Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Consequences of action

I'm afraid I expected this.  As a matter of fact, I expected it a month ago.  A month ago, I reposted my piece from March that said:
In order to maintain the growth curve that EVE has enjoyed since 2003 and the growth curve to support their hiring practices over the last two years, the game should have passed 450,000 subscribers in October 2010.  Not only did that not happen, growth has completely stagnated for the last eighteen months.
Emphasis mine.  Both the nice and the horrible thing about being successful in business is that you recognize the moves that have to be made to be successful in business.

CCP can no longer afford to afford to develop three MMOs at once and as a result, they've announced that they're laying off about 20% of staff.  According to their announcement, this will primarily affect the World of Darkness team.  WoD development will continue, but at a substantially reduced rate.

So first, my deepest condolences to those in CCP Games that are losing their jobs.  My thoughts are with you and your families in this difficult time.  This is doubly tragic because too often, companies do their planning for the year to come at the beginning of fourth quarter, which often results in layoffs right before the holiday season.

To those people, I say: keep your heads and your spirits up.  You've done remarkable things at CCP, and you'll catch on elsewhere in short order.  The timing of this is actually pretty good in the larger economy and the gaming industry.  Again: stay positive and you'll be gainfully employed again soon.

To those left at CCP who will be dealing with the guilt of not being let go, I say: this is not your fault.  This is a management decision made based on the unfortunate realities of other "sub-optimal" management decisions.  The announcement says one solid truth flat-out:
In doing so, we have come to the conclusion that we are attempting too many things for a company our size.
Short version: CCP management bit off more than they could chew.  I hate using silly analogies at a time like this, but honestly... that one fits.

Some of you might be newer readers of my blog, and might have missed a piece from back in June called "The realities of EVE".  In it, I did some analysis of CCP financial documents that readers of Failheap were clever enough to pick up in the Icelandic tax office.  Those documents pointed to financial obligations that CCP had coming due this month.  In order to meet those financial obligations, it was very clear that difficult choices were going to have to be made.  Go read the full piece if you're interested.  It lays down the reasons for today's announcement, but I have no interest in repeating them.

So today, we see the results of those difficult choices.  As a manager, laying off valued staff -- and often, people who've become your friends -- is never, ever easy.  As a manager myself, I hate it.  But it's done for the survival of the business as a whole.  CCP had to make these difficult choices to demonstrate to their investors that they're serious about getting EVE's subscriber numbers back on track, and serious about getting DUST 514 out the door and on a paying basis.

Unfortunately, it's the departing employees that end up paying the price.

One last thing: in a very real sense, EVE's players have to accept a measure of responsibility for this as well.  Back in June, when unsubs were at their peak, I wrote:
In context, we know that over the weekend, some 4500 EVE subscriptions have been cancelled and the number is still climbing.  That's $67,500 U.S. per month, or enough money to imperil the jobs of 15 or more CCP developers.  There's no question that CCP has to respond to "what their players are doing."
Now, this does not not not mean that I'm laying today's actions at the feet of EVE unsubscribers.  As I said, today's announcement was caused by CCP management biting off more than they could chew.  Simple as that.  Still... the choices you make in EVE always have a consequence.  I think I heard that somewhere.

Again, my condolences to those losing their jobs at CCP, and my best wishes to those that remain.  A refocused CCP can and will succeed.  And I've no doubt that we'll see World of Darkness hit the market soon enough.  It's too cool a concept not to.


  1. I am very positive about these changes, although they involve 114 people losing their jobs, as the action seems to back up Hilmar's letter of regret and his promises to change things.

    I play World of Darkness (the pen&paper version) and am looking forward to the game being deployed, but the decision was necessary for the company's future and credibility - not only for their investors, but also for the inhabitants of New Eden.

  2. It's not like we did not warn them. Warn them again. Protested, complained, begged and warned them some more.

    Management decided to throw that in our faces with "see what they do not what they say"

    And now a lot of wonderful people are paying the price, while the culprits still have their jobs.

  3. Thanks for writing up my exact thoughts from such a sympathetic yet realistic perspective.

  4. A well-write and insightful post as I have come to expect of you

  5. I said repeatedly at the winter summit last year that it seemed reckless to gamble the future of 600 staff and their families on Incarna being a success when they didn't have a second revenue stream to fall back on. Jester is right that they needed to gain significantly more subscribers but pissing off the existing customers didn't help their case at all and the failure to deliver what was promised was the final nail.

