Daily Archives: August 3, 2012

CSM7 Minutes – Quantity Has an Annoying Quality all its Own

I said elsewhere that I thought CSM7 was going to be damned to obscurity.

Not that being so damned is a reflection on the members of CSM7 or the efforts they are putting in to their jobs.  However, they will naturally be compared to CSM6 and there is almost no way they will stack up to that legacy.

There is the Great Man Theory that says figures will rise up due to the exceptional abilities to shape and leave a mark on the times in which they lived.

I tend more towards what I would call the “newspaper headline” theory.  You only get interesting headlines when something interesting is actually happening.  A so-called “Great Man” (or woman, or whatever you would call somebody of one sex using the avatar of the opposite sex) can only achieve greatness if the right opportunities arise.

Hi, my name is Peter! But you can call me Elise.

So it came to pass last year.  There was the crisis of Incarna.  To many players CCP seemed to have gone completely off the rails.  CCP gave us an expansion with a cash shop stocked with pants and expensive monocles, most of which nobody else could see.  The station view was replaced with the pretty… as in “pretty useless”… Captain’s Quarters.  CCP also wanted to license any use of EVE on the internet.  And then there was the leak of CCP’s internal newsletter where they rather vigorously explored was to monetize the game beyond the subscription.  The specter of epic spaceships and gold ammo on the market for real world money took the level or rage in the community and cranked it up to 11.

The CCP response to all of this took the form of repeatedly spraying gasoline on the fire via pronouncements from Chairman Hilmar.

So the moment was set for Council of Stellar Management, lead by The Mittani.

And the council… which I derided back at its origin as the Galactic Student Council, seeing it as a window dressing debating society or a junior league UN with members in it mostly for a free trip to Iceland… stepped up and became the voice of the protests.  It was prepared to bite the hand that created it even as CCP was flying the council out for an emergency summit.

It appeared that CSM6 emergency summit was an instrumental part of the effort to talk CCP off the ledge, though there was still a gap between CCP and the CSM.  While they did a joint video, the CSM released its own statement on the summit, since CCP still seemed to have the whitewash brush in their hand. (I’m still annoyed a year later about CCP trying to minimize the station changes as some sort of bizarre affection for “ship spinning.”)

Fences were mended.  Players calmed down.  And in the fall we got an expansion that was largely made up of fixes and improvements to things that players had been bitching about for ages.  Flying in space was again to be the main focus of EVE Online.

And the Council of Stellar Management came out of it looking like a major force in the game.

But now it is a year later.  A new council, CSM7, has been elected and they clearly want to leave their mark as well.  And while there was some drama between the election and their being officially seated, not much else has been going on.  Things have been very quiet.

CCP doesn’t seem inclined to go insane again just to give the CSM something to do.

So, in the absence of a crisis, CSM7 seems to be determined to build themselves a monument of words.  That has to be the explanation for the  165 page PDF file that constitutes the minutes of the two day CSM summit that took place back on June 1st.  You can find the whole enchilada here.

And the favored topic of CSM7 appears to be CSM7.

The document opens up with a 30 page transcript of the CSM talking about various aspects of the CSM.  They want rules.  They want rules to justify kicking somebody off the CSM.  They want rules about how they should communicate with the player base.  They want rules about the behavior of members of the CSM in game.  They are worried about voting.  They want to elect their own chairman rather than having it go to the candidate with the most votes.  They bring up The Mittani nearly a dozen times.

The transcript starts off  in as amusing in a way, and Trebor adds in his own tidbit about transcribing the discussion about transcriptions that adds a bit more humor, but the whole thing quickly becomes a too long warning against doing transcriptions.  The CSM is made up of people, and we get to see them exposed as such as you read along.

They are trying to be witty or amusing.   They have personal agendas or axes to grind.  They seem to obsess about petty hair splitting.  But most of all, they seem to be very much focused on themselves for 30 freaking pages to no useful purpose.

If you wanted to put together document to reinforce the Galactic Student Council image, you would have to work to top that opening segment.  I bet this document is going to come back to haunt some people come next CSM election.

