Monday, May 25, 2020

Prices For Russian Players Increasing On 1 July 2020

Today, CCP Games announced an increase in prices for those using the Russian ruble.
On 1 July 2020, there will be an update to the pricing of all products for players paying using the Russian Ruble. The increase in prices will encompass Omega subscription, PLEX, Multiple Character Training, Value Packs, and Daily Alpha Injectors.

The main reason for the update is that the change in currency conversion over the last few years has created an imbalance between the pricing in Rubles compared with the rest of the world. This has resulted in the abuse of current price differences, which has had a negative impact, both in and out of game.
Due to the falling value of the ruble over the past few years, the costs for Russian players (or those paying in rubles) is less than for those using other currencies.

Prices as of 25 May 2020

For example, a one-month subscription (aka one month of Omega time) of 599 rubles costs €7.67, $8.37, or £6.87 compared to the other major currencies CCP accepts as payment.

I do have to note that the price change occurs at the beginning of the third quarter. Pretty standard, I believe, making a major price change in order to keep the accounting simpler. But I'd expect a large drop in players from Russia, or at least the number of Omega accounts. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

EVE Echoes To Launch In August 2020

Yesterday NetEase announced the mobile game based on EVE Online, EVE Echoes, will launch in the middle of August 2020. The game is scheduled to release on both the Apple and Google app stores.

One concern with new games is monetization. The developers from NetEase stated that the game would use the same monetization as EVE Online. That means the Alpha/Omega account system, PLEX sales, and cosmetics such as ship SKINs.

From reading the Twitch chat, one of the benefits of an Omega account is off-line auto-pilot. The devs explained that off-line auto-pilot allows players to close down the game but still have their ship flying through space. The benefit of the feature is to free up system resources on the phone and save on battery life.

One of the big differences between EVE Echoes and EVE Online concerns outposts. Known as citadels in EVE Online, outposts perform the same function as citadels. Two differences most PC players will notice is that the structures are owned by individual players, not corporations. The reason is pretty simple. NetEase created the outposts before creating the corporation system. Indeed, the corporation system is still under development. The second is outposts is limited to low and null security space. Sorry high sec players.

EVE Echoes will also introduce players to an ancient race, the Yan Jung. NetEase is bringing them to the fore. Here is what we know about the Yan Jung.
According to Sebast Mathon, the Yan Jung nation immigrated into New Eden through the EVE Gate and settled in the Deltole system, especially on Deltole V and VI, which seem to have been much more inhabitable back then.

The Yan Jung were, judging from the remains of Yan Jung technology found in the archaeological record, masters of advanced gravitronic technology and force field theories.

Yan Jung archaeological sites can be found in the Algintal Constellation within Gallente Federation space.
One thing the developers noted is that the the game has a more "Oriental look", which makes sense since the east Asian market (China, South Korea, Japan) is where mobile games are extremely popular.

And of course, no EVE event is complete without a trailer. I have embedded the cinematic below.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pearl Abyss Q1 2020 Earnings Call

Today, Pearl Abyss held its Q2 2020 earnings call for investors. After a down last quarter of 2019, caused in large part due to an accounting change with the console version of Black Desert Online, the South Korean game studio continued on its upward trajectory.

From PA Q1 2020 Earnings Call

Quarter over quarter, Pearl Abyss increased its operating revenue by ₩16.6 billion, or 14.2%. Operating profit also increased 28.3%. While the net profit remained relatively flat, only increasing ₩200 million, the figure was still a 242.6% increase over Q1 2019. One of the analysts on the call asked about the factors in Black Desert Online's growth in 2020 and was told that the COVID-19 pandemic did play a role in the revenue increases.

From PA Q1 2020 Earnings Call

Usually EVE Online is an afterthought in the earnings calls. But a 15% increase in earnings in the first quarter meant Pearl Abyss needed to say something. PA's Chief Financial Officer Cho Seok-woo made the following statement to the listeners. The English translation is probably not the most elegant.

