Friday, June 6, 2014

The Run Is Over

I think that yesterday's news of CCP laying of 49 more employees, including some working on EVE Online in the Reykjavik office, should end the debate on whether EVE Online is losing subscriptions.  From the marketing department not touting EVE Online growing for 11 years at Fanfest to declining average concurrent user number to deflation in the economy, most of the signs pointed to EVE Online losing subscriptions over the past year.

But as everyone starts to pile on the "EVE is dying" and "CCP is dying" bandwagons, I'd like to take a moment to point out CCP's incredible accomplishment of creating a game that had 10 consecutive years of subscription growth.  The list of games that can make the claim are:

1. EVE Online

That's it.  Even the giant of the industry, World of Warcraft, only managed six years of growth before its numbers started to decline.  Quite frankly, I think 10 years is a mark that no MMORPG will ever equal, at least in my lifetime.

34 comments:

  1. And yet no one predicted WoW's success either, least of all the management at SOE. Despite the growth EVE is still a relatively small game and we could easily see a competitor move into the niche and have double the subs. The market can expand and hits can happen.

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  2. Maybe if CCP would stop pandering to the null blocs, griefers and gankers that might change.

    Until then, when you design a game where new players are valued mainly as prey and older players for thier ability to press F1 when commanded you can't expect many of them to stay.

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    1. As a 10 year Eve lifer who isn't part of a null-sec block I say turning eve-online into a single player theme park will fail and probably kill it off. There are far better alternatives in the pipeline that which are far better looking i.e. Elite Dangerous & Star Citizen.

      Eve has always been about fighting / competing with other people while beating them when you have a distinct advantage. It doesn't matter if its 50 T1 fitted frigates against a 5 man AHAC gang or BLOPS'ing / Bridging fleet dunking some roaming gang.

      Its always been about knowing your strengths & weakness and then applying good judgement on if you can engage, hide, runaway, snipe, dodge, outfox, wind up your opponent into making an exploitable mistake.

      Hiding indefinitely from contact with other players in Eve is as productive as being a hermit in real life. Sure you can survive but don't expect anyone to give two hoots about your issues if you're not going to be involved in the community.

      It precisely why the "real" high-sec community is under represented in CSM and are unlikely to never have a voice, the fast majority play solo semi afk in the game.

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    2. @ Anon, you don't have to make it a solo themepark to cater less to griefers, gankers and awoxers in some areras of the game. Unfortuantly Gelvon is too far gone in other areas to be taken seriously (almost as bad as dinsdale) but some of the gripes are real and could help without making it a themepark. Better ways to manage access to stuff in corporations so that people could play together without fear of being awoxed as often. An option to turn off free shooting of corpmates would go a long way towards this. an option to either accept some limitation (such as 8% tax to concord, and no infrastructure: pos etc) and be immune to wardecs, or the ability to just counter bribe concord to still pay attention would make casual groupings easier. It wouldn't make it any safer than NPC corp, but it would mean that people who don't come from a pre existing community can find a low level, low commitment, and low risk first environment. The problem isnt the danger, or the difficulty or even the mindset of the general population. The problem is that if you dont come in with friends, and with the mindset already there is no slope to get you there. There are no effective training wheels. to group play where you can get used to the danger. All there is, is a cliff. You can either be ready to jump, and face the fun (and risk, and pain and ...) below, or never get there. And for someone without outside links... that parachute you need to survive? its not rated, its not insured, and it can cost everything you have and more... Eve doesn't need safe highsec, it doesn't need safe instanced starting, it needs to be a little less dangerous at first so that we can teach the new guy how much fun tear harvesting is, before we harvest all he has to offer.

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  3. Probably help if they started hiring devs based on actual game development skills and qualifications rather than continually hiring eve players based on their in game notoriety.

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    1. If you are going there have he guts to name names.

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  4. Huh... may I ask, if EVE broke the mold in growth, is it not possible, is it just barely possible... that it could break a few other molds, some no other games have not yet done...

    I believe that if CCP can get their collective executive heads out of their group executive anus... well, they might just be the first come back kid MMO on the block too.

    Now wouldn't THAT be something?

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  5. Blizz is currently advertising that 100 million people have played WoW over the last 9.5 years. They seem to have hit the point in the life of the game where potential subscriptions are much more likely to come from people who have already played the game rather than those who have never tried it. EverQuest has been there for ages, as have a few other old titles. Keeping the current players while farming former players for subscriptions becomes the most profitable path.

    Are we getting there with EVE as well? And, if so, how does the move from 2 big expansions to 10 mini expansions impact things? Expansions are a way to rally former players to get them back into the game. Does making them less of an event help?

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    1. If you make it 10 mini-expansions, then you have a chance every 6 weeks of fixing something that annoyed people and will bring some back. Maybe not as many as in an expansion, but perhaps a smoother cash flow is preferred over the current peak and valley cycle we see now.

