EVE Evolved: Two ways that EVE Online’s monetisation could be expanded under Pearl Abyss

    
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When Pearl Abyss bought out CCP Games last week, the overwhelming message to EVE Online players was that it would be business as usual for the foreseeable future. Many players were initially worried that Pearl Abyss would try to squeeze as much money as possible out of the EVE playerbase, but it seems likely that Pearl Abyss isn’t too interested in interfering with the game. Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung confirmed that “CCP Games will operate as an independent studio” and CCP Games confirmed in a recent Q&A that “CCP maintains control of how we develop EVE.”

Not all changes to EVE Online‘s monetisation model would be negative, though, and there are definitely opportunities to make more money from players without negatively impacting the game or its community. EVE has been chronically under-merchandised throughout its lifetime, for example, with some nice premium collectable books but a poor online store and no ship models or posters currently for sale. There would also be tons of opportunities for new cosmetic items in EVE if CCP chose to pursue avatar gameplay again.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at two ways that Pearl Abyss could expand EVE Online‘s monetisation without kicking the hornet’s nest.

Better merchandising

The official EVE Online merchandise store has been something of an ongoing saga for CCP, originally launching in 2004 as a tiny operation and being closed and re-launched over the years. Today’s store has a very limited selection of items available and is notorious for its long postage times and high shipping costs, the only reasonable option for some players being to buy items in person at the pop-up store during events such as EVE Fanfest or EVE Vegas.

The best merchandise CCP has produced over the years are definitely the various EVE books and the collector’s edition, but there are so many other things we would buy. The T-shirts produced in partnership with online retailer Jinx in 2009 were amazing, but it’s been so long since they were released that all of mine are falling to bits. There have also been several limited runs of hand-painted ship models over the years, and a limited run of poster prints of artwork created by community member Rixx Javix that now only seem to surface at events.

It’s almost inconceivable that CCP has no ship models for sale in today’s world of 3D printers, or that the only way to find a decent poster or t-shirt is to make it yourself. Community members have made some amazing ship models of their own over the years in the absence of official merchandise, and the professional quality models coming out of KISAKI Studio are frankly incredible. I would pay good money for a decent model of my favourite ship, or a bunch of new posters, or an EVE Online lego set, or any one of a dozen different products. Just sell me something!

A selection of the models made by KISAKI Studio in China. Give these guys a license, please!

Bring back walking in stations

EVE Online is firmly a game about spaceships, but at one point CCP poured a ton of work into developing avatar-based gameplay under the names Ambulation and Walking in Stations. The Incarna expansion released the first phase of this by allowing players to walk around inside a single captain’s quarters room and buy cosmetic clothing for their characters, and player backlash following this expansion formed a large part of the Monoclegate PR disaster.

CCP has shied away from avatar gameplay ever since, and officially removed the last vestiges of Incarna last year when the captain’s quarters feature was retired due to the fact that almost nobody still used it. I’ve always considered this to be a huge mistake. Avatars helped newcomers get the idea into their heads that ships are disposable tools, and the captain’s quarters usage rates were only so low because there was zero gameplay associated with it. This is also a huge missed opportunity for monetisation, not so much for clothing microtransactions but certainly for decorations and other in-station items. I would definitely pay money for cosmetics if I could decorate my quarters, and people would probably buy quite a bit if they could set up shops and social spaces in popular stations.

CCP officially has no plans to revisit avatar gameplay at this time and it would take a ton of work to do it justice, but I hold out hope that it could one day make its return. It would have to be a multiplayer experience and there would have to be enough compelling reasons for players to engage in it. We could get shady black-market traders and agents only accessible via stations, tax breaks for purchases made in person, illegal factory slots, maybe even new gameplay that takes place entirely inside stations. Certainly the idea seems from the outside to be more feasible now than before the buyout. Pearl Abyss already has established asset pipelines and technologies for avatar-based gameplay, and the studio also built possibly the only character creator in the MMO industry to beat EVE‘s on quality.

Remember this? Someone would pay a lot of PLEX to set up an in-game bar like this.

CCP Games has made a lot of changes to EVE Online‘s monetisation over the past few years, making a successful switch to a more microtransaction-based model and reaching record profit levels with the introduction of skill injectors and new ship skins. Outside of the core game, however, CCP has failed to adequately merchandise EVE and I believe the studio has missed some big potential opportunities by ditching avatar gameplay.

As a subsidiary of Pearl Abyss, CCP may no longer be responsible for its own strategic direction. It’s possible that Pearl Abyss will see these areas CCP has struggled with over the years as missed opportunities to grow EVE Online financially, and they could be better equipped to pursue them. On the other hand, Black Desert is also very poorly merchandised and Pearl Abyss is reportedly not planning to influence EVE‘s development. It’s too early to know whether anything will change with EVE Online‘s monetisation in the long term, but all I know is that I want one of those goddamn ship models!

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!

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April-Rain
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Kickstarter Donor
April-Rain

Walking in stations was the right direction for me, I still play eve today but would love the avatars in space stations it really helps with the immersion, they just did it wrong before as it was clunkey and a strain on old machines and just went a bit too far with the tech/ eye candy graphics.

If they had progressed and released communal areas rather than a room for you i’m sure it would have turned out differently as struggling to navigate your room with alone with basic functionality just put people off, it was a tech experiment in the end that should have stayed on the PTR.

