I'm going to dance along the :nda: line for a bit, hopefully without touching it.(1)
When the members of the CSM got to Iceland for the Summer Summit this year, we wanted to get a few minutes of Hilmar's time. I in particular had three questions that I wanted to ask him and I cheerfully admit they were kind of loaded questions. As you know, I have a strong interest in increasing EVE's logged-in player base, something that I've advocated for the last couple of years and something which CCP has had a very notable lack of success doing. Sure, the subscriptions are going up, the fights are getting bigger, but I feel like we're an increasingly large army of alts rather than a diverse, thriving, growing community.
I might be totally wrong -- I hope I am! -- but that's my impression.
Question number one for Hilmar was basically "At Fanfest last year, you made a heartfelt plea for EVE players to help you market and sell the game. We learned at Fanfest this year that the marketing efforts are primarily aimed at DUST 514. Are you giving up on marketing EVE to new players?"
I've found over the years that the more thoughtful an executive is, the safer it is to ask him or her a yes or no question, and asking a yes or no question is also a good way to pick up on whether a given executive is thoughtful. One that isn't will answer a yes or no question in a 30-word sound byte. One that is more thoughtful will give a more nuanced answer. I was pretty confident Hilmar would go the latter route and he definitely did not disappoint me. I wrote up the whole session with him and hopefully it will survive the minutes editing process. But I think it's NDA-safe to say that if I had to sum his answer up in two words, those two words would be "No, but..."
EVE is a hard game. We all know that. It's hard to learn, hard to master, hard to explain, hard to teach. A lot of you positively glory in how hard this game is, and a few of you out there get disgusted at any discussion of making the game a little easier to teach and learn.
So it's kind of interesting to read Mabrick's attempt to read the tea leaves of recent CCP executive statements in one of his posts the other day. His key question: is CCP giving up on EVE as an "entry level" New Eden experience, and shifting to marketing EVE as a advanced option for players that outgrow DUST 514 and Valkyrie? Put more simply: are the latter two games going to be pushed as the gateway drug that gets people to move up to the strong stuff, i.e., EVE Online?
It's a really cute way of looking at the problem. Go read his piece. But I'm pretty sure the first two words of the answer would be "No, but..."
I never really gave the Penny Arcade Report the credit it deserved as a analysis website. I read it pretty frequently and they did some really interesting pieces about EVE and other games. Now that it's shut down, it seems a little strange to link one of their pieces, but this piece they did on new players entering EVE featuring some commentary from Helicity Boson was quite interesting. Helicity tried to make the point that there were simpler avenues for slowly easing into the EVE experience. But at the time the piece was written I couldn't help but smile at the tone. "No, EVE isn't hard. All you have to do is follow this eight step guide to your first couple of months in EVE..."(2)
Meanwhile, I watch friends in Rote Kapelle playing Warframe and vaulting to near end-game play in those same couple of months. More and more of the MMOs coming out lately seem to be "throw-aways", something you spend fifty bucks on for boosters or a gold tank, get three months of fun out of, and then abandon. Just in Rote Kapelle, just in the last six months, there were aficionados of Warframe, Mechwarrior Online, World of Tanks, War Thunder, Airland Battle, Chivalry, and Guns of Icarus, as well as the near-ubiquitous League of Legends. The games come and go like a winter wind. Hell, for Chivalry alone, people were playing it for about five days, I said what the hell and bought it on Steam and -- literally before I had finished installing it! -- Rote members had moved on.
I once described DUST 514 as having the potential of becoming the tail that wagged EVE's dog. The Playstation Network has millions of people logged into it. If only 1% of them had become regular DUST players, those numbers would have quickly dwarfed EVE. That's clearly not going to happen now. Eight months ago, I said that if DUST's logged-in player count was 5000 players, that would be a disaster. That disaster is here now and doesn't seem to be going away. So the idea of DUST 514 being a gateway drug for EVE is one that I don't believe has any traction. If anything, CCP might have some luck going the other way around. "This whole space thing not for you? Well, we've got this other game, it's a shooter, and..."
That leaves Valkyrie. Will Valkyrie be EVE's gateway drug? I do think it's gonna sell a lot of Oculus Rifts, certainly! And I think it's going to be successful. But hey, I thought the same thing about DUST 514, too.
Short version from me? Even if it happens and Valkyrie players looking for a deeper experience try out EVE, I don't think CCP should rely on it. If it happens, fine. It's a nice bonus! But as a primary strategy, EVE needs to be its own gateway drug and needs to have its own marketing strategy. So I'm going to continue to advocate for a simpler, easier-to-teach, easier-to-learn new player experience, and I'm going to continue to advocate for CCP to try to sell the game that's making them successful. I continue to think that's the way forward with the highest likelihood of success.
(1) The title of this blog post is pretty much guaranteed to get me a lot of blog spam, but it's too good not to go with.
(2) I make light of this piece but if you have ten minutes, go out and read it. It's worth your time.