Not that the whole thing lacks for interesting tidbits.  You can mine the 165 page document for a few updates, though nothing besides the CSM talking about itself appears important enough to take up nearly 20% of the total length.

Jester, in his usual OCD way, has gone through the document and come up with a list of interesting points.

Now I realize that the CSM is a part-time job in addition to the members real and virtual lives and that the position, as Hans Jagerblitzen pointed out, has conflicting aspects of its own.  But if you want to make your jobs easier, next summit stick to more traditional minutes and give us a few pages of details.  More substance, less… whatever the hell you want to call that CSM section.

And yes, I know some loud people were clamoring for a detailed “who said what” during the last CSM, but there are always some loud people clamoring for something in EVE.  We don’t have to listen to all of them, do we?

Of course, you don’t have to listen to me either.

But if people have questions about your summary, you can bet they will ask.  And then you can engage with the community which you were elected to represent.  Or not.

So who has read the whole thing, word for word so far?

WoW Drops More Subscribers Than SWTOR Has Left

Welcome to the Wrath of the Burning Panda Cataclysm.

Expansion IV – A New Hope

Well, it hasn’t been a good week for news if you are a fan of subscription only MMOs.  Star Wars: The Old Republic threw in the towel and declared for free to play while other games that already converted continued to dig themselves further into the cash shop morass, whose depths I am sure we have yet to plumb.

And now it has come out that World of Warcraft has shed another million or so users, bringing the game from 10.2 million subscribers at the end of Q1 2012 to 9.1 million subscribers at the end of Q2 2012.  More people picked up a copy of Diablo III in Q2 (10+ million) than remained subscribed to WoW.

I went back to look at the Q1 2012 and Q4 2011 results and they both pegged the subscriber base at 10.2 million for WoW, while the Q2 2012 results show the 1.1 million subscriber drop.

Which leads me to some thoughts.

The stability of Q1 must have been partially because of subscription overhang.  People cancelled but their subscriptions hadn’t run out.  Then again, WoW only shed 100K subscribers in Q4 2011.  How much overhang could there be?

Oddly, there was a report towards the end of Q1 that SWTOR was having an impact on WoW.  I wonder how that idea works in retrospect?  In Q1 WoW was stable and SWTOR shed 400K subscribers.

While WoW hasn’t taken the short term dive in subscribers that SWTOR has, at least as a percentage of total, it is still down from a post-Cataclysm peak of “more than 12 million” at the end of 2010 to 9.1 million midway through 2012.  That is a 25% drop in 18 months.

There is still no breakout of the subscription numbers between Western and Asian subscribers, who pay very different rates to play the game.  Losing a million Western subscribers would probably be a much bigger hit to the bottom line than a million Asian subscribers.

It is probably no accident that Mists of Pandaria is set to launch about a month before the first of the million players (around 20% of the Western subscriber base) who signed up for the Annual Pass plan, which got you a free copy of Diablo III, wrap up their one year commitment.  I am free to cancel come Halloween.

My gut says that we are past the point where a new expansion can boost subscriptions significantly.  If nothing else, there is the curse of the level based game with which to contend.  90 levels and four expansions start to look daunting to new players.  You cannot just join up and play with your friends who are at level cap.  Think EverQuest’s long, graceful decline into old age. (For a game at least.)

Unlike early MMOs, no one game seems to have replaced WoW.  EQ siphoned off PvE players from Ultima Online.  WoW became the new EQ.  But WoW’s decline is not due to one game… there is no “WoW Killer”… but to a profusion of games in the market.  And many of those games came about because WoW was so profitable that other players wanted in.

And, of course, all that crowding pushed alternate payment models, and so “free” became the operative word.  Not only do you have a lot more choices now, but for a lot of them you no longer need to buy a box and sign up for a monthly subscription.  It is hard to compete with free… at least for specific definitions of free.

WoW still remains an outlier in the subscription MMO world, with a huge subscriber base and an insane profit margin, and still seems likely remain so for some time to come.

So what is it going to be?  Will Pandas give Azeroth a decent surge in subscriptions?  Or will things remain flat tapering into the long, slow decline?