EVE Online is also maintaining stable performance. EVE Online -- which was known as the most difficult MMO game -- had the most important challenge, which was to motivate the interest of early users. Using Black Desert know-how and experience from EVE Online, many improvements were made. And accordingly, we saw a meaningful increase of new users. EVE Online, which is in its 17th year of launching, shows through many indexes that a well-made MMO game has a very long lifespan value.
To my knowledge, the above is the first public statement that Pearl Abyss employees and not just CCP developers are involved in the development of EVE Online. I'm sure many players who frequent social media will find the statement a surprise.

Why make the statement at all? One possible reason involves a slight miscalculation that slipped into the Q4 2019 earnings call held in February. The revenue for the EVE IP was reported as ₩15.6 billion, or over 25% more than the actual figure of ₩12.4 billion. By proactively giving the analysts an explanation of why the EVE IP's revenue was what it was, Pearl Abyss could forestall any embarrassing questions. In the end, the analysts decided they had more important things about which to inquire.

The Q4 revenue overstatement also plays a role in reevaluating the effects of The Blackout. Referred to on the blog as Hurricane Hilmar, the event was a two-month experiment with changing the local chat channels in null security space to work like chat in wormholes. Initially, Hurricane Hilmar, while wrecking havoc inside EVE, seemed to not have affected the financial situation of the game. Indeed, after February's earnings call, observers believed that the EVE IP income grew 4.7% from the second quarter of 2019 to the fourth. Instead, revenue actually dropped 16.8% with a drop of 15.1% in the quarter after The Blackout was lifted. What made the situation worse is that the third quarter is normally the period with the least amount of activity in EVE. After a performance like that, one might expect the parent company to come in and give its newly acquired studio a hand.

The last part of the presentation involved an update on future games. In the second quarter, Pearl Abyss will launch Shadow Arena next Thursday. The other three games under development received generalized release dates. Crimson Desert is scheduled to launch in Q4 2021, DokeV in 2022, and Plan 8 in 2023. When asked about the later than expected release date for Crimson Desert, Pearl Abyss explained that the delay is due to an internal reorganization. The other reason given is that the Korean studio is developing both PC and console versions of both Crimson Desert and DokeV simultaneously. 

CCP also had a little news. The Chinese government approved Netease running the EVE server in China on 12 March and officially launched on 27 April. But unlike for all the other games in development, PA was unwilling to give a lot of details about CCP's mobile game being developed by Netease. After questioning by the analysts, PA directed them to the watch the stream on Sunday (17 May).
That's my look at the latest Pearl Abyss earnings call. Soon the information under the EVE IP will no longer contain information about just EVE Online. I found the call very interesting, filling in parts of the EVE story. Because in EVE, the game doesn't stop at the monitor's edge.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The March 2020 MER: Starvation Diet

The main goal of the Shortage Phase is to get the economy to the left side of the "Healthy State" on the income line. Even though it is a moving target, there is confidence that the data and tools to evaluate the situation (and then move on to the second phase) are in-hand.

--The EVE Online Ecosystem Outlook, 30 March 2020

At the end of March, CCP published a dev blog that stated the intention to lower player income before establishing the economy in a healthy state. The question the next few monthly economic reports will answer is: has CCP lowered the amount enough to proceed with phase 2? 

First, a look at the New Eden money supply. We see the first effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on EVE as the amount of ISK in the game jumped by 31.3 trillion ISK in March. The difference between faucets and sinks remained steady at 28.9 trillion ISK vs 28.8 trillion in February. The difference was caused by players returning to the game, as the Active ISK Delta last month was 2.4 trillion vs -42.5 trillion in February. Overall in the 1st quarter of 2020, the money supply increased by 22.3 trillion ISK. The figure is arguably higher as the RegionalStats.csv file shows a total of 58.3 trillion ISK in bounties vs the 51.5 trillion in the graphic above.

