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CCP Deconstructs EVE Online's Microtransaction Missteps 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the pay-seventy-cents-to-continue-reading dept.
A few months ago we discussed an uproar in the EVE Online community over CCP Games' implementation of microtransactions within the game. Hilmar Pétursson, the company's CEO, recently posted a lengthy apology and an explanation of their thought process, which he admits was "wrong." Now, at GDC Online, CCP has gone into further detail about the lessons they've learned from the fiasco. Quoting: "Of the eight original items, Cockerill said all but one was in the mid- to high-tier price range. Players naturally assumed the lower-tier range would be neglected going forward, which served to push some of them away. The second wave (and the forthcoming fourth wave) featured more lower-tier options, but it wasn't enough. Cockerill said virtual-goods sellers should release a range of goods at all of their price points to start with, or else they'll face the wrath of the user base. What's more, the team should have targeted the desires of its then-current user base, who cared much more about having virtual clothes for their ships instead of their avatars."
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CCP Deconstructs EVE Online's Microtransaction Missteps

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  • because of falcon.
    • by sg_oneill (159032)

      Nerfing the falcon was why I quit the damn game.

      Well actually it was the minmitar nerf that broke the camels back (why "lets remove the most ridiculously fun setup in game, the 'comedy scimitar setup' was even a thought process is beyond me).

      Except perhaps in completely ridiculous cases (the insane original titan configuration where you could remotely blow up hundreds of people without leaving the pos, which caused tonnes of people to give up eve in frusturation) it seems the better option to overpowered se

      • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @07:46AM (#37677882)

        nerfing is the correct solution to unbalanced items/content/etc. Increasing the power of other things to match just launches you into a never ending spiral of increasing the power of things. And it makes no difference, other than that players are notoriously stupid and complain about nerfs no matter what, nerfing a ship is exactly the same as making the other ships more powerful - that ship is now less "good", those skill points are "wasted".

        To use your example of "Vultures too hard to shoot". If you "Give some other ship the tools to provide a staunch opposition" then those tools will likely make that ship better against non-Vultures as well, given designers/programmers/whatever are human and don't get it exactly right (as evidenced by the initial problem) they'll very likely end up with that ship being overpowered. Now they have to power up a counter to that as well an the cycle continues. If they just nerf the vultures the problem is solved directly without it causing knock on balance problems. But players hate nerfing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:08AM (#37676578)

    They still don't get it.
    It's not about the price or the clothes for characters instead of ships.

    It's about the fact that we pay a subscription each month (an expensive one compared to other MMOs, I might add) and we feel that we deserve anything they develop for free. If they use their employees, time or money to develop something for the game, it should be free or more exactly: it should be granted by the monthly fee.
    Most players do not just feel like they are paying to play a game, they feel like they are also investing money in Eve. They pay CCP in the hopes of seeing the game improve and accomplish it's full potential. When CCP makes us pay a subscription AND for new content, they don't just make us pay twice, they are also telling us "Thanks for your investment. Now pay us some more to get access to the result of that investment".
    It's like renting a car and having to pay extra for a seatbelt. It's like a company taking money from investors and then telling them "your investment allows you to buy the products we make".

    This is the third or fourth official apology from CCP and they still don't get it.

    Oh and by the way - this new path CCP is taking (making players pay for new content) so far has made them lose more players than they have earned. Not only has this caused players to quit Eve, it has also ruined the company's and the game's reputation among potential future players. Personally the only reason I'm still playing is because I haven't given up all hope yet and I can say the same of most players I know.
    Someone fire that incompetent CEO and replace him with somebody who understands the market Eve is in!

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Agreed.

      MMOs are a popular genre, both for players (who get a broader, more varied, interactive social experience unlike they can get in any 1st person solo game) and for developers (your 1st person game sells 100,000 copies in the 1st year, you make $5 million; your MMO sells 100k copies, you make that $5 mill plus ANOTHER $9mill in subscriptions).

      But as the shine has worn off the apple, customers are getting more sophisticated. More competition means that a successful MMO needs to be a AAA-grade title all

      • WoW has had a micropayment model for awhile now with its shiny horses and various pets.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But while upper reaches may mean $$ that $$ may just mean subscribing. Microtransactions do not mean that you're required to spend extra money beyond a subscriptions or that it's pay to win (a stupid term actually, except for EVE and PvP stuff there is no win in a cooperative RPG, or at least there shouldn't be a juvenile concern that someone may be getting something easier than you got it).

