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.
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Fanfest Day Five: Sales pitch

I wanted a little bit of extra time to think about that CCP Presents keynote.  And the more I think about it, the more my thinking runs down three pretty distinct channels:
  • CCP wasn't presenting to its current customers on Saturday.  They were presenting to the press.
  • It should not surprise EVE players that since the DUST players were more agitated, they received more attention.
  • While as an EVE player, I was overall disaatisfied with Saturday, as a CSM member, I'm delighted.
Let's take them in order.

If you're not at Fanfest, the thing you don't see on the stream is how people are filtered into the keynote venue.  At the bottom and top levels are players of both games yes, but in the middle is the press area.  And press were everywhere at this Fanfest.  You couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone wearing a Press badge.  I saw everything from local media to Eurogamer to Playboy in attendance, and every media outlet in between.  I caught up with CCP Manifest at one point and asked him if he could arrange for a quiet place for me to write in the venue and he let me know that the press areas within the venue were totally full (I ended up doing my writing at the hotel).

What was the reason for the overlap with the other two keynotes?  Press attention.  What was the reason for the focus on the new products, particularly all that's happening in DUST?  Press coverage of CCP's new game.  Everything shown Saturday shows that CCP wants to broadly expand the audience of the "EVE universe".  Will the comic and the TV show and the clothing line and the books of lore and the EVE Collector's Edition and the TV spot and the MMA fighter sponsorship all succeed?  Of course not!  This is a shotgun approach.  You throw out mutliple things and you hope one or two things resonate.  Something goes viral.  That something expands your market.  That's how this stuff works.

Each of us probably has one or two of those that they liked.  For me, it was the 64-page comic and the Collector's Edition (which I'm pre-ordering the instant I get home).  For you, maybe it was something else.  We'll see what succeeds in the coming months.

Next up, the DUST focus.  I'm already hearing from lots of players that CCP Presents was nothing more than a second DUST 514 keynote.  No.  Not true.

But you could be forgiven for thinking it was.

Now part of this is EVE players becoming more and more wary of DUST in its tail that wags the dog role.  In talking about the PCU count, David Reid made it pretty clear that CCP expects the combined count of EVE and DUST concurrent players to pass 100k sometime this year.  That means that it's taken DUST eight months to find an audience equal to the size of EVE.  And they seem to be holding on to that audience in a shooter for coming up on a year (a life-age of the earth in shooter ages).  Let me clear my throat and say that again so that you hear it:

In less than a year, DUST has gained an audience equal that to the size of EVE Online.

But the DUST audience IS agitating for CCP to fill in the basic gaps in their game.  Are they at the level of player riot?  Not even close.  But they have a legitimate gripe, they're a key expanding market for CCP, and it didn't surprise me at all that CCP wanted to focus on that audience.  Besides, you might have noticed a bit of a personnel shuffle on the EVE side.  A lot of the stuff shown about EVE in the CCP Presents keynote was almost deliberately vague.  Watch it again and you'll see that lots of those promises can be interpreted in more than one way...

Which brings me to the point where as an EVE player, I was a bit aggravated by the keynote but as a CSM member, I was delighted.  I haven't had NDA-level conversations with anyone in EVE game design yet so I don't mind saying it's pretty clear these vague directions are undefined.  There's a damn good chance that CSM8 is going to be in a really good position come the May/June summit (whose date is not yet set, BTW) to influence the direction of this "space colonization" vision.  At the Party, I was able to buttonhole both CCP Seagull and CCP Arrow and tell them both "Know what was missing from that graphic of those Bustards building that stargate?  You zoom past that view and there's a hundred sub-caps fighting to defend them as they spend hours or preferably days at that work."

I'm all for a big industrial expansion or two (and that's what feels like is coming, honestly), but there's more than enough room in this theme for some explosions.  ;-)

So overall, I was of mixed emotions about the CCP Presents keynote.  The new Origins trailer, though?  That's the best trailer the video team has done in years.  Dear Heaven does it do a lovely job of selling the games.

And selling the games -- yes, plural -- was what Saturday was all about.


  1. Agreed. As an EvE player who has a bigger picture in my mind of New Eden, I was pleased as punch. To me EvE is like reading a book by Niven or Hienlien, EvE is not 'just' about FIS..