    I don't take any pleasure in being proved right about Incarna failing to increase subs and certainly no pleasure in seeing so many people pay the price for the arrogant management at CCP (team awesome will likely survive this too).

    All the players were trying to do at the time was warn about the disconnection between CCP Management and what the paying customers wanted.

  6. "EVE's players have to accept a measure of responsibility for this as well."

    While I understand you're not blaming the players, I still don't agree with the statement. Subscribers are not responsible for CCP paying wages of their staff, and subscribers are not responsible for the financial health of the company.

    Subscribers are the consumers of the product CCP makes, and if that product stops being appealing to the subscribers, there is no moral or other responsibility that stops them from paying for it.

    In fact, I think players have been exceedingly patient with CCP - trying to point out their flaws time and time again through the CSM and other means, while keeping their subscriptions active. And then Hilmar said he would pay more attention to what players did than what they said. Well, they did something allright.

    So no, I don't think players are responsible for this in any way - CCP brought this upon themselves.

  7. "One last thing: in a very real sense, EVE's players have to accept a measure of responsibility for this as well."

    "Now, this does not not not mean that I'm laying today's actions at the feet of EVE unsubscribers. "

    Just a bit contradictory there? The customers aren't to blame for not liking a companies product, period. There is no 'responsibility' shared by EvE players in this. It lies wholly at the feet of the folks calling the shots at the company. They couldn't keep the customers interested enough in the product to keep throwing money at it and this is the price paid for what can only be described as incompetence.

    I do feel for the folks that are losing their jobs, been in the same situation myself (right before christmas), but there's no way I'll feel guilty for not paying for something that I didn't want. This is just another symptom of the failures of the CCP directors.

  8. Sad to see anyone lose their jobs when the economy is in such a terrible state, one of the reasons I came back to eve and resubbed 6 accounts is I was here at the beginning, missed the last few years but want to be here until it ends whenever that may be. I enjoy the game, and the Interaction with other people. There are too few games where you can match wits against a human opponent where there is a significant penalty to losing, I find this game the best at this.


  9. @Toshiko, @Dierdra: As I said in the piece itself, I'm not not *not* blaming the players for this.

    *However*, EVE players being what they are, they are a little too frakking quick to say things like "CCP should just die" or "CCP should go bankrupt, LOL" or "I unsubbed and I hope EVE fails". It helps to keep in mind that the vast majority of CCP employees are real people, with real lives and real families.

    When you unsub to make a point, that has an impact and that impact this year has been perfectly valid.

    But when you unsub and pray for the death of EVE and CCP, you're praying for the loss of livelihoods of hundreds of people.

    So nope, not going to apologize for that para.

  10. Its a shame that it came to this and in this case completely avoidable. I agree with Helicity, I'm sure there are many employees of CCP that could see that the plan management put forward couldn't succeed and unfortunately some (many, or all?) now also don't have jobs.

    I'm sorry for the folks who lost their jobs but like Jester writes sometimes you have to do it. The right thing would be for the company board to hold managment responsible for this -- they over promised, under delivered and both the employees and the shareholders suffered. But we all know how the real world works...

  11. @Jester Don't beat yourself up over projections or predictions. Years ago plenty others worked out events and timelines, and costs to CCP. Basic stuff, which CCP themselves should have done as part of running the business with vision - properly.

    They didn't. And sure, it is uncanny how accurate those projections have turned out to be over time. But yes, this today is not about that, but about people. Real people, paying the price.

    We all wish them strength. We will miss old faces, and also more recent faces.

  12. Not the playerbases fault, it's CCP Management who have made a litany of mistakes, both in terms of managing the game and the community. The playerbase and CCP employees have suffered as a result, but it's unlikely the people responsible will suffer in any tangible way.

    If anything more vocal members of the community (including you Jester) have been pointing out the drop in subscribers, the fact that WoD and Dust are likely to flop with distastrous results etc etc with a view to get CCP to STOP destroying Eve.

    I've unsubbed several accounts in frustration, but not with the intention of killing the game or harming the employees, and I seriously doubt a majority felt that way when they did the same. We don't have any say on what CCP spend their profit from our subs on. We do have a say how much profit they make though, and once people realised CCP were no longer listening, unsubbing was the only course of action left.

  13. I gotta say you've pretty much summed up everything about this sad situation. And I agree that the players do have some small measure of responsibility for this.