        For instance in Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online you can play totally for free (even more so

    • by julesh (229690)

      So, let me get this straight: you believe it is wrong for a company to offer two different levels of service for two different prices? That because somebody's paying the basic level price, they should automatically have a right to anything that can be provided at the higher level of service?

      That is just crazy, if you ask me. CCP designed the stuff, they have the right to choose what to charge for it. No amount of money you've spent on their *other* products gives you the right to demand access to the res

      • Frankly I think the GP is not on the same wavelength as most eve players who are currently unhappy.

        The big issue as I see it relates to the fact Eve Online is a game about spaceships... in space, previously most or all development efforts at CCP have been adding new content in the form of NPC missions, new shiptypes, alterations to PVP mechanics and other things which contribute to the fun you can have being a spaceship. However lately with the addition of monocles and changes to spacestations (the ability

        • Frankly I think the GP is not on the same wavelength as most eve players who are currently unhappy.

          Most eve players are unhappy? Can they not find something else to do that makes them happy? Why are they spending money to play this unhappy game? Even if they would be unhappy playing nothing they could save money by not playing this game to be unhappy.

          • One of the details of EVE that slashdot users tend to not know.... very few "hardcore" players actually pay a subscription fee. In 2004, I paid my $15. Since 2005, I haven't paid a dime for any of my 3 accounts. I don't even play anymore, but I still have 3 active accounts. Because it's SO STUPIDLY EASY to make enough ISK to pay for the accounts with it. Eve had RMT long before micro transactions showed up. In the form of PLEX. Which, in short, allows me to pay ISK (ingame money) for game time. Usua
            • I already knew that but that's not the point I was trying to make. Even if you don't spend your money you are still spending your time. Why would you spend your time playing something that makes you unhappy? Just because something is free doesn't mean it's good. Now, if you disagree with PremiumCarrion's assertion that most of the game's players are unhappy then you should say so. And, by the way, if you are having fun playing Eve then I'm glad you're having fun playing the game you like!

              • Oh hell no, I don't play EVE anymore. I maintain some accounts, that's about 20 minutes a few times a week. I haven't "played" EVE in 2 years. My point was that I maintain my accounts for "free", in hopes that EVE will get back to a game I actually want to play. So... I am one of those unhappy players, in a sense. But I can't save any more money, and neither can most veterans of the game. They either don't give a crap about the cost (it's low), or they just aren't paying anything to begin with.
      • Eve has, historically, always offered expansions and all of the new content contained at no additional cost above and beyond the monthly subscription fee. You are correct that CCP has every right to change their business and pricing model as they see fit, but players also have the right to criticize and reject the new pricing models if they so choose.

      • So, let me get this straight: you believe it is wrong for a company to offer two different levels of service for two different prices?

        You can't use generalizations to explore the subtleties by which participants in a transaction see that deal as fair or unfair. You've got to look at the specifics. I don't play MMORPG's, but if I did, I suspect I would be more satisfied with a one-price-buys-all model than a nickle-and-dime payment model. I know this is true with amusement parks: I get really irked if a ride/attraction requires an extra fee beyond the price of admission, but I'm okay paying more for food and souvenirs.

        CCP designed the stuff, they have the right to choose what to charge for it. No amount of money you've spent on their *other* products gives you the right to demand access to the rest for free.

        Grandparent isn't sui

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          MMOs players tend to get a bit emotionally attached to their games. They sort of forget that it's just a product made by a for-profit company. Sort of like the early iPhone buyers who accepted the high price when it first came out but then felt insulted when the price dropped. Some complaints do feel a bit like entitlement but I don't think that's really the cause. I think it is just the emotional attachment factor; someone may be the most polite person in the world to a stranger on the street but be ru

    • For an analogy, I think it's more like renting a car and paying extra for satellite radio. While the seatbelt is a "need" due to various laws, satellite radio is just a "want" as it is for convenience. One can drive the car just fine without satellite radio versus not having seatbelts. While I haven't personally played Eve, it sounds like what people are getting from the micropayments are mostly cosmetic items rather than something game changing.
    • by gothzilla (676407)

      I had gained hope that CCP had turned a new corner but the second link in the article just showed me they haven't. You are right. They still don't get why the player base was upset.

      "Cockerill said the team did get some things right. He pointed to the $65 monocle that players can purchase in-game and said that despite the controversy it generated among players, it was the highest-grossing item for the virtual-goods launch. "

      Unbelievable.

