Saturday, 24 September 2016

Eve goes Free to Ship Spin

CCP's decision to add a formal Free to Play (F2P) element to Eve Online cannot really be considered to be a surprise. The move to commoditise Skill Points (SP) last year and the Tech 3 hardware uplift indicate the decision was made 24-18 months ago. It was only a matter of when and not if as I and others predicted.

As the proposal stands, it is not hugely detrimental to the game. However, CCP have never made transparency a high priority on this issue, so don't expect Alpha and Omega clones to be the end of the story. Expect gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta,theta, iota, kappa, lambda, etc, etc, clones in the future would be my speculation. And I have not been wrong so far.

The timing is interesting. We are of course in the post Citadel expansion world. Remember one of the benefits of CCP returning to expansions was that it was supposed to give something more tangible that for CCP's marketing people to promote. But it has been catastrophic. Instead of increasing player engagement, player activity has gone done 25 -30%.

Again this was predictable and predicted. The announcements by CCP at fanfest showed that they had no intention of deviating from what they had done for the previous three years. Namely, pandering to a narrow cultural hegemony to the exclusion of everyone else. Unsurprisingly, the disenfranchised have left and found better things to do.

So now CCP had a choice. Not an easy one but a choice nonetheless. Either attempt to learn and recover from the Citadel fiasco, or go nuclear and press the F2P button they already had in their back pocket. As we know, they have gambled on F2P being the white knight and doubled down on the Citadel release being the correct way forward.

To sweeten the pill, there is a loyalty reward for those with active accounts. This comprises of:

  • The Gnosis exploration battlecruiser
  • The curious Apotheosis shuttle
  • A new SKIN designed for the Gnosis
  • A special edition armor suit and goggles set
Coincidently, the Chinese Serenity Server also has a loyalty reward for active accounts. Not because of it going F2P. That hasn't been announced yet and it may not need to be. It is because it is the Mid Autumn festival. So if you have a Serenity account you get:
  • Scorpion Valkyrie SKIN
  • 1 million plus Skill Points
  • 2 attribute remaps
  • 1 character resculpt
So the CCP Tranquility reward isn't that sweet when it comes down to it. If you were in two minds about keeping your account active, which one of those two rewards would be more persuasive?

I digress. With CCP now committed to F2P being a part of Eve will it improve its fortunes? Certainly there will be more people accessing the game. But if CCP's promotion is anything like the small gesture above it won't be as many as perhaps they would like. They need to sharpen their marketing game. Fundamentally though, they have to make the game worth playing and worth paying for. 

Making Eve F2P doesn't fix the underlying problems that has put the game in its current position where people are making the judgement that it isn't worth paying or playing. It just makes access to those problems easier. Put it this way. Paying for a trip to the dentist for root canal surgery isn't fun. A free trip to the dentist but with less anesthetic doesn't make the experience more fun. So with the absence of any other change in direction in the game development terms, F2P could become an embarrassing flop much like Dailies were where players unequivocally voted to ship spin rather than bother a belt rat.