They did not need masses amount of content added as people would make there own, just like in galaxies when we use to visit player events in cantina’s.

The amount of people I have tried to get into the game and say the lack of a real avatar is the sticking point amazes me everytime.

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Stiqman

They need to widen the player base. I’d like to see a new EVE shard with a different rule set – more PVE focused, and continue down the path of instanced content and story-telling. They have amazing lore to mine out and have done next to nothing with it. “The Blood-stained Stars” is an actual series of PVE missions with plot, story, lore, etc… and it’s basically the only one. 1 story mission, that is over a decade old. I think there is a player base out there looking for something that isn’t swords and spells, but the existing EVE rules and lack of content offers them nothing.

A new universe shard, with a well thought out new PVE leaning rule-set and story-line and instanced group content = new EVE revenue. And let the old shard continue on its way for the bitter vets to have their fun too.

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Bruno Brito

So, you…want to make EVE a themepark?

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Stiqman

Didn’t say I wanted it. I said there is an untapped player base out there that EVE is ignoring by simply not booting up a another server shard and tweaking the ruleset to be a little more theme-parkish. … and then slowly adding instanced/quest/PVE content. I think there is an intersection of at least two unique MMO experiences to be gained… a) it’s not-yet-another-elves-and-orcs-fantasy-thing and b) carrying over core EVE concepts into a PVE game, like the idea that virtually everything is player mined, player built, player owned and sold. Or that ships/gear doesn’t magically BOE and last forever but that everything is destructible, etc… there are lots of EVE concepts that can still work well in something more PVE-centric and create something very unique in the PVE/themepark market space…. which incidentally, is about 50 million players bigger and a several billion dollars richer then the niche market space EVE is engaged in now… something Pearl Abyss, and the topic of this article is interested in.

Alex Js.
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Kickstarter Donor
Alex Js.

Eh, I know that the EVE will be turned into “BDO in space” through in-game store and I know that there will NEVER be any “walking outside of ships” anymore (and I don’t really believe there will be any interesting merchandising), so I don’t even care when this game will finally be turned into “buy a limited-use, one-day cloaking module for your ship which will make you not appear in local chat and will make your ship immune to warp disruptor bubbles, all for a low price of $9.99!” .

Meanwhile I’ll just keep enjoying reading the player stories like these while they still happen.

Xijit
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Kickstarter Donor
Xijit

Two words: “Spaceship Bikinis”

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Sally Bowls

Perhaps with all our expertise :-), we are just overthinking it. The simplest thing to implement is the old standby … raise prices. If they went to $20, I bet a lot of other game companies would be hoping and silently cheering for them.

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Slaasher

I agree with this, Monthly swubs were $15 / month 20 years ago.
Going to 20$ is not a stretch.

Divide into that the number of hours a month you play the game and its still the cheapest entertainment out there.
By a long shot

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Wilhelm Arcturus

Now that I have the avatar rant out of my system let me ask a question about merchandise. What MMO of comparable player base size has a better merch shop than CCP? Who should they be emulating?

CCP has made bad decisions on that front, and has missed the boat on seemingly simple things (like, you know, just an actual EVE Online logo T-shirt), but I am hard pressed to point at a comparable game to hold up as an example they should follow. Every company that has decent merchandise also seems to have millions of players.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

The problem with walking in stations is, and always was, that once you have it you then have to build game play to give it some value. It essentially has to become another game entirely because EVE Online is about spaceships. It is too expensive a feature to create and maintain for trivial things that people like to offer as justification, like being able to deal with agent or broker avatars. That is not worth the cost.

CCP, at its peak back in 2011, clearly wasn’t big enough to do both an avatar game and a spaceship game. Given how many features EVE Online has I am not sure they are big enough to keep all the balls in the air for just spaceships. Even with the return to focus on spaceships after Incarna, how many features still clearly need a developer pass?

It comes down to how much are you willing to give up for avatar play? And if the answer is that you don’t care about the spaceship game, then go play something else. There are plenty of other avatar based options from which to choose. A half-ass avatar implementation, such as we had, isn’t going to bring any new long term players to the game and will simply alienate the core player base even further.

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Sally Bowls

I agree there are more monetization opportunities: 3-d ships seem obvious. I am less certain of the physical things; worldwide shipping and a very small customer base may not allow physical goods to work that well. But at least an annual t-shirt.

I kinda think not on WiS. There was a GDC talk about an old game (BE?) and the famous designer talked about it hurting sales to not have an avatar you could strongly identify with. I can not believe they would release the game now without more pilot viewing/bonding options.

But EVE is where it is. An ancient codebase that is very hard to change – which could describe their customer base as well. So WiS is a good idea, but spending the money on developing something outside EVE/PC seems like a better use of the money.

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Denice J. Cook

I’m not sure about the profit margin of t-shirts or ship models, but I’d buy an Eve t-shirt: I live in them! ;)

However, walking in stations was so clunky and poorly implemented that even 20-year-old 3D games blew Eve away with their comparative fluidity of motion (2D point and click engines with 3D models don’t work at all well for that). Please no.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Strongly disagree with you on walking on station. This feature was clearly a mistake that almost killed EVE and you want it back? I mean yeah, would be cool to have Star Citizen quality of walking inside stations but it requires so much effort and budget that they would have to abandon everything else in EVE for years just to make it look not half assed done. And vast majority of community was very clear about it – they dont want core of gameplay being abandoned in favor of avatar walking fluff.