    • by khallow (566160)
      I don't see what you're complaining about. You can always farm for isk to buy PLEX and then convert those PLEX into monocles or whatever. You don't need and never needed to buy the new content with real money.

      For me, the real idiocy was not offering content with any significant gameplay. I don't speak of fancy clothing and ship colors for money but rather of walking in stations (or "ambulation" as they called it). They spent a vast amount of effort over many years to provide a whole new aspect to the gam
  • In the CCCP, EVE Online Deconstructs You!

  • Player Perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:26AM (#37676646)

    I'm a long time player who's watched this whole thing play out in disbelief. The vast majority of players couldn't care less about the current avatar or virtual goods scheme, or in fact the "ship spinning" that the apology letter talks about. The problem is that the company gets all it's income from one game (EVE) and is spending it developing Dust 514 (a PS3 exclusive that most EVE players will never play) and World Of Darkeness (a vampire and werewolf MMO that most EVE players will never play). As a result, EVE has gone without any new content for what feels like years. The "new" avatar system for EVE is basically a mass beta test for the Dust/WOD character system, and has no new gameplay at all.

    The playerbase thought that the microtransactions launch was frankly insane (players of a hypercapitalistic game understand wanting to make money, but the way it was done made far less than they could have, AND pissed everyone off), and the leaks from inside the company suggest that most of the employees did as well. Many of them were players before the were devs, and they didn't like the way things were heading. As a result there were mass in game protests, which a leaked memo from the CEO acknowledged, but stated that they would be ignored, and that the company would listen to what people did rather than said, predictably precipitating mass unsubscriptions. CCP are dangerously overreaching themselves at the moment, with the speculation being that their finance arrangements are precarious, having overrun their timescales for producing their two new titles. Players and developers who have invested years into the game - far more than the sum total of official development - have written tools and created both fiction and real history in the game's universe, and don't want to see it vanish into the ether because of the incompetence of the company that runs it.

    In short: the players want to play the game they signed up for, and want their subs to go towards new content for the game that they are paying for, not development of new titles they don't play.

    • As an ex EVE player, all I can say is...

      Mod parent up.
    • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @08:04AM (#37678052) Journal

      I'm not an Eve player and I'm unlikely to ever be - I had a housemate who was big into it once, and while the idea was cool, every time he started talking about the details, it sent me to sleep.

      That said, I am a shooter player. Ok, I'm more singleplayer than multiplayer these days, but I've been keeping an eye on Dust 514. I don't claim perfect prescience, but I do generally have a fairly good instinct for which shooters are going to survive and which aren't. And I would bet quite a lot of money that Dust 514 is going to fail spectacularly.

      The market for "online shooters" is rather more competitive than the market for "online space trading and combat role playing economics simulators". The market for sci-fi themed online shooters is, if anything, particularly vicious. Halo, Killzone and Gears of War have their followings - and there is some really intense brand loyalty out there. Seriously, if you thought vi vs emacs could get heated, it is nothing to Killzone vs Gears.

      Games like Space Marine can achieve reasonable success in this market on the basis of a decent enough singleplayer campaign and multiplayer that's fun for a quick blast. Team Fortress 2 managed to get marketshare because it's Valve, and hence automatically gets attention. But I just cannot imagine that a title like Dust 514, from a developer with no background in the genre, based on an IP that most console shooter players would consider snooze-worthy, with no particularly exciting or different gameplay innovations (Planetside already did the persistent-world thing) will manage to get the kind of self-sustaining player base it needs to succeed on a long term micro-transaction supported basis.

      If CCP have bet the farm on the success of Dust, then I suspect Eve may be in for a troubled future.

      • with no particularly exciting or different gameplay innovations

        This is the one part that is incorrect. Dust 514 and Eve Online are supposed to tie together and have some sort of interaction, based around Eve's Planetary Interaction feature. I don't know of another MMO that interacts directory, or indirectly, with another MMO.

        Granted, we don't know the details of the interaction or how closely tied the two games will be at that point, but it still interesting and could lead to some fun interactions between p

      • Its even worse than that.
        Its tied to the playstation3. It will be coming out at the end of the PS3 lifecycle.

        Who is going to buy a game that is supposed to be a persistent shooter on a platform that is at end of life? If CCP sticks with PS3 play on their expansions then they loose the new/better factor of the PS4, go to PS4 and people are pissed they can't play the game they just bought last year. Play on both and its crappy for everyone...