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    2. On the other hand, with 10 patches a year, you have 10 chances a year to accidentally break something, or release the straw that breaks the camel's back for a veteran player.

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  6. In order to maintain a healthy company reduction in staff is sometimes required. It is a company after all.

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  7. Seems to me like allowing multiple character training on one account probably reduced the amount of accounts significantly. Just a random thought..

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    1. That wouldn't decrease revenue though, as you have to pay for each character you train the same amount as plexing another account.

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    2. Around the same time they did multiple character training I dumped my other two accounts.. so it's possible if they used the metric total accounts instead of plexes sold.. or something like that.

      I don't train the other characters... just didn't play enough to justify having 3 accounts anymore. Enough to handle just one character.

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    3. They definitely use accounts, not PLEX sold.

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  8. Amusing how many people are finally admitting that the numbers are going down, after so much time & effort spent on denial.

    CCP has been fudging the numbers for the past couple of years, to hide falling sub numbers, and even longer to hide falling player numbers. If you judge "growth" by the number of players (not accounts), then EVE Online hasn't seen any growth in over 6+ years.

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    1. Really? Can you please send me your source for the decline in the number of players? Because I haven't been able to find that anyplace. If you have it, I'd really love to see the real numbers. Or are you just making stuff up?

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    2. Noizy, I don't think such numbers exist, nor what Anon says above is accurate. But like you said, THIS past year there is no doubt. The smoking gun was CCP refusing to release the percentage of accounts that cast a vote. But you know that already. Previous years seem to indicate continued growth.

      I have asked many times, on blogs and in the forums. what precise things changed in the paradigm of Eve in the past 18-24 months that ended up driving numbers down in the past year? I am always met with silence.

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    3. It is pretty simple. Number of subs was nearly flat for several years, prior to the recent decline. At the same time, the average number of subs per player was increasing. Thus, the number of players was indeed declining.

      And, yes, part of the noticeable decline in recent sub numbers is due to consolidation, ie. reductioin, in the number of accounts per player, which, in turn, was due, in significant part, to the introduction of MCT. The loss of sub numbers due to MCT, however, does not concern CCP, since they are making more money per account, which more than offset the loss of subs.

      CCP does have the actual account numbers to support the conclusions, but they will not release them, for obvious reasons. Marketing statistics is all about manipulating the numbers to always make the glass appear to be half full, not half empty.

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    4. In the end the only number that really matters to CCP is their revenue figures on the financial statements. That did increase last year, we'll see soon enough if that holds true for the upcoming June 30th statement.

      Of course, companies often make these layoff decision based on projected revenues. So its possible that they've noticed a significant increase in the cancellation of recurring subscriptions that they're worried those people won't resub when the timers run out.

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    5. @Dinsdale - There's been a couple of factors. I've even touched on them in passing a couple of time. But I think the timeframe has to go back to at least Crucible.

      1. New management philosophy de-emphasizing the importance of subscriptions as a revenue stream.

      2. Emphasis on fixing current game features instead of bringing out new shiny features that could attract new players.

      3. The rise of F2P in the West. Yes, DDO went F2P in 2009 and LotRO in 2010, but look at how many games have turned from the sub model to F2P. Since the launch of Crucible, you can mention Everquest, Everquest 2, SWTOR, Aion, Tera and The Secret World. The trend is so strong that SOE has announced it will only make F2P games in the future.

      4. Has EVE has reached the point that Wilhelm mentioned about WoW; are there enough people who have never heard of EVE before out there who, if they just hear about the game, will race to play it? Without new features and an improved new player experience to keep the new player interested, the answer is probably yes.

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  9. I so hope you are wrong :)

    very nicely written post nevertheless !

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  10. These layoffs were WoD staff, incl. old White Wolf people - the final stage of perma-mothballing WoD. This wasn't related in any way to a drop in EVE Online subs.

    CCP did trim a few people from EVE Online, incl. Dolan and Bro - but, that was due to performance reviews, not falling revenue. Major layoffs for EVE Online staff are still pending, depending on how the summer releases are received by the players. There is already an expectation of a drop, due to rumblings of dissatisfaction with the upcoming industry changes, but the magnitude of that drop is still unpredictable. If it is only a few percent, CCP will not resort to a layoff.

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    1. Please don't spread misinformation. This latest round of layoffs hit the Reykjavik office pretty hard and hit people who work on EVE Online like CCP Xhagen and CCP Eterne. Dolan and Bro were not laid off. They left CCP to work at Riot, as have a lot of CCP employees such as Zulu and Soundwave. There was no performance issues involved.

      If you want these allegations to be taken seriously, then do 2 things. First, present the proof. Second, don't post as Anonymous.

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    2. "Please don't spread misinformation"

      lol. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

      CCP stated: "As part of our strategy to focus on the EVE Universe, today CCP conducted a restructuring that resulted in the layoff of 49 people in our publishing organization. ... this action concludes the process we started several months ago...."