    The SciFi basis give it the ability to be an incredibly deep and multilayered 'verse. We are just the lucky few who were in on the ground floor so to speak... These first 10 years when EvE was 'just' a spaceship game... Now it is becoming a larger 'verse, we are seeing deeper into the layers, and I hope and pray that it never stops... =]

    Congrats Ripard, I am well pleased you not only won, but got a permanent seat AND the highest vote count. Yes, well pleased, do us proud man... =]

    1. Unfortunately, thanks to all of those idiot players who raged against Incarna, EVE is currently committed to being just a "spaceship" game. And, ofc, DUST is just another FPS console game.

      WiS was the magical door to expanding EVE into a true sci-fi MMO genre, but that door was locked, to keep the peasants with the torches & pitchforks happy - and is likely to remain so, until CCP can land another deep pocket investor.

  2. Nice article, and congrats on CSM8!

    I would just point out that DUST 514 is ~free~. Sure you can pay for extras, but it's not required.

    EVE on the other hand, is obviously a subscription based game, and throughout history, recurring fee's have always put people off.

    The majority of gamers I know in real life are happy to (and indeed do) play several free-to-play games, but I mention a great subscription game, and they're totally uninterested.

    As such, I'd absolutely expect Dust 514 to skyrocket in terms of player numbers, in much the same way that Team Fortress 2 did when they went live on Steam as a free-to-play.

    Not to mention that it's a console game, and a FPS. It's a pick-up-and-play, throwaway game for the most part. EVE on the other hand takes months to get to grips with the basic gameplay mechanics. This coupled with the (presumably) huge amount of teenagers playing DUST 514, who generally have a lot more free time to pewpew pixels.

    What I think is important to note from all of this is that, as it's a free-to-play game; unique players != $$$.

    If there's 500,000 players playing, but only 10,000 of those ever actually spend any money on it, then you haven't really made a successful product. It's like in business. Your turnover can be as high as you like, but if it never transfers to profit, what's the point?

    Just a few of my thoughts.

    1. DUST is counting on players with short attention spans to want to pay-to-win, rather than spend months grinding up for free.

      Essentially, then, they are banking on the "gold ammo" model, which sparked the Summer of Rage protest in EVE a while back.

  3. I get the feeling that the Collectors Edition is aimed at people who aren't just EVE or Dust players, but rather both; hardcore _CCP_ fans. Not EVE, not Dust, but CCP. Players that will also play WoD when it eventually comes out.

    And, as you wrote, it also sells the game that the customer doesn't already play. But mostly I think it sells CCP as a company (The danger game, the art book and so on...).

    I have some minor gripes with the content on the Dust side of things but that's just me being concerned about the Dust economy, which doesn't really mean much, until trading happens.

    Regardless, CCP is building up their brand.
    They need successful products for this.

    I'm excited to see what comes out of this.

  4. I was (and still am) hoping that the colonisation push with player-built stargates could lead to player destructible stargates through the rest of the EVE universe.

    How many battleships to suicide gank the Jita-Perimeter stargates?

    What are the consequences? System wiped out as per Mass Effect "Arrival" or non-event like Malkalen?

  5. Makes me wonder if CCP should consider a more closed event for real 'fans' so that they can cut through a lot of this crap and get right down to the nuts and bolts of things - less shows and more brain storming, Q&A sessions and player feedback - sorta like a very large player focus group.

    Either way your right about the intended audience; I haven't seen all of the stream but the bits I did see it was more focused on giving people this grand idea of being some immortal god like person who can either fly in massive space battles or jump onto a planet and kick some teeth in personally - even the 'respawn' element that you pointed out is more about the expression on her face which is a mixture of 'meh - dead again' and 'I'm gonna go fuck up that dude!' which is exactly how most players feel when they get killed :P

    Its interesting your comment on the DUST numbers but I would be concerned that your not compairing like for like here - DUST players are NOT subscribers and in many ways it can make a massive difference.

    From those numbers I can't tell how a DUST player is determined - is it that they've simply signed up, downloaded the client, spent x amount of time in game or have played the game recently. A game like DUST is going to have a LOT of player turn around and that means people downloading it, trying it out, and then moving on - does that mean they are a DUST player? I don't think so because they aren't active enough.

