EVE: Greed kills

Wallstreet will tell you that if you are not growing, you are dying.

But the MMO space is not Wallstreet. If you are maintaining, especially at a pretty decent level, you are doing more than just OK.

350k subs still bring in 350k subs worth of income. So long as you don’t spent like you expect it to be 400k next month, what’s the real issue here? Is New Eden hurting for player activity? Nope. Can a business not sustain itself on 350k subs of income? Nope. Does CCP have enough devs working on EVE currently to improve the game at a good pace thanks to those 350k subs? Yup. Is it possible that at some point, as EVE continues to improve gradually, the number of subs will also gradually climb, much like they have for 9 years? Magic eight balls say “very likely”.

What is interesting, if I am reading Jester right, is that he is looking for CCP to do something :awesome: that will push EVE from its ‘niche’ of 350k subs into… well whatever comes after the 350k+ subs ‘niche’. And CCP tried just that with Incarna. And is now, maybe, trying it again with Dust514.

And both seem a little crazy to me, because CCP is (or has, with Incarna) playing with fire. If Dust fails and CCP has to make more cuts, this will very likely negatively impact EVE. If the impact is large enough, perhaps the rate of improvements in EVE slows, and due to that, players start to leave at a rate faster than they get replaced. That risk, to me, is not worth taking with something as successful as EVE.

That’s greed, and while it may be good on Wallstreet, it more often than not leads to something like this in the MMO space.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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21 Responses to EVE: Greed kills

  1. Cyndre says:

    My favorite part is when they hand delivered the overdue check for $1.2m, and politely explained they didn’t have the funds to cover the transaction, nor had they pais their employees…

    I need to try that next month with my mortgage.

    I have a few friends that work for them, and this stuff hit them out of left field by and large. I feel bad for them, they are still hopeful that this somehow gets pulled off, but morale is pretty low for a group of developers who believed they were on the road to being the next Blizzard. Very sad indeed…

  2. roigon says:

    I don’t think dust is a bad idea. While I agree that the wallstreet idea that progress must be measured in the growth of growth doesn’t transfer to video games; I do think that putting all your eggs in one basket is a sure way to end up with an empty basket in the long run.

    It is inevitable that at some point eve will die. It might be another 10 years, 20 or 30. But at some point it simply will die.

    If as a company you are all-in on that single product you have a problem. Diversification is the basic answer to mitigating risk and that’s exactly what dust represents. Having another egg in the basket.

    The success of dust isn’t even all that relevant for long-term survivability. It’s gaining the experience of running more then just eve, getting some experience in another field, getting to know new players in different video games markets, etc.. That kind of knowledge will prove vital in the long run.

    I think incarna was a good idea. I also think the amount of work that incarna took/takes made it a bad idea. And I fully hope that they will first perfect WoD before adding incarna to eve.

    While incarna doesn’t fit in with the whole flying spaceships part of the game, having the option to step out of your ship and walk around and socialize is an interesting addition. Just not at the cost of development it would take. But if that can be done in WoD, then all the better.

    Anyway, that’s just my 0.02 ISK

    • SynCaine says:

      I see the point about the eggs and the basket, but EVE has been out for 9 years; that’s a pretty solid sample size that what it does works, and works long-term.

      I also don’t buy into the idea that an MMO has to die at some point. To me it’s like arguing that at some point, gaming itself will die. So long as new content/games are coming out, why would people not keep paying for them?

      (Note: I also believe Dust will do well, so long as the PC version arrives at some point ‘soon’.)

      • jaggins says:

        To keep a game like EVE alive long term you would have to do crazy things like repeatedly upgrade the graphics engine or remodel and rejuvenate old systems and code. No-one would do that!

  3. theJexster says:

    Dust has me worried for one big reason. Eve is a PC game. Dust will be a PS3 game. If Dust was for both PC and PS3 I would feel pretty good but since it’s exclusive at launch it could be the very thing that causes it to fail.

    • kalex716 says:

      It will be out for PC. Its being developed using Unreal, I can tell you from experience that if you have a PS3 build running, you have a PC version running too pretty much. Its too much money left on the table not to put in the extra effort to finalize a port. This coupled with the fact that the consoles have lifecycle issues right now, and an expensive pipeline to put patches through, means its a matter of time till a PC version and its full realization comes through.

      CCP already doesn’t want to handcuff themselves, thats probably why they couldn’t broker a deal with microsoft. Microsofts online policies as they stand could NEVER support a game like CCP. They would have had to make an exclusive expensive deal with them just to get the waivers and exceptions to their certification standards and post release standards and theirs a reason why that never happend…. My bet is cause they know after a certain timeframe, they want to ship on PC.

  4. maineiac12 says:

    Incarna wasn’t a bad idea. The half baked implementation attached to a cash shop was. Especially combined with CCP neglecting other parts of the core EVE game.

    I don’t have much faith in Dust. I want it to succeed but you don’t see many FPS games that aren’t tied to an existing IP like COD or BF doing all that great in the market.

