot of players are too enrage over the poor implementation to see the big picture.
    If you're easily bored by explanations, jump right to the last paragraph, if not, read the rest too.

    A bit of a background is needed here to properly understand what's going on.
    I won't bore you with much detail (as incredible as this sounds, this below is the short version).

    Since many years ago, for the majority of the game's life actually, CCP (the game makers) attempted to curtail attempts of RMT ("Real Money Trading") - and mostly succeeded in reducing the frequency of it happening - by allowing players to sell GTC ("Game Time Cards") for ISK ("InterStellar Kredits", the in-game currency).
    This meant some people were getting the ISK they wanted without having to buy from "goldfarmers" (so to speak), while some players could afford to "play for free" (not pay any real-life cash for their subscriptions). It didn't take long for CCP to introduce a secure trading method, which became the only allowed exchange option, with the game time automatically applied to the purchasing account (to prevent RMTers from buying GTCs and selling those for cash).
    This became popular enough that nearly a quarter of the total active accounts were actually subscribed using this particular method. Or, in other words, they were seeing a more than 30% increase in subscription counts because of it.
    About two and a half years ago, CCP decided to introduce a new way to trade GTCs, by allowing players to split a purchased 60-day GTC into two 30-day PLEX ("Pilot License EXtension") in-game items, which could be traded on the in-game free market.
    What CCP didn't expect however was just how popular PLEX would become.
    TOO popular, in fact.
    It didn't take long for the player base to realize that investing ISK into PLEX could be viewed as a hedge against inflation, as a security blanket for the time they might not afford to pay real-life cash for a while, or even just as yet another good to be traded by the ultra-rich (in ISK) players.
    Because of that, the demand to purchase PLEX was outstripping the need for PLEX to be used on the spot, so the price on the open market was a bit higher than what it would have been if it would only have been used as a subscription extension tool - and as such, the supply side (people purchasing it for cash to sell for ISK) obliged them, and increasing numbers of PLEX have been stockpiling in people's hangars.
    The only data regarding this trend is quite old, from mid-August 2009 - a developer blog with some interesting graphs : http://www.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&bid=684 [eveonline.com]
    Players have speculated about just how many PLEX are now stockpiled, the most reserved estimates put a lower count of around 75,000 PLEX (real-life cash equivalent of around 1.3 million USD), with opinions split about the upper bound, but even 300,000 PLEX would not be difficult to believe (roughly 5.25 million USD), and some people claim it might be even higher.

    Now, it should be pretty obvious as to why a company the size of CCP would be worried about "unclaimed" pre-paid subscriptions worth anything between 1 and 5 million dollars floating around inside their own game.
    As they say, within this here lies the rub.
    So they hatched a plan, this microtransaction deal.

    It was by no means the first contingency plan, they tried various other methods first, anything from allowing people to use PLEX for other services that used to require a cash payment (like character transfers, for instance) up to holding donation drives for real-life aid, drives accepting both ISK and PLEX (to be converted by CCP into cash and donated on behalf of the player base to charity, without any tax breaks from it).
    Obviously, that didn't work well enough, and the threat of financial liabilities growing ever larger in these uncertain economic times (and let's not forget, they're an Iceland-based softw

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