EVE Online has a long and complicated history when it comes to the debate surrounding microtransactions. The playerbase literally revolted against developer CCP Games in 2011’s infamous Monoclegate scandal when it became known that developers were considering pay-to-win microtransactions, with the subsequent drop in subscriptions prompting CCP to later lay off 20% of its staff worldwide. The game has since gone free to play and introduced new monetisation efforts such as skill injectors, but the latest offering has players worried.EVE Online account management page updated with a new Starter Pack DLC item for $5 that contains a few cosmetic skins, a cerebral accelerator, and one million injected skill points. The deal seems to have been launched to coincide with the Steam Summer Sale and is the first time skill points have been sold directly for cash — something CCP has previously steered clear of for obvious reasons.
The new Starter Pack costs $5 directly from CCP’s DLC page and is limited to a single purchase per account (loopholes notwithstanding), and it’s obviously intended for new players. Part of the outrage surrounding the pack is that it can oddly be used by veteran players too, giving them the full million skill points. It also contains a cerebral accelerator that gives a new player +20% damage for the first 35 days in-game, but this doesn’t work on characters older than 35 days.
Players can currently buy skill points in the form of skill injectors from the market, but the skill points in them are always trained in-game via normal means and then extracted from a character to be sold. CCP sells only the skill extractors as microtransaction items and agreed not to sell the skill points directly as this would constitute a pay-to-win transaction. Skill injectors are also subject to diminishing returns for older characters with more skill points.
The new starter pack has no such restrictions. CCP generates free skill points out of thin air, and your character gets a million of them regardless of the current total or account age. This prompted prominent EVE streamer and presenter Manic Velocity to announce that he’s cancelling his accounts while CCP supports this monetisation strategy, and he isn’t the only one disappointed by the pay-to-win nature of the pack.
On the other side of the argument, players on Twitter and the EVE forums point out that CCP has already generated skill points out of thin air recently when the studio gave away over a million free skill points as a login reward for an event, though it didn’t sell those. Others have noted that CCP also sells daily skill injectors for free alpha accounts that are bought directly for cash, though these are just a mechanically simpler form of skill training boosts and alphas currently train at half the speed of Omega subscribers.
Some gamers have also made the practical argument that CCP as a business and EVE Online as a game needs new players, and this pack could help entice rookies who want to get a running start. Furthermore, we know that CCP as a business needs to hit certain revenue targets under Pearl Abyss as part of the buyout deal in order to get more money from the sale of the studio to Pearl Abyss, which presumably would help EVE‘s development.
CCP Falcon posted the following response to players on the EVE Online forum, mentioning new restrictions it will be imposing on the pack and reminded players that CCP has done this before on Steam and through recruitment programme rewards without backlash:
“Hey guys, Just wanted to drop in here now I have a clearer picture of the situation and can speak with some knowledge on what happened here. We completely understand community concerns around the selling of Skill Points for cash, and we know how strongly you guys feel about this. A few changes are going to be made to this pack soon in order to square things away.
“Just to clarify things, we’ve sold starter skillpoint packs to rookies in the past via steam, and of course SP rewards are a thing through the recruiment program too. This isn’t something new, and we’re always looking for ways to increase the chances of a rookie pilot becoming a seasoned veteran that sticks with EVE for many years.
“The objective of this pack was to give rookies a little bit more leeway with their initial training and to give them a leg up when it came to branching out into their first few new ships. While it’ll have that effect, it’s obviously been implemented in a way that’s causing community concern, so we’ll be making a couple of changes. The first is that we’re currently looking at restricting the sale of this pack so that it’s available on account creation and lasts for 30 days. Similarly, we’re also looking to restrict it so that it can only be used by accounts that are <30 days old.
“We’re aware that there’s been a super strong community reaction to this pack going on sale and it wasn’t our intention to cause the pitchforks to come out. Hopefully we’ll have this resolved soon.”