BB60: Measuring Success – Only One Thing Matters

Jakob Anedalle of Jakob’s Eve Checklist blog asks:

With Phoebe about to land, CSM Minutes now out, and more of CCP Seagull’s vision from Eve Vegas it appears CCP has a bold roadmap, is making big changes, and is willing to take a hit in the short-term to see it through. What do you see as the measurable signs that will tell us that they’ve succeeded? What outcome will we see as players? Is it concurrent player count or something else?

CCP is in a war. Long the only Sci Fi MMO on the market, that status is coming to an end. We’ve Elite Dangerous just around the corner with a projected release date of next year. And looming in the now not so distant horizon is Star Citizen with a persistent Universe alpha release looking like it’ll be late next year. And before you go all rant on me and start yelling about how those won’t be MMOs, let me remind you that in fact they are persistent universes and yes, they will compete with EVE Online for the hearts, money and, most importantly, time of those people who love Sci Fi computer games where they can fly Internet spaceships. And believe you me, you can fly and Internet spaceship in both those upcoming titles.

So what will tell us if CCP will be successful in this war? Well, I certainly hope it’s not concurrent user counts. Star Citizen already has more people signed up to play than CCP has ever had. I just went and looked at the RSI web site, and there are 640,735 Star Citizens who’ve pledged money and will be allowed to play the game once it releases. And like me, there are 500, 142 pilots in the UEE fleet flying Internet spaceships against each other (or the Vanduul Swarm) right now. From a raw numbers point of view, CCP has already lost the war if we use any sort of player count. So what will be the measure of success?

In war, you measure success by the taking and the holding of objectives. Let’s look at some of these objectives in a simple Q and A format.

Q: Can CCP change EVE Online to compete with what’s coming?

A. Yes. They are very capable programmers and have shown time and again they can make EVE Online better.

Q. Can CCP create a more inclusive game?

A. Yes, they can. To what degree is yet to be seen. My opinion on this subject is well-known to any who’ve read my EVE Online posts over the years. Telling a new bro to go find a corporation under whose skirts they can hide… I mean to fly with and learn the ropes from… XD …isn’t what I think of as über helpful. But by and large, CCP has made EVE Online more accessible to new players.

Q. Can CCP create a new EVE Online that is hard and fun and exhilarating and all those things people who play EVE Online love about the game?

A. Yes. Derp.

Q. Can CCP Compete with this?

A. Actually, yes they can, if they are as aggressive and risk non-averse as they say they can be. CCP already has Dust 514 with orbital bombardment. Eventually, with Project Legion, I feel CCP will integrate FPS into EVE Online at least for planetary action.

Q. Can CCP compete with this?

A. Yes, because EVE Online is fleet oriented and not ship oriented. That appeals to a different sort of Internet spaceship pilot. It is more strategic in concept whereas the up and comers are tactically oriented when it comes to flying Internet spaceships. Their Internet spaceship vision is FPS. CCP’s is more MOBA. In fact, you’ll find no larger MOBA out there than EVE Online. Think about that for a moment. Those gigantic Internet spaceship battles (and the smaller ones too) are run by a handful of fleet commanders on either side. Isn’t that what a strategic MOBA looks like? FPS does not compete with MOBA. We see that in the industry all day long. And I’ve not mentioned EVE Valkyrie at all. If CCP can integrate that into EVE Online, they’ll have their cake and can eat it too.

Q. Can CCP compete with this?

A. No, CCP can’t. Certain elements of the player base killed that plan in 2011. With no thought toward the future, and no concept of what lay in wait a few short years later, some long-time change-averse players decided to extort CCP into canceling Incarna. CCP is now behind the proverbial eight ball on that score. That will be the most difficult area for CCP to compete against Star Citizen. When Elite Dangerous decided against that sort of game play it was actually a win for CCP. But RSI is coming fast and hard, and from what I’ve seen CCP needs to be worried. If they aren’t, they are fools. And I don’t believe CCP employs fools.

So CCP has a potential score of five out of six objectives. That’s pretty good. If you think about the two developers they’re at war with, Elite Dangerous can, max, get five of the six objectives. But they are not pursuing a walking around stations capability. That eliminates another possible objective they could take, meaning CCP wins – probably. There’s always that proverb about not counting chicks before they hatch. But all in all, I don’t worry about Elite Dangerous unseating EVE Online. No, the real danger comes from Star Citizen. RSI just passed the $61,000,000 funding goal. They have not only shown legitimate, hardcore, in development content, but they have a damn decent dogfight game going in Arena Commander 0.9.2. I know. I play it several times a week.

And there’s a rub in that. Star Citizen is supposed to be F2P. They’ve stated they will make money on micro-transactions. They’ve certainly already shown people will spend insane money for ships they can’t even fly yet. That business model looks damn valid to me. What does CCP have? Well, they have the their store. Will it be competitive? I know 61 million reasons it isn’t. Only the future can tell for certain. We don’t know for true if Star Citizen will be F2P. But CCP does need to worry about that possibility. If Star Citizen comes out as F2P, CCP’s subscription model will have a negative effect on those looking to fly Internet spaceships.

But back to the original question, what will be the measure of success for EVE Online going forward? Honestly, it’s the same as it’s always been: CCP’s ability to create black ink on their balance sheet instead of red ink. According to the objectives as I’ve laid them out, CCP is actually in a pretty good position. Still, there are a lot of variables that can affect profitability. In the end, profit will be the only measure that matters. Let’s all hope CCP is as good with RL economics as they are with Internet spaceship economics. As for the course CCP has chosen, just don’t forget Rule of Acquisition 62. Carry on CCP Seagull, carry on.

