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

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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