Speaking of bounties, the amount of ISK made killing NPCs increased by 12.3% in March, up from 51.9 trillion ISK in February. But looking at the year-over-year amounts, the 58.3 trillion ISK generated in March 2020 was down 16.7% compared to March 2019. In Q1 2020, players collected 156.8 trillion ISK in NPC bounties, up from 131.7 trillion in the last 3 months of 2019.

Unlike the bounty graph, the mining figures are not only determined by the amount mined, but the value of the ore mined. The value mined increased in March by 22.4% compared to the month before. From watching delonewolf's videos, much, if not all, of the increase was a result of price increases due to CCP's efforts to starve the economy of materials. And while New Eden witnessed a big percentage increase in March, the value of the ore mined was still 41.8% less than in March 2019.
In the first quarter, players mined 98.1 trillion ISK worth of ore, a 6.7% increase over Q4 2019.

Normally I might express concern about an economic contraction in the last two months of the first quarter. However, with CCP actively working to suppress economic activity in EVE for the foreseeable future, I'd say March's 7.6% contraction was a feature, not a bug. Still, the New Eden economy avoided a third consecutive quarter of decline, with Q1 2020 performing 20.1% better than Q4 2019.

Finally, I'd like to take a little time to discuss the element of the economy covered by the Consumer Price Index. I'm a bit concerned with some of the talk coming out of Reykjavik & London. The developers seem concerned with balancing the economy with real world currencies such as the dollar and the euro. I can see balancing PLEX, a virtual currency, against other currencies. I can even extend the concept to RMT tokens like skill extractors and injectors. I personally don't think the RMT tokens should count as part of the New Eden economy, but CCP disagrees. Personally, I hope CCP calculates construction costs for basic consumer items like titans and heavy missiles in terms of time and effort to build, not their real world value. If the trend of balancing the EVE economy extends to battleships and faction modules, CCP development will have taken a disturbing turn.

The next few months should prove interesting as the pandemic keeps people at home. At the same time, the Serenity shard is active once again and may draw a significant portion of the Chinese player base off of Tranquility. So the monthly economic report for April promises to have a few surprises when CCP releases the files in a few weeks.

Friday, May 1, 2020

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Falling Out Of The Top 20

Long time readers know I follow a gold/plat/ISK/gil selling site called Player Auctions. I used quotes from sellers on the site when I presented on stage with Team Security at Fanfest 2015. The tears from buyers CCP busts I post on Twitter come from the site. And I have used statistics gleaned from customer feedback reviews to monitor activity on the EVE Online black market. But honestly, I never really believed I would post the below image.

20 most popular games on Player Auctions - 1 May 2020

That's right. EVE Online is not one of the 20 most popular games for people looking to buy virtual goods and currency. The game lost that distinction two weeks ago and I've waited for the game to pop back up on the rankings. But so far, it hasn't.

The lack of demand for ISK isn't helped by steep price increases over the last two months. Since 1 March, the 7-day average price of one billion ISK purchased on Player Auctions has increased 58.8%, from $4.37 USD per billion to $6.94 USD per billion on 30 April.

Not all is perfect in CCP's eternal fight against the black market trade in EVE Online virtual currency and items. Back in 2015 I described CCP's basic strategy in its fight against the illicit ISK trade. First, use PLEX to set a ceiling on how much dodgy sites can sell ISK for. Next, force the cost of business for the ISK sellers up through the use of bans, asset seizures, and other security measures. Between capping sales and increasing the cost of doing business, hopefully the professional sellers would leave EVE and infest other games where they can make a lot more money.

But as CCP continues to revamp the New Eden economy, one of the goals apparently is the reduction of the price of PLEX. But reducing the ISK price of PLEX necessarily means increasing the real world price of ISK. So while the cost of ISK sold on Player Auctions rose $2.57/billion from the start of March to the end of April, the 7-day moving average of the regular price for ISK sold through the CCP-approved market rose $2.50 USD per billion ISK. In effect, the ceiling is rising just as the black market sellers need a break.

Even with the 22% increase in the price of ISK purchased on the primary market, people are eschewing purchasing ISK from Player Auctions. Which is a good thing. Getting rid of the professionals will help make EVE a better game.