    Unfortunately it seems the mass hysteria of this past summer was the only way to get CCP to notice that something was wrong. Eggs and omelets. =(

  14. Excellent post, Jester. I have to say that so many of us were right, back in June; Helicity, you, Jester, Liang and all the folks who unsubbed and the ones who analysed the finances and numbers on FHC. To us it was blindingly obvious where this was going. Nonetheless, I am pretty distraught that people are losing their jobs in this economy. It is VERY hard and very sad. My only remaining thought is thta some more people in Iceland should have been let go...

  15. Today demonstrated, in the worst possible way, why we've struggled to reach out to CCP on the development of Eve Online; nobody is winning right now.


  16. When you say stuff like this.....

    @Toshiko, @Dierdra: As I said in the piece itself, I'm not not *not* blaming the players for this.

    *However*, EVE players being what they are, they are a little too frakking quick to say things like "CCP should just die" or "CCP should go bankrupt, LOL" or "I unsubbed and I hope EVE fails". It helps to keep in mind that the vast majority of CCP employees are real people, with real lives and real families.

    I have to say....you dismiss the obvious...you are blaming ...in any argument where you include a however, but or other dismissive statement then we must disregard what you said before it.

    That being said I think the real issue is to not use terms like blame or responsibility to describe he action/reaction here and instead just accept that when a company loses it's customers trust they lose business. Period.

    Yes some nuts are over the top crying 'burn eve burn'. But that was not new to this past years events nor in the future.

    So drop the use of extremists and acknowledge a large rational player base responded.


  17. You should have just left the comments about players out of this; otherwise a well-written and informative article.

    Players having any 'responsibility' on the employment of the developer is about as accurate as saying drivers who switch from Ford to Dodge are responsible for lost jobs at Ford.

  18. "Players having any 'responsibility' on the employment of the developer is about as accurate as saying drivers who switch from Ford to Dodge are responsible for lost jobs at Ford. "

    In this case though the customers stood outside the Ford showrooms telling people Ford were evil and they shouldn't buy.

    It only applies to a small (but vocal) minority but the people who unsubbed and screamed all over the internet about how terrible Eve was and how everyone should unsub as a point of principle DID contribute to this crisis.

  19. And that's the comment of the week.

  20. It's all semantics, you just need to choose your words carefully. Some players were very vocal, "burn them down" and all that. But the vast majority of people letting subscriptions lapse did so because there's just nothing to hold their attention. They have no responsibility of any sort.

    I unsubbed 11 accounts. Does that make me partly responsible for someone at CCP losing their job? Not in the slightest - it means I get to save $2372 that previously I would have been happy to spend over the next 12 months. I don't like EVE as it has become, so why should I have to feel guilty at refusing to pay for something I don't actually want?

    The people responsible for sacking 20% of staff are management - not the players who choose to spend their money on something else. This is a free market, supply and demand rules. When CCP management (note that I said "management" not "ALL of CCP") collectively stopped giving a shit about the people that actually pay their wages (the consumer) the demand for the product dropped off accordingly.

  21. Some of you guys should be on the CSM :P

    @Diedra, @Teadaze, @Mynxee, @virt forever saying what I feel and cannot articulate.

  22. I completely disagree with any blame, even an iota of blame, being laid at the feet of the players.

    Players pay for a product or service. If those paying are not satisfied with what they are getting or are not getting, as is the case with the last several expansions, the player has every right to unsub and quit. People can argue all day and all night whether or not CQ is a good idea, or whether or not the PI interface sucks. But if there is not enough content to keep many (thousands) who play Eve because Eve is Eve (you know what I mean) and they leave: that is purely the CCP's fault not the player's.

    Hilmar should resign

  23. Asuri Kinnes here (I don't have any of those accounts, so I always put my name in).

    Nice to see alot of people following you. I like your stuff, however, I have to disagree with your conclusion.

    When a company makes a product, and the consumers communicate with the company about shortfalls of said product - it is *not* the consumers fault *at all* when the company finally comes to the conclusion that "oh shit - the product has shortcomings!".

    And @Stabs: Sorry m8, look up "Unsafe @ any speed". (Fuckit - heres the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsafe_at_Any_Speed )

    Yeah, that was "a critique of the safety record of American automobile manufacturers in general, and most famously the Chevrolet Corvair."

    Someone *DID* stand outside the dealerships and say "THIS IS SHIT!" "THIS IS UNSAFE @ ANY SPEED!" and things got changed... Sometimes you have to rub peoples noses in their mistakes to get them to admit/fix them.

    Thankfully, it didn't take CCP 15 years to put the brakes on....


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.