Friday, June 28, 2019

The EVE Online Starter Pack Kerfuffle Over Skill Points, 2019 Edition

I have the feeling I'm about to publish an unpopular take on a subject that has the EVE Online player base up in arms. The subject, ironically enough, involves real money trading. But this time, on the primary RMT market.

Our story begins, as many have, with a mistake by CCP's sales and/or marketing department. CCP tried to create a $5 package it could sell to new players. The package included:
A Standard Cerebral Accelerator with:
  • +3 to all learning attributes
  • +20% damage to laser, projectile and hybrid weaponry.
  • +20% rate of fire to missile weaponry.
Four SKINs for a tech 1 frigate of each faction
Two Blood Raiders jackets, one for each gender
One million skill points
I think EVE players can see the problem. While the accelerator is limited to use by accounts 35 days of age or younger, the one million skill points were a different issue. Instead of handing out two large skill injectors, which could then be sold on the market, they dumped the skill points directly into a characters skill point pool. By doing so, CCP negated the scaling factor meant to make buying skill points less attractive to older pilots. For example, a character with over 80 million skill points would need to use 7 skill injectors to add 1 million skill points.

I saw plenty of complaints, many of which left me shaking my head. The first was that CCP was selling skill points. Starting to complain about the selling now, over 3 years after CCP started selling skill points is an example of boiling a frog so it doesn't notice until it is too late.

Here is the method of CCP selling skill points that the people complaining approve of. First, someone has to go to the EVE Online account management page and purchase an item called skill extractors from CCP.

Normal Skill Extractor Prices
Each skill extractor can create a large skill injector containing 500,000 skill points. If purchased in bulk (i.e. the 10-extractor pack), CCP makes a minimum (barring sales) of $4.50 for each extractor consumed. For 1 million skill points, CCP makes a minimum of $9.1 While a skill point farmer typically does not spend real world currency, each skill extractor on the market originally was purchased from CCP.

The expected end of the quarter sale is going on now
Next, the skill points come from characters with over 5 million skill points, which requires characters on Omega (subscription) accounts. The typical farmer account will require 500 PLEX plus 2 Multi-Pilot Training Certificates (485 PLEX each). Regardless of whether the MPTC is purchased off the market for ISK, or the farmer purchases the 30-day training item using PLEX, someone paid real world money for that PLEX. A farming account uses $53.44 worth of PLEX each month.2 To put the amount of money in perspective, a 300 character skill point farm consisting of 100 accounts requires other players to purchase approximately $5300 in PLEX to sell on the in-game market every month.

Finally comes the sale. Most people are not space rich, especially the new players CCP targeted with the starter pack promotion. As mentioned before, 1 million skill points equates to 2 large skill injectors. Over the course of monitoring the skill injection market in The Forge, I've noticed that the price of 2 skill injectors is usually a little under the price of 500 PLEX, once the PLEX is converted into ISK. Using that as a guide, someone who just wanted to purchase 2 skill injectors would purchase the 500 PLEX package for $19.99. When I do my valuations, I use the 1100 PLEX pack ($39.99), which would allow a player to purchase 4 skill injectors. The current valuation of a skill injector is approximately $9/skill injector.

Still, despite the current ability of players to purchase skill points with real world currency (after doing two conversions using virtual currencies), many players were upset that CCP had cut out the player middlemen from the process. The critics point to a January 2016 dev blog that made the following statement:
"It’s very important to note here that this means all the skill points available to buy on the market in EVE will have originated on other characters where they were trained at the normal rate.  Player driven economies are key to EVE design and we want you to decide the value of traded skillpoints while we make sure there is one single mechanism that brings new skillpoints in to the system – training." [emphasis in the original]
I'll give CCP a little credit for not selling skill injectors which players could then turn around and sell on the market, undercutting the existing supply chain. And, if only accounts 30 days or newer were allowed to purchase the starter pack, the skill points so acquired could not wind up in skill injectors, as new players are not going to have the required 5 million skill points required to use an extractor.