10 comments on “BB60: Measuring Success – Only One Thing Matters

  1. Pingback: BB 60 – Nothing Succeeds Like Success | Aggressive Logistics

  2. Pingback: BB#60 metrics | A Missioneer in Eve

  3. I think that CCP’s worst enemy here is CCP. They have something that’s markedly different from what E:D (the colon is important; if you leave it off, it’s “erectile dysfunction”) or SC offers. It’s just that they never quite finished their game. They kicked something out, bolted some half-cocked stuff onto it, and called it good. Miraculously, it /was/ good at its core. The question, really, is whether CCP can add 2014 levels of polish to a game that still has major design elements and compromises that date back to the 1990s. Like you, I think they have a good shot at it. The fundamentals of the game are pretty solid.

    They also don’t have to be anywhere near the size of games in a similar genre. In fact, if Star Citizen becomes huge and winds up dwarfing EVE, EVE might actually benefit from E:D and SC players looking for alternatives, or even just from increased awareness of sci-fi MMOs.

    As for avatar gameplay, I’m torn. On the one hand, I like it in theory. On the other hand, the last online avatar gameplay that I truly enjoyed was in a text-only environment where I had a more or less unlimited ability to describe what my character said and did. I find the graphical avatars to be crude mannequins, limited to look-alike running animations (nobody walks) and variously silly /emotes. I still remember trying out The Secret World and taking my (well-written and well-acted) exposition dump ornamented by some overcaffeinated kid jumping his half-dressed female avatar all over the background scenery. I think we have a ways to go technologically before we can really have *avatars* in any satisfactory sense of the word.

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  4. I want to point that you are wrong about Elite: Dangerous and avatar gameplay; it’s planned as a paid expansion and will take the form of multi-crew spaceships, FPS (boarding) and station interaction to NPCs and players. Once planetary flight and landing are included, avatar gameplay will also expand there. So that’s 6/6 both for E:D and SC.

    Also, EVE as a MOAB? Don’t be silly… 😉

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    • My take on those plans is that they are very contingent. I do not feel they are solid enough formulations at this time to give ED the credit for that objective. Later expansion and all that is great, but I’ll put that into ED’S column when I see a working demo presented at a major convention.

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  5. I worry more about E:D and SC than Eve. There’s a lot of things going for Eve you don’t list that are negatives for SC and E:D. Content being the biggest one. I don’t think either game can gamble to play on the scope Eve does for content. PVP may “suck” in Eve, but it really doesn’t. Not when you look at the sheer breathe and variety of it, and all of it’s Evergreen. No matter the content you’ll find brand new players doing it right along side vetss who’ve been in the game for 5, 6, 7, 10 years. None of it stops being viable gameplay. The scope of crafting is outright awe inspiring. And that’s before you hit all the types of PVP with the scale and risk/reward Eve does them on.

    I don’t think E:D or SC are going to have the content at launch Eve does. Not even close. And that’s their hurdle. At launch can they keep pumping out content fast enough to appease players. If you go over to the Fantasy MMO world and look at the failures you hit a startling realization that a lot of them failed from lack of content. WoW, a decade later, is still king because of it’s breadth of content. It’s still the best deal on the block for new or old players. A new MMO may have a novel combat system, or an interesting housing mechanic. But if the content isn’t there burn rate is about 6 months at most. And Lobby FPS shooters of all genres come and go at a startling pace.

    The question for both SC and E:D is if they can keep delivering Jesus Feature size content additions at a rate to stay relevant a year or two years after release. If you follow Nosey’s blog over the Digital Dozen in the top 5 slots at the moment are all over 1 year old, push that to 2 years old and it falls to 3. Anything past that.. 2. Eve and WoW. Sooner or later every MMO that coulda shoulda woulda pushed them off the list has toppled to lack of content and updates.

    It gets even stranger when you push that to all games. FPSes drop like flies. How TF2 has stayed relevant for so long is nothing short of a miracle. So don’t kid yourself. SC and E:D have much scarier positions than Eve. They’ve not released yet, the future looks bright as we could dream it to be. They haven’t hit release and reality yet.

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    • I agree EVE Online is a mature product with content already available. That certainly weighs in CCP’s favor. But worrying about ED and SC because they’ve not been released is like denying CO2 levels are rising in our atmosphere and glaciers are rapidly melting all over the planet. The evidence of our measurements soon puts to rest any doubt. ED is in closed beta. It has content today, just not everyone is willing to buy it yet. But if you want to see how it plays, go watch Scott Manley’s YouTube channel. He does a lot of ED videos. SC also has content, though is it only a dogfight module right now. But the evidence of better things to come is as easy to interpret as a rising PPM graph or before and after photo comparisons. Both ED and SC are doing all those things necessary to have a successful product. Don’t be too worried for them. The only question will be what play style they attract, and if that’ll pull players, or more correctly, revenue away from EVE Online.

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      • I’m not worried that they haven’t released yet. I’m worried that they’ll be flashes in the pan. A lot of games and MMOs have supposed to have been the next big thing, only to sputter out quickly. This year alone I’ve gone through Wildstar and AA. I’m done with both already. Wildstar makes me especially sad, I had high hopes for it. I just cannot sustain hype or hopes for a game that isn’t released, no matter how much good I read about them. Base gameplay works, hooray. but will they actually be any fun for months at a time once the novelty has worn off? Can the sustain 6 months to a year’s worth of play? More?

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