    EVE players pay to be counted - you could argue the same thing about activity but your more likely to be active in something your paying for than you are getting for free so that would explain why the EVE numbers seem to be down next to DUST.

    I'm sure if you counted all the trial and expired accounts in EVE you'd see the numbers are dramatically different but with DUST you don't have a way of saying if they are truely active or not to know if they should be counted.

    Like you said its about casting a net and hoping to make a catch - the difference between the two is that the net they are casting for DUST is try and interest as many new players as possible but at the same time keep the existing DUST players interested where as the EVE net is less about finding new players but keeping the existing players happy enough to stick around.

    The DUST net acts to try and get as many people as possible in the chance that at least some will part with some cash but not be too bothered if they leave.

    The EVE net acts to try and catch as many new people as possible (but not to the same extent as DUST) but to keep existing players happy to stay long term.

  6. Oh: most important thing about the trailer? The capsuleer that is the focus of the piece flies a frigate :)

    The Cloaking Device Speech:https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=56198#post56198

  7. I encourge you to lobby for including modular POSes (also COSes) in the space colonisation theme, especially if its a longer term theme. It is a natural fit. I want POSes where you can dock some ships (with the ships simply getting destroyed if the POS gets destroyed). I want it to be easy to set them up. I want them to be my go-to place for doing some lowsec/nullsec industry (nowadays i avoid them like a plague). I'd so love to set up a proper industry hub in providence...

    Also, congratulations, work hard! ;)

  8. Im going to miss speculative posts like this, their very insightful and I enjoy them a lot even if I don't always agree with your end conclusions. I hope you find a way to keep making these once you start getting into the CSM stuff, but I know thats not likely.

    All and all I kinda have to agree with you on this. I feel pretty pumped about our new universe and the games within it. Bring on the next decade!

  9. Sounds like CCP Pokethulu has been hard at work. This was his first fanfest right?

  10. Please, Please dont sign the NDA! Where else am I going to get great analyis of CCP like this?

    1. Don't worry. Signing the NDA isn't going to impart all of the dark and unknowable secrets of CCP and the EVE universe to Jester.

      On a few matters, CCP will ask him and the other CSM members to be circumspect in public discussion, but, on most others, he'll be as free to speculate and analyze as any one else.

      The NDA isn't a gag order, you know.

    2. Seconded. Run away from this, Jester, you're setting yourself up for a lose-lose proposition. Run that NDA by your lawyer before agreeing to be gagged for years after you've left the CSM.

    3. Nothing Ripard just talked about was covered under NDA, nor would signing an NDA prevent him from providing any of the analysis in this piece. The "strangled by NDA" thing only applies to features in progress that Ripard would never have been able to blog about BEFORE he was elected to the CSM. You have little to fear about Ripard being muzzled, he's a workhorse you'll be hearing from daily all year long.

  11. Well we found out the secret of 514... let just hope that Dust625 means the PC version release :D

  12. Industrial expansion is what im looking for after Odyessey, since RnD and Manufacturing are pretty much ignored other than some minor tweaks.

    oh, and a typo in your first bullet point

  13. Now that you mention the press precence, the CCP Presents keynote makes a lot more sense. As an eve player, I was bored to tears by all the DUST talk. The eve stuff that was included sounded like a whole lot of dreaming and not enough "this is what's happening".

    For Eve's sake, I hope DUST is a success and perhaps eventually there'll be a PC version of DUST.

  14. So rather than EVE alliances hiring Dust mercs to take planets, we might someday see Dust mercs hiring EVE alliances?

  15. If the MMA sponsorship is the one that goes viral Eve players may need to rethink the trend of insulting someone's girlfriend to start a nullsec war.

  16. "Know what was missing from that graphic of those Bustards building that stargate? You zoom past that view and there's a hundred sub-caps fighting to defend them as they spend hours or preferably days at that work."

    This so much this. And not just in the new stuff. For me the fix for null sec is an Eve where null players are going "scramble, scramble our miners are under attack in GFZ" The passive aggressive loathing null sec pvpers often have for "carebears" is toxic. (And I really admire the Goon tradition of using military tools like ice interdiction to increase the profitability of their own ice miners).

