The Public Perception of EVE Online
Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community.
Is this perception deserved? Should “The Nation of EVE” be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?
Ok, this blogbanter is a rather easy, straight -up marketing question for the MBA dudes at CCP. There are only two ways this can go in the community. One is the obvious answer that discusses EVE being too complicated and “un-fun” to the the WoW community and therefore is concerned with easing new recruits into the dark and smelly world of New Eden. The second one is concerned about the integrity of New Eden and the danger that soft and casual players present to the hardcore EVE vets who are aoh-so-superior to the rest of homo sapiens.
I’d rather not go down that line and argue that a smart online company (CCP is “online” for sure, there may well be discussion about “smart”) has considered the famous “long tail” of marketing. Without repeating old and tired explanations of (American, of course, hence vacuous) business books, the long tail postulates that customers can be served even if they diverge from the statistical mean. Take WoW for example. In its relentless quest towards growth, it has focused on the largest possible market – teenagers in subburban American and their pocket-money giving parents. This market requires instant satisfaction, no real violence, perfect political correctness and – above all – never any hint that the world is less perfect than Disneyland. And if WoW players represent the statistical majority of MMORPG players, the tails of the distribution curve thins out quickly, the further away from the mean we go.
On the outside is EVE Online with a dark and dangerous and decisively politically incorrect world. CCP investors will eye the massive market in the middle currently occupied by WoW and its ilk and presumably urge Hilmar to paint the pink ponies that I see in my (infrequent, life is good) nightmares. The greed to attack a multimillion player market must be tempting. But the long curve allows an alternative. The alternative is to capture all possible customers outside the immediate median of the curve and the reputation of EVE Online will spread into that region. Here comes the question just how many players does CCP need to be financially viable? Too many companies broke themselves by trying to do the usual Silicon Valley thing and assume hockey-stick growth with eventual world domination? So, really, how many players does EVE need to be a) self-fueling and b) break even? Is it really millions? Or is it – say – 500k? The difference in that number is immense. 500k can be scraped from those who enter the MMORPG world as new generations and from the defectors of the bubble-gum colored middle of the curve. More may be impossible without watering down the game.
Secondly is of course the regional market. Japan, China and South America are largely untapped markets for games. The international platform of EVE that so many other companies may see as distracting and dangerous may well help EVE to be very successful in this environment, the same way as Facebook is successful precisely because it can connect customers from different regional and socio-economic strata.
So, bringing it home, CCP, don’t worry about growing into Blizzard. Screw them. Build your business plan to stay below 500k active space pilot (accounts) and rest on your laurels. You will have the collecting pool for those who are simply bored with mainstream.
As for DUST – maybe a later post. I am too tired 😉
[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]
Easy. D-scan. No argument from any WH-dweller….