Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Open Letter to CCP: Kick the Bucket!

When I started this blog, I never intended to do any out-of-character posts. Part of the reason for this was that the vast majority of out-of-character blogs, while they were mostly high-quality, all sounded the same to me. Another part of the reason was that the official CCP literature, including the books and the Chronicles, presented a pretty cramped, game-centric view of New Eden, which I wanted to flesh out. (I don't want to belabor this point, but the first section of an entire Chronicle consisted of a bunch of people sitting in a board room wondering, along with the readers, what the hell was going on. Note to CCP Abraxas: Having your characters exchange pleasantries does not constitute dialogue. Consult David Mamet.) The final reason I started this blog was that I was bored, and I had a lot of free time.

Obviously, I have a lot less free time these days. IRL work and family life are going well, meaning that my free time isn't. I intend to return to writing about the Applied Physics Institute eventually, but for the time being, frankly, I'm having too much fun just playing the game when I'm not enjoying life or working on other projects.

There is, however, an issue of great importance to CCP that's brought me back to the Diary to write this OOC post.

The above graph shows the subscription figures from the latest Quarterly Economic Update. Anyone notice the paradigm shift? A few months ago, you might have been able to chalk it up to other factors, but now, it seems clear that Eve has left behind an era of smooth, continuous growth and entered a more volatile period of oscillating deflation and expansion (pun intended). Figures like the above must be the "data" which CCP claimed in the minutes of the latest CSM summit as proof that quantity (i.e. new features, new releases) sells better than quality (fewer, fully-baked releases). Unfortunately, what CCP seems unaware of is that this strategy locks you into a self-inflating bubble: Subscriptions are down, you say? Then we need a new expansion! But the expansion is half-baked, so after an initial burst, subscriptions go down. Which becomes the impetus for rushing another half-baked expansion out the door. And so on and so forth until the game is so kludged with half-baked features that failure cascade is upon you.

This strategy even works, up to a point. (Part of my day job tangentially touches on the world of publishing and direct-mail marketing; in some ways, CCP's current predicament is eerily reminiscent.) We can analogize this strategy to a leaking boat. While the leak remains small, it's a simple matter for us to get the water out of the boat using a bucket. When the leak grows, however, we have to find a bigger bucket (i.e. a new expansion, with new features). But as a wise man once said, that which can't last, won't. As the size of the bucket approaches the size of the boat, our watery demise becomes inevitable. And the worst part of it is, once we've adopted the "bigger bucket" strategy, the skill-set we would normally use to make the leak smaller begins to atrophy.

I think the graph above suggests very strongly that CCP has adopted the "bucket strategy"; Dust 514/Incarna represent the newer, bigger buckets to bail out the leaking subscriber base. The longer they follow this strategy, the harder it will be for them to beat back bureaucratic inertia and return to a "fix the leaks" strategy.

I hope, for New Eden's sake, that it's not already to late for them to turn back.


  1. It looks to me like a positive feedback loop (coming from a science and engineering background).

  2. Nice blog and way to describe it in a very easy to understand terms. Perhaps it will be clear enough for the "thinkers" running Crowd Control Productions.

  3. The worst part is, even that graph shows pretty solidly that you can't polish a turd. Apocrypha - the best expansion in many years - upped their subscriber base 20%. Dominion, which was in the realm of "cool, I guess..." upped it maybe 10%. I'd be willing to bet that Tyrannis was maybe 5%, tops, because Tyrannis sucked. Those falloffs afterwards are also a pretty strong indication that people are resubbing briefly, looking around, realizing nothing has changed, and telling CCP to pound sand. Yes, you can draw people in with flashy, but you can't keep them.

  4. CCP are making poor financial decisions and they don't know how to listen to the community even though they do have a vested interest in seeing EVE staying profitable.

    For example the best and worse thing about this graph can't be seen because it is lacking markers. If you fast forward to 11:31 on this fanfest presentation you can see when CCP makes an expansion subscriptions jumps.

    There are two exceptions. The first is at revelations 1.0 and it basically keeps even with the previous subscription numbers.

    The second you actually see a decline and that is at Quantum rise.

    In fact during the months prior to QR we see subscriptions fluctuating up and done unlike all others expansions with the months prior to them.


    Many had always made the case CCP would lose money with the removal of ghost training and the mark up of prices with 60 day GTCs and the removal of the GTCs going beyond that time period. They ignored us saying it was for the good of the company and it would work out.

    Their own graphs show that something certainly impacted EVE's growth and they most likely had to do with these two financial decisions. EVE has continued to grow since then but now CCP and community are faced with a new set of financial decisions that playerbase can clearly see will harm the game and may even put CCP into debt if Dust flops. Hopefully this time CCP actually listens and understands what is being before their actions cripple the game ~2 years from now when it most likely will be too late to fix most of the issues.

  5. Perspective & Change.

    The perspectice of CCP'S executives has change. They once were a company willing to listen to it's long time customer base and it's concers. Now they have taken the role of high level admistrators that are disjointed from their playerbase and do not see what we see.

    Change is already happening. The first sign of change is the exchange of ideas from the few to the masses. The "social expierement" that CCP likes to call this game, has provided the playerbase with social networks that it needs to get the word out that, yes, something is wrong.