        Then the tie in to EVE is very risky. To many dust players vs.
      • no particularly exciting or different gameplay innovations

        CCP employs two economists, one to look after economics in Eve and one to develop the economy for Dust 514. You know of any other team based persistent shooters with a deep economy?

  • by zergl (841491) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:40AM (#37676696)

    The EVE MT experiment did not just fail because of that, it failed because of a multitude of reasons, most of which a sane person would have seen coming from miles away.

    First of all, the NEX Store (the name of this abomination, yes I'm biased against it, deal with it) was released in a vacuum of a completely single player environment. The only place your purchase will be seen in all its glory is in the confines of your own game client in a shabby little hole called the Captain's Quarter (or dismissively, the Captain's Closet). Multiplayer Avatar interaction was indefinitely postponed for now (they finally admitted/realized that they had nothing fun in terms of gameplay value on the drawing board for it [eveonline.com], go figure), so the only way your purchase is visible to other players is through the Tiny Avatar portrait (which is one of the reasons why the Monocle was the only item seeing significant sales, the other being trolls buying them to enrage the more easily excited opponents of microtransactions in EVE).

    Second, the concept of a market-less (if you ignore the resale), infinite supply item is diametrically opposed to the core concept of EVE's player run economy and sandbox nature. Everything in EVE has a price defined by supply and demand. The price of the Vanity Items is based solely on the current ISK equivalent value of a month's worth of game time.
    For a more sane approach on that and how it would be at least somewhat acceptable, I made a thread about that on a community forum [failheap-challenge.com] in the wake of the ingame riots.

    Third, even the low-price tier is still retardedly expensive. Even the cheapest items still cost 1000 AUR which amounts to 1/3 of a PLEX (the Gametime Code token which converts to 3000 AUR, clocking in at around 17 USD from a cheap supplier) and a full set of clothes (boots, pants, shirt/jacket, etc) would set you back over 20 bucks worth of PLEX/Gametime.

    The reason given in TFA, while certainly not wrong as it really was bloody stupid to launch with almost exclusively high-tier items, compounds with all this and resulted in a huge backlash against CCP over it (and other poor decisions and a backlog of frustration over the last two years of neglect towards the core gameplay) but was definitely not the only or even the main reason for it.

    I should probably also point out that the prices of the items in general are also hugely immersion breaking. The ISK equivalent price of a monocle (the highest priced item) is roughly that of a dreadnought. Which is a capital ship. The second largest and expensive tier of ships (after supercapitals).
    And even the cheapest boots cost as much as a battleship.
    Admittedly, you apparently buy a lifetime subscription to your clothes as they don't get destroyed upon player death like implants (another decidedly un-EVE feature of the Vanity Items) but that still seems somewhat extreme...

    • by zergl (841491) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:50AM (#37676740)

      Oh, and I forgot one other point that was pointed out in another comment:

      I'm already bloody paying a premium subscription price for EVE (well, not any more at the moment) and double dipping (or rather attempting to do so) into a customer's wallet like that also offended quite a lot of players in conjunction with the idiotic price points. A couple of EUR/USD for a full set of high tier clothes might have been acceptable to some in that context, but the way it was rolled out, not a chance.

      Microtransactions have a place in gaming. That place is Free To Play games or to justify further development time on an already aging one time purchase title (like Team Fortress 2 before it became completely F2P and MT based).

      • You are absolutely correct about the double-dipping, and how MT belongs in a free-to-play game rather than a game with an already lofty monthly subscription. My greatest fear is all of the references that Hilmar (the CEO of CCP) makes towards "where the MMO industry is heading". He seems to be very, very interested in this free-to-play, MT-supported business model and I am certain that he wants to push Eve down this path. It won't work; the playerbase will leave in droves should that happen.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But they can only double-dip if you let them. You are not required to buy these items and from what I hear they're just cosmetic. So it shouldn't matter to player A if player B buys them. Game companies have figured out that there are enough players out there willing to buy fluff (or at least sneak into mom's purse and borrow the credit card). Ie, see WoW's $25 glitter mount. There's no way a company can pass this stuff up, they'd have their shareholders threatening to sue if they don't.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      As a non-Eve player, I'd like to say: That's a very nice writeup. Thank you for that.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Yup, agreed. Oh, and did you spot the significant line: "Once Incarna hits its stride, EVE will be more personal, and thus more accessible to general audiences. Visual self-expression in a virtual setting is a core psychological component of gaming; most people need to see their avatars, or something vaguely humanoid, or else they donâ(TM)t connect with the game."

