Analysts within the industry are growing increasingly concerned that minor Twitter and containment forum backlash may impact sales for the coming quarter. A vocal minority of players continue to state that DLC (Down Loadable Content) is “no good” for the video game’s ecosystem, and encourages gambling in some extreme cases. Experts have yet to prove anything negative from a system of scheduled rewards intent on creating addictions to drive consumers into buying more.
The issue stems from entirely optional consumable items available at a premium within the game’s store. The game itself is free to play, generating the majority of its income from optional “luxury” items such as monocles, different shades of “skin paint” (ironically for space ships, not people) and character customization options, such as “skill points” that allow for an expanded inventory and gear. Traditional cosmetic options are available to paying players to create unique and exciting characters within the game world including highly detailed shirts, pants and shoes, but even analysts were surprised at how often players would simply “whip out the plastic” to pay for things like thick rimmed glasses for sci-fi, space-faring people, who obviously had no use for barbaric glass lenses suspended in front of their faces.
Consulting firms across the country weighed in on the issue; many citing that optional purchases of convenience have no notable effect on the player base as one player ‘getting ahead’ of another in terms of “in-game unlocks” does not create a ripple in the vast digital world of EVE Online. Allowing more customization options for the players—as well as offering a premium month-to-month acceleration options—is seen as a universal constant in the gaming world, to pay for lightning-fast servers and global support teams in a variety of languages.
In a note to clients, analyst Justin Thyme said:
Management within CCP Games has highlighted both depth of play and high quality of the product, but did not provide an update on unit sales expectations for the coming business quarter. As expected, profits will be high given the new Micro-Injector update (referred to in video game terms as “Daily Alpha Injector” after focus groups identified that the majority of players could relate to wanting to be “alpha males”). As for the controversy itself, CCP has indicated that the rate a player unlocks content is consistent with established statistics gathered over the course of a fifteen year life of product survey. As such, we expect the backlash to be contained within the free forum we have provided for the players, as well as third party outlets such as “Reddit” and “Digg” for the vocal minority that wish ill for the product and its active players.
He went on to continue:
Cost for optional purchases of convenience go through months of highly targeted, multi-volume stress testing including approval by a select council of “hardcore” players. Unfortunately, these selected players are often outside of the target demographic as parents are unwilling to sign legal paperwork deeding their offspring to Icelandic flights twice a year. Thus, the majority of “council” members are often well outside the product’s target demographic and the fact that they’ve signed off on this latest round of monetization only further confirms that the majority of our customers—young or old—have no qualms about further optional in-game purchases.”
Moving past the controversy, Justin clarified that,
CCP has also indicated to us that potential blow back risk from minor changes is slight, given the “old guard” of the game is very vocal about any change at all and will try to make things difficult for paying players. After further analytical review however, we see the controversy as a potential risk for unit sales vs buy side expectations, although CCP has again expressed conservative estimates for CCP’s premium subscription service.
To put it simply, CCP’s latest round of video game adjustments further streamline the product for paying customers by adding game play elements as encouragement. “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different ships.” CCP was quoted last summer, shortly after a corporate restructure further insured that the “general forum” would be a containment snare to keep toxic opinions from bitter, non-paying customers from seeping further and impacting the brand negatively.
With the vocal minority and their pseudo-outrage kept at bay, CCP continues to explore other outlets for monetization to further encourage growth within the industry. Citing high player numbers (up 18% from last year), CCP has taken the bold steps of reeling in blooming outside costs, cutting taxes in half and reducing redundant employees in the same stroke as wasteful spending. Non-Paying and ungrateful fans of CCP’s original products (namely, EVE Online) have voiced harsh opinions of these moves; some going as far as to say CCP’s closing of their top of the line (but unused) American “virtual reality” studio caused the closure of nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. CCP cites this as a prime example of, in his own words, “bitter oldvets trying to cause trouble” and went on to say that “It’s a business. You’d think these eggheads and all their spreadsheets would know by now that we need to make a profit or there’s no space ships.” CCP later retracted the comment on Twitter by saying “eggheads” was meant in an endearing way.
Analysts remain torn over the projected sales numbers regardless of CCP’s continued re-assurement to the contrary. Some have quietly stated that, should CCP’s latest monetization options prove fruitful, they could drive consumers towards more luxury goods within the game’s ecosystem. A win-win in the business world, as moving more digital goods involves pure profit with no shelves to stock or employees and management to pay, suppliers of digital entertainment are always looking for more hooks.
A LINK TO THE PAST
This is not CCP’s first brush with player outrage before. Years ago, CCP had announced to shareholders that they intend to monetize minor transactions within the sprawling space utopia, namely missiles and things like “hybrid charge ammunition” and these would not harm the delicate, yet fiercely competitive in-game economy because “it’s not like, a ship or anything major.” This was met with near universal outrage that “Nearly cost me my shirt” said CCP. “But we managed to claw our way back up there by hiding the advantages of paying behind “it has to come from somewhere” economics, and the players ate that right up.”
Looking back, CCP stands by his choices. “I don’t have any regrets. Well, except one” he went on to state during a candid interview with industry consultants flown in by the Icelandic government to help stabilize the virtual world last year after a minor dispute left Sporc in a copyright claim war with the owner of Spork Holding Products last year. In the end, CCP changed the product’s name to Sparc. “I’d say my one big regret is not putting in skill injectors sooner. You would not believe the income stream we generated off people skipping ahead of players who had played for years. Had to double the amount of 8 day skills because players are twice as likely to just pay it off instead of waiting the full eight days.” A hearty chuckle was shared among the gathered men, some stopped abruptly to adjust their ties and suit lapels before continuing with business as usual.
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEW CHARACTERS AND CONTENT
It only makes sense that, nearly a year after that interview, CCP has announced micro-sized injectors that do not use players as a source of their skill points, but instead are generated out of a new named character: A sentient black hole named Billbert who requires Plex to feed his insatiable hunger.
“Players should be happy” CCP stated on Twitter. “They’ve been asking for black holes in EVE for years and now they’ve finally got one.” In a request for further interviews, CCP has repeatedly sent us a short fact sheet detailing that micro-transactions within video game worlds are “not evil”, but instead a requirement for a healthy, growing business and the phrase “nothing in life is free, buddy” was sprinkled liberally throughout the document. On the back of the fact sheet is merely an advertisement for EVE Mobile with the caption “Get your kids hooked on the basic economics and margin trading for free.”