Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook graciously flew into Washington DC to visit a retirement home for ageing white men and explain to the residents how the interwebs works. This was nice of Mark and he did a good job; those he couldn’t convince that Facebook is on the same level of social responsibility as Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama he will just have to buy later. No, all booster-seat and water-sipping memes aside, his lecture was a total success and he must have left satisfied that his usual routine of apologies and vague promises of “transparency” will stall regulation of his
empire industry for at least one more election cycle. As his only concession, it is assumed that Facebook will offer some form of premium service where the consumer pays directly in exchange for data privacy. For the company, this would be a great boon since they would receive this direct revenue in addition to revenue generated by selling the data on. If found out, they would just send their CEO to DC again to apologize / bribe; a pretty good return of investment.
But we are here not to talk about Facebook but EVE Online, the only surviving Multiplayer Game where interactions between players actually matter. EVE is made by the Icelandic firm “CCP” which has successfully built a company without any marketing whatsoever relying on their tribal customers to acquire more and more accounts. CCP has used the revenue to launch incredibly successful games like FPS, VR games and Vampire MMOs but fundamentally relies on generating revenue from its EVE players to sustain its business. Unfortunately however, there are fewer and fewer players, even when we purchase more and more accounts. The likely end-game for EVE are 4 US-players with questionable personal hygiene using their 30k accounts each to battle a Sino/Russian bot alliance flying weaponized Rorquals. As long as CCP gets paid for accounts and not players, this is financially reasonable but as a social medial platform not satisfying. Reddit’s /r/eve might dry out and of course that is where EVE is really played.
Well, that’s depressing but fear not, I am here to help. I shall lay out a few suggestions how CCP can learn from Facebook and monetize the social media aspect of the game. I will do this free of charge for now due to my love for the game and the community. Send me ISK if you really want (one of my accounts just expired…)
Lets start with what is valuable in social media. Of course it is the name, address and demographic, age, “race” / ethnicity, income and education of its customers. This is the bread and butter of Facebook whose principle business model is to sell demographic data allowing companies like Cambridge analytics to focus on highly specific audiences.
And here is the exciting part, CCP of course has vast databases of members of each demographics, real names, credit card records linked to physical addresses and age verification. Its a gold mine in itself and CCP should absolutely sell all of this to the highest bidder. The return would be significant and Zuckerberg just taught Hilmar (CEO of CCP) that repeatedly apologizing and promising transparency can ward off any negative consequences.
But the static account records are only the tip of the iceberg. EVE Online is a social medial platform like now other, after all, we “interact” with each other constantly. Each interaction – be it a Jita Spam, personal insult, PvP or gank, is indicative of a real person’s mindset and decision process. And players of course respond robustly to these interactions, especially when humiliated, insulted, robbed etc partly because they are under the illusion of anonymity. Oh, but nothing is anonymous. CCP knows exactly who you are and where you live. The records, as the meme goes, show everything. All this interaction is a gigantic dataset of people (yes, real people) interacting with each other under (admittedly self-generated) stressors. And its all recorded, ready to be mined and sold. Take a political campaign for the far right for example. They need angry, white men and where better to find them than in the chat logs and /local after a lost fight. Screaming, foam-on-mouth rage with racial and xenophobic slurs is exactly the target demographic of a Breitbart reader. On the other side, a player who takes his loss with spineless self-hate is more amenable to the white-male-guilt-tripping of a social-justice-warrior like Rachel Maddows or the Hilary-2024 campaign (2020 is already conceded to Ivanka / Kushner). Again, EVE lends itself incredibly well to behavioral profiling since the game itself creates stressful situations under which the players’ real personality is most likely to emerge. CCP sits on a massive goldmine here.
But of course it goes further. Passively scraping profiles of existing interactions is the tip of the iceberg. Specific interactions with NPC or the game engine itself can be engineered by CCP to test narrowly defined target players. A precisely timed de-sync of the game during a fight, a carefully placed Drifter that catches a player on a hole just when he brings in a hauler with a new Fortizar and an engineered crashing client in the middle of a nailbiting PvP encounter all can generate valuable user data. EVE always promoted itself as a sandbox, this would take the concept one step further and make EVE into a maze or laboratory in which the paying customers are the test subjects. Again, notice the analogy to Facebook here. I won’t even go into targeted advertising within the game or subtly changing the skin tone of NPCs that a player interacts with to foster racial bias (so important in US politics at the moment). Or even new missions that deal with abortion, gun ownership or gay marriage launched just at the perfect time in a player’s play time to really generate hate and anger. The sky – such as it exists in a spaceship game – is the limit.
Lastly of course is the EVE Offline game. /r/eve, various forums, podcasts and so on. Players frequently comment on these forums and in many cases with their in-game name and affiliation. Not always of course but a little bit of sleuthing (nothing that a Russian Troll farm with help of CCP can’t do) will create associations that go way beyond in-game content. Here, the field is wide open also for service providers to bring in Facebook and other platforms and associate in-game behavior with that out of game. These data would be valuable to many more customers, employers would pay good money during their hiring process if they could separate “space pirates” from “high sec miners”. Space pirates would make excellent sales people, miners would be superb for everything that requires mind-numbing, repetitive spreadsheet action (HR, accounting, QC/QA…). Dating sites, NSA, organized crime, credit card companies, insurances, basically everyone who makes it their business to create asymmetric knowledge about a person would see this rich datset as a valuable resource. From the commercial point of view, this is the endgame and CCP holds the key.
So with all this, I offer my suggestion to CCP and become a truly integrated, modern social media company modeled after Facebook and
ruthlessly decisively mine their paying customers’ behavior. The resulting revenue will surely be used to generate better and more integrated games and force EA to pay a much higher price during CCP’s inevitable acquisition. I would advise that CCP hires an executive to run this business and as luck would have it, a hugely qualified and deeply experienced leader has just become available.
/s (its sometimes necessary to add a disclaimer that the above post was sarcasm before fat white men with internet pitchforks come after me)