Pearl Abyss is publicly traded in South Korea
I personally think what we witnessed was a mistake made by the sales team not exactly understanding the game, combined with an end of the quarter rush to bring in as much revenue in the 2nd quarter as possible. Pearl Abyss is a publicly traded company, meaning the executives in Anyang, like business leaders across the globe, are pushing to generate last minute revenue to make the shareholders happy. And the sales team at CCP are rushing to oblige.

So far, we've seen a PLEX sale on CCP's site, a skill extractor sale in the New Eden Store, and a sale on the starter pack available on Steam in addition to the starter pack promotion on the CCP website. The unusual part of all the promotions is that the starter pack sale on Steam is different than the starter pack sale that created the near riot. The Steam offer only offers 250,000 skill points put adds 7 days of Omega time. The Steam starter pack is now 75% off, coinciding with the Steam Summer Sale. Interestingly enough, CCP put the starter pack on Steam on 23 May with no uproar about CCP selling skill points.

In a dev blog yesterday, CCP Falcon issued a dev blog on the issue.
"We understand that we made a misstep with this DLC pack by not restricting it, and we’re sorry for the confusion and anger that it caused – it’s not our intention to disrespect the years of training that our veteran pilots have put into their characters.

"We also should have spoken with the CSM regarding this pack before we released it. That one’s on me, and we’ll make sure that the CSM are looped into this kind of discussion going forward. We’ve been offering packs like this (including skillpoints) via Steam for a while now, so it was assumed that offering them via the secure website would be received in the same way.
"Maintaining an open, candid, two-way dialogue with the community is always at the forefront of our minds. We pride ourselves on the close relationship we have with our players, even if it comes around to bite us now and again.

"We’re working on improving our early player retention numbers and part of doing so means that we’re going to keep experimenting with various ways to make a new player’s life easier and their first steps in New Eden clearer and more streamlined.

"It’s going to mean different DLC packs, it’s going to mean collaboration with new player organizations in EVE, and it’s going to mean changes to the way we do things and how we incentivize and assist new players who are diving into EVE for the first time so that they have the best chance of sticking around.
"Our goal is to allow more players to enjoy New Eden. More players means more content, which ultimately means a better universe for us all (and a more target rich environment in which to hunt)."
CCP Falcon continued by announcing the future of the starter pack.
"Right now, we’re working on moving this pack to be part of our contextual offers that are sent to those who create new accounts and are classified as new players. This means that soon the pack won’t be available to the wider community via the DLC page on and will only be offered to new players as part of the account creation and onboarding process.

"This will remove the option to buy the pack unless it’s presented to you as you go through this process.

"Hopefully this explains the reasoning for the pack and why things rolled out the way that they did."
I've never been a fan of the idea of skill injectors, wishing that CCP had sold the XP potion type item we call cerebral accelerators instead. I look at the latest outrage mob as a form of locking the door after the horse has already run out of the barn. As Wilhelm Arcturus wrote in his excellent post yesterday, the starter pack isn't the first time CCP has created and sold skill points outside the "approved" process. CCP has sold 50,000 point injectors only usable by characters on Alpha accounts since November 2017. The recent 16th anniversary celebration in May gave away over 1 million skill points3 to Omega accounts that logged in 16 days during the celebration period.

I guess we also shouldn't forget the current EVE Online offer for Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime members automatically have Twitch Prime accounts. In order to encourage EVE players to activate their Twitch Prime accounts (and presumably subscribe to the channels of EVE streamers), CCP has from late May to 9 July made available the Sunesis Omega Bundle, which includes A Sunesis, a Twitch-themed SKIN, 15 days of Omega time ... and 150,000 skill points.

I'll let everyone rage away at practices CCP has engaged in for a long time. I made my piece with the skill injector situation years ago. Besides, a negative skill injector issue seems to pop up every few months. I know those give me content to write about, but sometimes I wonder if matters will get to the point where CCP pulls the plug on the feature for not being worth all the headaches it creates.


1. Packs of 10 skill injectors can be purchased from the New Eden Store for the normal price of 1400 PLEX, which comes out to approximately $50 in PLEX. The current sale price of 1120 PLEX brings the price down to approximately $40 for a pack of 10.

2. PLEX price using the non-sale price of the 1100 PLEX pack.

3. I believe the maximum amount of skill points earned was 1,375,000 points per account.

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