Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Will EVE Online Have A Full Expansion In November?

I've watched over the past two months as the average number of concurrent users on EVE Online's Tranquility shard started to free-fall. Since I last wrote about the decline on 23 June, the 7-day moving average of the ACU dropped another 1,500 or so.

From the Jester's Trek archive, updated thru 9 July 2021

One of the advantages of CCP's Games as a Service model is the monthly or near monthly update. Not only does the model justify a subscription model, but guarantees constant content drops. While the latest content drops helped, I think something major is needed to combat the current decline. Especially since, unlike the Summer of Rage and Blackout, CCP didn't make one major misstep to provoke the current situation. 

In 2011, CCP responded to the Summer of Rage with the Crucible expansion at the end of November. While past performance is not a guarantee of future results, a look back at a CCP press release is a reminder of how CCP responded to its first major player decline.

EVE Online: Crucible contains over fifty new features and hundreds of enhancements aimed at improving the player experience. These features and fixes were selected by scrutinizing community feedback and focusing on the changes that would make the most immediate impact on the game for the majority of EVE players.

In this expansion, players will experience striking visual upgrades across the EVE universe. Nebulae throughout New Eden have been redesigned in spectacular fashion, offering hauntingly beautiful views of interstellar space.  EVE Online: Crucible introduces new visual libraries with beautifully retextured and revisualized Gallente and Caldari fleets. Other highly anticipated features include Scalable UI and the crisp, clear EVE Sans Neue font, developed as a result of the introduction of CarbonUI earlier this year. 

EVE Online: Crucible reignites the fires of war across New Eden with an array of powerful new ships and changes to EVE's combat system. New Tier 3 Battlecruisers designed to punch above their weight offer players new roles and fresh tactical options. Existing ships, from destroyers to supercapitals, have been rebalanced and tweaked ahead of EVE’s traditional winter warfare season to refine combat in one of the industry's longest-lived MMOs. Meanwhile, new Tech 2 modules, better ship salvage and tweaked loot drops increase rewards in both PvE and PvP, adding further variety and intrigue to EVE's vast player-driven economy.

Just because CCP moved to the Quadrant system that spaces out content over the course of a quarter doesn't mean big, expansion sized patches are not possible. Agile development processes should allow CCP to create a major patch while pumping out the monthly content, provided the game studio has the manpower. Historically, the best times to launch an expansion was late November and early December. 

Today's announcement of the resumption of the Alliance Tournament supports the theory of a major content drop in late November or early December. Yes, the 5,000 or so people who will watch the tournament is tiny compared to the Twitch audiences of games like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, League of Legends and Valorant. But a 5,000 maximum concurrent viewership could equate to 50,000 sets of eyes on EVE over the course of the tournament. Also, the coverage of the tournament will greatly increase EVE's presence on Twitch in a lead-up to a possible expansion-sized patch. In the past, CCP used the dead spots between matches on the final weekend to promote game updates. They could do so again in the latest iteration of the tournament show. The news coming out of the coverage potentially is bigger than the tournament itself.

I have to admit I'm putting a very positive spin on today's announcement. When I watched the announcement I was sorely disappointed. Why hype up something that historically was mainly watched for betting purposes? But to hold the tournament requires months of preparation by the participants. If the Alliance Tournament is just part of a larger plan, then why should I rain on anyone's parade? And I so hope this post is taking the correct view on CCP's plans.

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