Social Media as business model – free advice to CCP

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.

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/s (its sometimes necessary to add a disclaimer that the above post was sarcasm before fat white men with internet pitchforks come after me)

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Salt

As both of my readers know, I don’t play EVE to actively upset or annoy other players.  The practice of doing so, deliberately harvesting tears (aka salt) as it is known is abhorrent to me.  The discussion about this is as old as the game itself and I am not going into it.  I said it before, I love EVE for the fact that you can choose to be a total asshole while not being one is also a choice.  Other games simply don’t have the game mechanic to really negatively impact another player.  Please, CCP, never dial that back.

So, whats this all about?  The other day I logged into the game ready for some interaction with my corp mates and look for trouble.  The (really) nice thing about NOMEX is that there are nearly always people online even if not hunting all the time.  Which means if I do what I do best (scout / tackle), I can have the cavalry called in within a few minutes.  And so I go out scouting down a C1 connection, not even bothering bringing my other character as rear guard.  If I find something with my Proteus, I’ll tackle it and my fleet mates will bail me out. Continue reading

If it wasn’t for Real Life…

Edit This just in. A fast/furious little skirmish that started as a rapid gank on a Gila that ran one of the event sites and escalated when our target dropped a Bhaal plus many other things on us.  RIP my little Stratios, you will be missed replaced.  

 

As my last remaining reader knows, I moved to a new corp “Anomalous Existence” and am happy as a clam in this outfit. They are small enough to know all the guys and gals but big enough that stuff goes down all the time.  Unfortunately most of the times when I see a ping, I can’t log in for Real Life reasons.  I don’t mind too  much right now, as long as NOMEX doesn’t kick me out, I am happy where I am. My reduced online time however means that I have to scrap all things EVE extraneous like PvE, reading about EVE and of course blogging. Continue reading

Expectations are met

My last post was about my move to NOMEX and what my expectations were.  I had hoped for a low-class WH PvP-centric corporation with minimal (asymptotically approaching zero) drama and lots of lots pew-pew.  I am delighted to report that all my expectations were met.  Just a look at yesterday’s killboard and you get a feeling that this is a corporation that’s going out and shoots “all the things”. Continue reading

A short, sharp kick in the ass

Most of my remaining two readers will have realized that had the EVE Blues.  It was a combination of three things:

  • Z3ro Return Mining, my ancestral home in EVE, the corp that I joined as a pod-pole 7 years ago, where I learned Wormhole flying and in which I found true friends is slowing down.  People age, families grow, recruitment is hard work and attrition has shrunk the corp to a few good friends with limited time online.  It just “happens”, there is no drama but as a game it wasn’t enjoyable for me.
  • CCP made some wild design decisions that in fore- and hindsight have been disastrous and bit them in the ass. Rather than focusing on the diversity of players using the multitude of things to do in New Eden as their driver, they channeled all development and marketing activity into one thing and one thing only, Sov Nullsec.  It worked, thousands now log in only to experience a big fight with the entirely predictable result that the servers crash and people are disappointed.  I grew tired of being treated as third class paying customer and unsubbed 2 of my 3 accounts.
  • I personally had changes in my life, good or bad but they didn’t allow for “regular” play.  Long, boring story, everyone has those phases, mine started in summer 2017.  Its only now that I have more of a balance and can re-engage in things that are not absolutely necessary to life (like computer games).

But sometimes, all it needs is a short, sharp kick in the ass to get motivation back.  I suddenly realized that I truly missed EVE and that I don’t have to stay with Z3ro.  I am allowed to leave. But where should I go? Continue reading

Goodbye 2017

It is customary to recap the year past before the ball drops allowing a little bit of reflection what was good and what can be improved in the next year.  I won’t disappoint my last remaining reader but before I start, a fair word of warning: 2017 was not my “EVE year”.  In fact, it was the year I came closest to walking away from this game since 2009. Continue reading

The capacitor is empty

As my remaining two readers may have noticed, the frequency and energy of my posts have declined over the last few months.  I tried to keep a “2 posts / month” schedule and while I have largely been able to do this, I am not happy with the content – its sloppy, thin, not funny, badly edited and overall I am not satisfied.  In part this is due to time constraints, I had changes in my real (work) life that were in some ways awesome (I get to run my own startup) in other words scary as hell (I get to run my own startup).  Gaming in general isn’t in my head at the moment.

Add to this my disappointment with EVE, my only game of choice.  I am not going to lament that EVE is dying, considering that the entire market for PC-based games is declining by 4% / year (too lazy to look up the reference), EVE is holding up pretty well. New players join up as alphas and within days sit fat and happy in Rorquals in Delve – EVE as CCP wants it to be.   No, EVE isn’t dying, “my” EVE is dying.  The game I enjoyed with friends, where owning a Wormhole was a team sport and not the case of one guy (me) with an alt corp (mine) just dump some Citadels down without worrying too much about fuel or evictions.  That EVE is gone and gone for good.  CCP decided a few years ago that nullsec is the only driver for revenue and have basically stopped all development anywhere else.

Blaming CCP for me not wanting to log in is a cheap and unfair way of describing whats going on. CCP makes a product and arguably has a marketing department that carefully analyzes the retention of new, paying customers. Maybe I am simply not in the core customer base right now, this happened to me before, in 2009 World of Warcraft changed from a multiplayer game to a single player game where all human interactions were superfluous.  I had enough of the gear-score-driven LFG system and one day logged off and walked off.  I feel like I am close to this situation in EVE right now.

Instead of throwing the towel and biomassing, I am taking a semi-official break until December (ish).  I am not having any expectations that EVE Vegas will bring any features that would excite me to log back in but I will certainly watch where I can. I truly, honestly, hope that something will be announced where I can get my mojo back.

Until then, enjoy, blow stuff up and have fun without me!