  17. "In talking about the PCU count, David Reid made it pretty clear that CCP expects the combined count of EVE and DUST concurrent players to pass 100k sometime this year."

    As previously commented to many nay-sayers, the current 40K-50K PCU numbers do include *both* EVE and DUST players, not just EVE players. When DUST finally goes live next month, Reid expects at least a 4x jump in the number of DUST players, before the end of the year, which is what will push the PCU over the 100K mark. Certainly, he does not expect Odyssey to contribute even a 1.5x growth of EVE players.

    Hopefully, no one (except Unifex) will still be suggesting that the growth in PCU is solely due to the Retribution & Odyssey EVE expansions.

    1. As one former "nay-sayer", I'll freely admit that the numbers don't add up, based on what Reid was going on about.

      Damn it - I wish CCP would just stop with the idiotic bait-and-switch games and simply release the real numbers, separately for EVE and DUST. Why try to confuse matters, anyways? It only paints them in a bad light when they get caught.

  18. YAY CCP for managing to find <100K people willing to play a FREE game
    Lets call is a success of the same magnitude as finding 100K people willing to pay $15 per month while we are at it ....

    1. On average a active player in a free2play game does spend more on the game than a single subscription would.

      EVE Players are in this regard special, as a single player may consume a dozen subscribtions alone either by actually paying them for himself, or paying for or via plex. Still, in the end each active subscription should yield less profit than a single f2p player on average. Sure, most players will not pay much, but the big whales pay more than enough to make the average very profitable for ccp.

      In other words: You failed to understand the f2p business model, even when it is in many ways similar to the current eve-online business model with big whales paying for many, many other peoples accounts.

    2. @Tenris - You are the one who fails to understand the F2P business model.

      You are incorrectly assuming that all active players in a F2P spend money. They don't. The majority of F2P players spend nothing and play entirely for free. For each player that buys, say, a monocle, at least 10 other players buy nothing at all.

      Because the majority of F2P players pay nothing, the average revenue per player in a F2P is much lower than in a subscription game.

      In addition, each non-paying player adds just as much of a cost load (ie. server, database, network) as does each paying player. This means that gaining 100K new non-paying players is actually a bad thing, not a good thing. Your costs increase, but your revenue does not.

      In the subscription model, each additional player pays a sub fee, which covers the additional cost load, plus profit. More players = more revenue.

      This is why CCP has not switched to a F2P model for EVE Online, and is unlikely to do so, as long as the current subscriber base remains stable.

      Only games which are failing to attract sufficient subscribers to cover costs (such as SWTOR), or which are suffering from rapidly diminishing subscriber numbers, switch to F2P.

      F2P for a new game, only really works when your costs are being subsidized by in-house investment or by some other revenue stream, or in the very rare case where your development costs and overhead costs are ridiculously low. Just FYI, the subsidized model is betting on a long-term ROI, which hasn't been proven yet to be successful. All of the successful F2Ps fall into the second category, and there really aren't many of them, despite what you hear.

    3. @9:40 PM
      "You are incorrectly assuming that all active players in a F2P spend money. They don't."

      What part of "av·er·age" was incomprehensible for you? I told you on average a F2P player spends more. And I told you the reason for this are the whales that spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month on their game.

      Does this work for every game? No, as this are average values, and a game like LOL works with less whales and more players spending money, a game like wot is aiming primary for the whales.

      The reason this whole F2P system does not work for eve at all is the market, Plex are a limited demand commodity, which is good.

      Furthermore you completely ignore wargameing.net and Riot which have proven long ago that the F2P model is highly profitable when done right. Both games already making cash on their long-term-bet.

      Lastly any development of a game is an investment and as such has to be an in-house investment or be financed by other revenue stream. Development cost money and takes time, and customers tend to not pay for unfinished products (besides of kickstarters). FYI F2P, subscription-based or just sales is not important for this at all.

  19. Don't worry about ring mining or a revamped POS system, or a re-tooled corporate roles interface (to say nothing of the science and industry interface). LOOK! Over there! Shiny new colonization and player-built stargates (3 or 4 expansions away from anything remotely interesting)!


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