      The "process started several months ago" refers to the shutdown of WoD.

      Also: "Development teams and plans for EVE Online, ... are not impacted by the restructuring."

      Dolan, Bro, Xhagen, and Eterne were not essential members of the development teams. Their departure will have no impact on the future of the game.

      Anything else you've heard, about how this is due to lower subscriber numbers, and that the run is over, is nothing but unsupported speculation and misinformation.

      if you still believe otherwise, follow your own advice and contact CCP directly for actual proof.

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    3. @Anonymous - The facts I was referring to in the Anon @11:31am post were that Dolan and Bro were fired for poor performance. Them leaving for Riot is pretty well established, complete with pictures, tweets, and updated Twitter accounts indicating this is the case.

      As for the run of 10 years of continuous subscription growth being over? I'm confident in stating that. I didn't need the layoffs to occur to tell me that. The declining concurrent user numbers, deflation in the economy as reported by Dr. Eyjo at Fanfest, and the marketing department not trumpeting 11 years of growth at Fanfest were enough for me.

      As for the layoffs. The latest round that occurred on Thursday didn't just hit WoD or DUST employees, but people in the main office in Reykavik working on EVE. The last I heard, Xhagen was an associate producer on one of the development teams. He was not part of the publishing organization, unless he was reassigned.

      So yes, Thursday's layoffs were another indication that CCP needed to "downsize" due to money concerns, and not just reorganize due to mothballing WoD and remaking DUST. And due to its current business model of relying heavily on subscriptions (which CCP is attempting to alter), that's a fourth indicator that subscriptions are down.

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    4. Regarding Xhagen:

      http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/developer-spotlight-xhagen/

      "Associate Producer" at CCP appears to be nothing but a paper shuffler. Before that, he was in customer support and research/statistics. It looks like CCP was just moving him around from inconsequential postion to inconsequential position. So, despite the fancy title, he was clearly not an essential member of the development teams.

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    5. @Anonymous 5:15PM - Some might call the progression from CM to researcher to associate producer as a string of promotions over 11 years.

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  11. Ishtanchuk FazmaraiJune 8, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    From my experience, the average lifespan of a non-PvPer are 2 to 3 years; as that's the time it takes to master the non-PvP stuff in EVE.

    So I am not shocked to see that along the last year, the third since Incarna, some players have been unsubbing and haven't been replaced, as CCP figured a new development strategy and that strategy essentially has dismissed non-PvP as a playstyle.

    That's because the current strategy consists of giving more power to players, removing NPCs as an element from the game, and gearing the gameplay towards player-created content, mostly in lowsec and nullsec. As players can't create non-PvP content, non-PvP are left with whatever CCP does for them... mostly a bunch of "necessary" nerfs and some reheated porridge in the form of "iteration" and "balancing" AKA "now your ship haves another slot, pay 150 euros a year for it".

    The Rubicon plan essentially spells the doom of non-PvP content, which is what a majority of subscribers pay for. By focusing on player retention rather than on why players play, CCP has misled itself into thinking that, as they would be fine if every player stays subscribed as long as PvPrs do, the solution is to lure all players into PvP, rather than take at face value that 80% of their players are avoding PvP and figure a way so EVE was a game where even a non-PvPr could create content and enjoy the sandbox.

    And so the players who get no content, or are told to go PvP to find it, leave the game once everything non-PvP has been tested and burned... and after 11 years, there are no new recruits left.

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    1. Funny you should throw out that 80%, hopefully it includes nullsec and lowsec as they are (IMO) even more risk averse than highsec. While they take getting their ships 'ploded a lot better than high, they still would rather rat and explore than fight.

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  12. The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

    I think I'd like to see your hard proof of EVE subscriber numbers, before leaping to the conclusion that a layoff, of mostly WoD staff, means that EVE, and CCP, is dying.

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    1. I was actually making fun of all the people who are going to write that EVE is dying. Not only among the EVE community, but among the gaming press. The "EVE is dying" meme has existed for 11 years. Following the Summer of Rage, one prominent blogger even predicted that CCP would go bankrupt by the end of 2012.

      If you don't like the proof l've listed (Thursday's layoffs are the least of the proof), then there is no way I'm going to convince you. But CCP has stopped claiming that EVE is growing. If that doesn't tell you something, I don't know what will.

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    2. Well, laying off 22% of your staff usually means something, specially when you're not downsizing your development goals accordingly.

      CCP 2013: 554 employees, 4 projects (EVE, WoD, DUST, Valkyrie)
      CCP 2014: 430 employees, 4 projects (EVE, DUST, Valkyrie, Legion)

      Sources: for 2013's employees, CCP's annual report. For 2014 estimate employees:
      ~554 average for 2013
      -19 in december '13
      -56 in march '14
      -49 in june '14
      =~430

      I am not accounting for people who left the company voluntarely.

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  13. It means stopped development on some unrelated vampires game.

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