    • kalex716 says:

      I kind of agree.

      If instead of a cabin, it was a casino with all kinds of games you can play for isk with other users (roulette, slots, craps, blackjack etc,), it would have been awesome.

    • carson63000 says:

      But.. but.. Dust IS tied to an existing IP. Isn’t that the whole point?

  5. Anonymus says:

    So EvE stagnating at 350k is good, but WoW stagnating at 10m is bad and worth of making fun of?

    • SynCaine says:

      WoW was at 12m, and last quarter stayed at 10.2 because that little D3 game sold a few million copies and gave it a boost.

      But more generally, yes :)

    • theJexster says:

      You see, Eve at 350 is still being brave, taking chances, and trying to improve. WOW at 10m is hanging on like Influenza A.

    • Devore says:

      Who says EVE is stagnating around 350k? There is nothing wrong with growing your business slowly, instead of betting it all on massive growth. I think should CCP go public there would be much more pressure to grow EVE subscribers aggressively, and to keep beating previous quarterly numbers.

      A successful niche market game is still a success.

  6. bhagpuss says:

    I’d love to see lots and lots of new MMOs, all kinds, all flavors, made by companies looking to hit a particular niche, gain a particular number of players and hold on to them by giving them the experience they want. Doesn’t matter if it’s 50k players or 500k. It might even be 10k. Just work out who you’re making the game for, how many people you need to bring in enough money to keep the servers up and content coming at an acceptable pace and pay your team well enough to keep good people on board, then cut your cloth accordingly.

    It’s the repeated attempts to make something huge that costs a fortune in the hope of getting all the money there is that’s causing all the problems.

    • kalex716 says:

      this is a smarter way to make progressive, cool games in 2012, and still be financially viable.

      The days of a mass market game with a huge budget that delivers on the experience that most of the bloated playerbase actually wants are long gone.

      Make a strong niche, focused game… Let your users find you, and deliver on quality over time and the people that love your game will continue to gravitate towards it.

      EVE seems to be one of the few games that have subscribed to this business model successfully. No other game can scratch the “EVE” itch to date. Its the reason why i stay subscribed even when i’m not playing too much.

      I think Dust is a smart bet. You still keep the new game under your umbrella, and they’re tied in to your core in an institutionalized way, rather taking the core game and blowing it out to try to appeal to “shooter fans” as a contrary.

      Target the shooter guys with another property, tie it to eve in a meaningful way, and you loop those grunts right into the Drama that is EVE on the grand stage. Now its fleet flies and MI dies. It has the potential to be really cool.

  7. brainclutter says:

    I want to talk more about 38 Studios! DOH DOH DOH!

  8. carson63000 says:

    Trying to apply the “if you are not growing, you are dying” logic to MMOs is a bit strange, isn’t it, given that there isn’t a single significant title out there that IS growing!!

    One man’s “stagnation at 350k” is another man’s “greatest player retention in the history of the genre”.

    MMOs are probably more like people than companies – we’re all dying. Just that some of us live a long and happy life and others die in a car crash as teenagers.

    • Aerynne says:

      Part of the problem is that gamers seem to delight in other gamers misery. I am not sure why any gamer would take delight in the demise of another game (unless it is SWTOR, may it rot in hell) but EVE fans cackle with delight when WoW loses subs; WoW players point out every plateau in EVE’s subs; everyone chortles when RIft loses players, etc. Maybe people think there is a limited pool of potential players, and everyone wants them for THEIR game. /shrug

      Personally, I think it’s stupid. I want all games to succeed (except SWTOR, may it die a thousand deaths). And success does not have to be measured in WoW terms.

      I have never played EVE and never plan to play it (just not my cup of tea) but I hope it has a long and healthy life. Variety is good! And who knows – someday I may want to play it. After all, I have played just about every other mmo (except SWTOR, may it’s bloated corpse never darken my monitor).

  9. Antivyris says:

    CCP has always struck me more of a ‘F the critics, this is the game I want to play’ style of growth. I could imagine members sitting around a table, sandwiches being served during some dev meeting, and on dev, mouth full of pastrami, going ‘You know, all these god-pilots roaming around space, planet life has to be crazy, you know they probably drop mercs wherever.’ and then another dev stops drinking his soda, ‘Dude, I’d play that game’. And thus, Dust514.

    I don’t really buy that they are trying to expand the game, looks a bit more like they are wanting people to see that the game is just as ugly on the planet surface. Sony looks at their current title selection and sees a good opening for a gritty, real-consequence to action title, and goes for it. In terms of New Eden, I think the impact EVE will have on Dust will be massive. I don’t think Dust will have a massive impact on EVE however. Unless they do something like tie Empire and Alliance Sov to Dust in some way, they will be another market for EVE capsuleers to exploit.

    Honestly though, if a game company out there came out with a Sci-fi sandbox, I could see a lot of EVE just suddenly leave. There is a large contingent of sandbox players that just love a hard-reset.

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