Just a quick one – I promise. James_315 wrote one of his “EVE is dying” pamphlets over at “The Mittani” followed in short order by a sloppy little piece by “The Mittani” himself discussing the announcement that EVE has broken through 500k subscribers and personal taking credit for turning the company around (well, ok, he didn’t but he was close). That is a little contradictory, isn’t it?
Bottom line, CCP is boosting numbers by making a better spaceship game but whats the next market expansion? Growth can only come from one of two sources, either the existing demographic (market penetration) or a new one (market expansion).
The existing market.
Defining EVE’s market is not so easy – its more “Facebook” than “World of Warcraft” for its engaging metagame working outside of the game client and its more “Second Life” than “Planet Side” for its persistent content based on relationships. And while CCP has (hopefully or they need to hire me…) much better data on their demographics, (average) players in New Eden are older, better educated, spend more time in-game and more resources on the game than their average counterparts in e.g. WoW. It is a demographic more likely to read “Reddit” than spend time playing “Farmville” and marketing campaigns needs to be tailored appropriately. Point is, in this market, EVE Online is not a game, its a Oreamno had put it on this ” title=”About gaming addiction” href=”http://splatus.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/about-addiction/”>blog).
Marketers asking themselves of course how they get access to that segment and that is fair but I’d ask where do people in that segment come from and where do they go. For example, I’d try to catch customers directly from IT heavy universities and colleges, even high schools. I’d go in with the message “EVE is hard” as CCP has done in the past.
Allegedly it didn’t go so well -that campaign was pulled pretty quickly – its obvious, why. ”Hard” is a feature, not a benefit. Being a hard game is easy – just ramp up the AI of the NPCs or something. But offering great reward to those who overcome and endure – now that is better design and EVE has that in spades – the rewards for persistence and dedication are phenomenal compared with the rewards that a casual player gets. So, why not talk about it? The Butterfly Effect add was the best add CCP ever ran – it didn’t show really what the game does, it showed what what the player experiences. (so was “I was there” btw, which I still think is one of the best advertisements in gaming history). So, CCP, you know how to do it right, just do more of that.
And that is the demographic that James_315 wants of course and he is right in his assertion that the game grew from and by this demographic.
If the core market for CCP is the hardcore geeks with stamina and persistence to stick with one game for 10 years, what other markets are available for the company to expand into? The casual MMORPG market is a funeral pyre for companies going after Warcraft’s theme park – why? The demographic of suburban 14 year olds with oodles of pocket money and nothing to do but squeeze zits and play online game is a tempting target. Blizzard went there, shed the hardcore gamers in the process and grew made collecting “Peaceblooms” a profession worthy of a Deathknight. And while financially a very attractive market, its extremely fickle – no attention span and retention rates, demands for safety everywhere and instant satisfaction. In a culture where kids learn that everyone is a winner, shooting a Hulk with a Catalyst can not be tolerated.
Mittani argues that Incarna was going after that market – with walking in station – but that it didn’t work since CCP lost its core customers without attracting new ones to make up for it. True – that is because Incarna was / is such a screwed up expansion. The marketing logic remains sound however and it is James_315 biggest fear that this demographic will ruin the game. Maybe.
But interestingly, the Goons advertise basically just that to their new players. Snatching them from the cradle, making them valuable tacklers on day 1, showering them with ISK and attention, the Goons understand that a theme park approach is absolutely required for player retention. So, if they are allowed to do this, why shouldn’t CCP?
And after all, Be Careful goons (and James_315). You, the bitter vets, are the very small and vocal minority in EVE. Every time you hear about a 500 ship fleet doing something, you have 480 bored line members who wait for the FC to order them around. These are just the people who farm in highsec and would jump into other games if EVE was “too hard”.
Bottom line, CCP straddles a few different markets and has to dance on edge between retaining the old bittervets and growing the game universe they created. I know what I would do in CCP’s shoes that is – advertise the crap out of the existing features in the existing markets but develop features for the new ones. Shedding a few bittervets in the end won’t be such a big deal if the new markets can pick up the slack.
Incarna is (or should be) a Harvard Business Review how not do expand into new markets but it looks like that CCP is turning the corner now and is growing their subscribers. CCP may have learned its lesson and turned the ship around, in the end, I have more respect for a company (or person for that matter) that persists through challenges, risks big and doesn’t mind getting kicked in the teeth occasionally if the reward is great.
Thats why EVE online is my game.