      See, that's why EVE is and always has been failing and so unpopular - no monocles . He's clearly still obsessed with going after the Sims

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Slashduh ate my <sarcasm>tags</sarcasm> around the "failing and so unpopular" line above, in case it wasn't obvious. :imagine eye roll emoticon here:
    • by bug1 (96678)

      You also left out that the items where not even design to suit Eve gameplay.

      Some of the core professions in eve are Mining, Pirating, Trading, and general PvE/PvP.

      Do they sell a pair of miners overalls for a miner, a simple black eyepatch for a pirate, a rich looking suit, or even a general space helmet, no.

      If they had a pet parrot to perch on your shoulder, guarantee they would sell more of them than monocles (at any price).

      Fact is the clothing was designed for other titles CCP is developing, CCP is "lever

  • Still saying that the reason people got into EVE - spaceships and stuff - is all wrong, and what you all really want to play is The Sims In Space.

    Note those words, little else in his mea culpa is particularly significant. It's not "Arcana was a bad concept" it's "Arcana just didn't go far enough." Get your monocle polish ready.

  • As long as it's restricted to purely cosmetic stuff. If someone wants to buy a pimp hat to complete their image, well go knock yourself out, buy that pimp hat. Or if some corp wants their fleet to be fabulous pink, well go ahead and buy it.

    The problem comes for a subscription service when the premium content isn't just cosmetic but puts people who pay extra at an advantage. For example perhaps someone could buy boosters that speed up production, or learning, or reduce overheads. And anyone who chooses not

  • How about being able to hide - truly hide. Not instantly appear on local, or in an overview.

    Collision damage. Mining laser dual use (should be able to cut a ship in half with a strip miner!), planets should be able to host giant missile batteries, the ability to orbit planets and moons..... jeez the list is endless.

    Hell the ability to warp to the point of your choosing, forget warpables.

    Stuff like that.

    Instead we get captains quarters.

  • ...all over again. Except the CU affected game play and this is just highway robbery on the new digital highway. Hmm, let me explain. No, it would take too long, let me sum up -- based on the posts here from current EVE players about the background of what is happening, this whole event has the _feel_ of the SWG community after the CU and is moving towards the feel of the NGE implosion.

    Sucks for long-term players, regardless of your game of choice. I had three accounts on Star Wars Galaxies at the height of

  • A lot of the player anger was driven by the fact that this arrived as part of an 'expansion' that managed to take away popular features and forced players to use the Walking In Stations interface even though said interface was incredibly resource intensive and melted GPU's. Also, they screwed up several months previously when at the last minute they dropped support for older CPU's because the library that simulated clothes and hair needed SSE3 extensions. The deployment of the new avatar technology has jus

    • by msu320 (1084789)

      It's definitely worth noting that micro-transactions were only a lightning rod issue- there are ships that are worth 3500$ flying on the server. Although 68 dollars for a clothing item is hardly considered a micro-transaction.

      The missing spin-ship 'feature' was noticed so severely because spinning the camera around your ship in a station was the only thing you could do when you did not want to lose a ship that cost so much in real-life money or in game time to replace. Ships you could afford to lose are wor

  • They're ALWAYS in an uproar about some shit or another. That's like saying "Linux community upset about changes to kernal" or "Sony being criticized for heavy-handed move" or "Apple fans anxiously awaiting next Apple announcement."

    • It's different this time. If it was FOSS there would be a fork right now.
    • Yeah, but this time it looks like the online player numbers are slowly but certainly declining.
      Look at this link: http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility [eve-offline.net]
      (the 6-months data seems to not show up for some reason) ...Two of the missing accounts from there are mine; I quit in June for reasons other than MT introduction.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But it's a very old game that has not had much in the way of updates. EVE has been holding onto players pretty well for a game of that age. Any decline can not be attributed to just one factor, and of all the factors the biggest is probably players getting tired of it and wanting to do something new.

  • CCP showed their players the door. Literally.
    When you turn off the amazingly resource hungry, badly designed, captains closet, the game literally shows you the door. And those nice Icelandic folk still don't understand that "showing someone the door" is an american idiom for kicking them out. There were so many stupid idiotic mistakes in this release that clearly showed the pure incompetence of CCP. If, as seems likely, they were as incompatent with their money, and with the Iceland/EU and EU monetary issu

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