And What of the EVE Online Store?

Since the announcement of the acquisition of CCP by Black Desert Online creator Pearl Abyss a few weeks back there has been a stream of speculation as to what this will mean for EVE Online, good or bad.

The two logos together in space

There has been more than a fair share of panic that New Eden is going to become some sort of pay to win hellhole like Black Desert Online with special cash shop ships or gold ammo or whatever.  I am dubious that Pearl Abyss would jump right on that, and not just because CCP spent most of their AMA forum thread repeating that there were no drastic changes planned.  It would simply be dumb to to make that sort of changes to the game as it would be a quick way to kill it.  Unless CCP has something else worth $425 million, that would be a very bad way to treat their investment.

But if the panic over the downside has been overstated, it is in part because the possible upside of the acquisition lacks a direct, tangible win.  How will things be better if CCP’s primary message is that things are not changing?

My own take has been that the acquisition should/could allow CCP to focus more on EVE Online, the most valuable asset the company owns.  Without having to worry about making that next product they won’t have to keep diverting time and resources into what has largely been a waste of money sine they bought White Wolf back in 2006.

Being part of Pearl Abyss puts CCP in an ecosystem where EVE Online doesn’t have to pay all the bills and gives them the support to develop the IP of New Eden for other games.  Players win by virtue of EVE Online getting more of CCP’s attention.

Again, while positive sounding, that is a pretty nebulous stance.

Others have take this a step further and started pointing at things on which they feel CCP ought to focus.  More than 15 years in EVE Online is a big game with a lot of neglected features.

Over at Massively OP their EVE Evolved column decided to pick a couple of items that CCP ought to work on and I couldn’t disagree more with the proposed focus, and all the more so because the article’s alleged point is monetization.  Neither ideas is a money maker.

One was walking in stations, a feature I’ve beaten to death here.  The problem the feature has now is the same problem it has always had, which is that if you bring in avatars you then have to create game play to justify them.  Otherwise it is just a huge waste of time and money that would cost much more than even the most optimistic revenue estimates you could make while keeping a straight face.  If you’re going to build what would essentially be a new game you might as well go all out and actually build a new game rather than trying to stick it in New Eden.  Fortunately CCP has learned its lesson on that and said in that AMA that walking in stations was not going to return.

Me, only you can’t change my mind

The other was a bit more subtle, an idea that superficially seems to have merit, but which falls apart if explored.  That is improving or expanding the EVE Online store.  I’m not talking about the in-game store, but the web storefront that sells real world items.

The EVE Online store has long been a bone of contention and has gone through many iterations over the years, with significant gaps where there wasn’t a store at all.  But the long running consistent complaint has been pretty simple; why the hell can’t I buy some decent EVE Online merchandise?

Right now it is a semi-generic store, but you can at least buy a black EVE Online logo T-shirt or hoodie or a coffee mug along with a few other items.

The Current EVE Gear Shop

But the article over at Massively envisions a grand expansion.  It calls for better apparel, posters, ship models, and whatever.  It is a refrain we have heard over the years.  We want to buy cool stuff about EVE Online.

Except, not really.

Sure, our theoretical selves, enthusiastic about the game, are keen to throw money at EVE Online stuff.  But the real, practical, looking at the prices and having to open the wallet and get out the credit card selves?  Not so much.  Yes, there is always somebody willing to shell out for a thousand dollar floating Nyx model, but there aren’t enough people for CCP to ramp up production and keep some in stock to ship.  Those battleship models CCP made back in the day?

Everybody loved them, but not many people loved them enough to drop $125 on them.  I am pretty sure CCP took a bath on those and I seem to recall them giving them away for various events down the road. (Though now I see a few on eBay for $300 each, so maybe I should have invested.)

The reality is that for a company the size of CCP, the gear store is marketing and not a business.  I cringe every time I hear somebody say, “CCP could make so much money if they only sold…” about the online store.  No, they won’t make money.  They’ll be lucky if they break even.  The quantities are simply too small relative to the prices we’re willing to pay.

Yes, if you’re Blizzard or Riot or even Valve and have a super popular game companies like Jinx will pay you for the license to print shirts and such.  The market for some properties is big enough that third parties can pay to use the IP, do the work, and make money at it.

But EVE Online is not one of those properties.  Jinx worked with CCP in 2009, back when EVE Online was still a bit of a rising star, then declined to renew after 2011.  When pros like Jinx drop you, that is a pretty big hint that you aren’t in a league to make money on T-shirts with your IP.

I realize that this is mostly opinion on my part, but I think it is opinion backed up by some reasonable evidence.  And I’ll throw some more on top of that.

Find a game of comparable size/player base/popularity as EVE Online that has a better online merchandise store.

As I said, the big dogs are covered.  Blizzard licenses out to Jinx and others, while Riot and Valve have their own store.  But down at the CCP level things get kind of thin.

SOE used to have a store with some dubious merch.

It’s like they never saw Beavis & Butt-head

But since the dawn of the Daybreak era that has all fallen by the wayside.

Back about when EVE Online was working with Jinx Turbine managed to get a LOTRO coffee mug and mouse pad in the WB online store, but that seemed to be about their peak.

And then… hrmm… in digging around, that was about all I could find.  Barring unlicensed third parties at places like Red Bubble, there isn’t a lot of merch available from game companies like CCP.  We might, in this as in many things, be holding CCP to an unreasonable standard when we’re actually better off than other games.

Anyway, if you have any evidence to the contrary I’d be glad to hear it, but I think we might have the best EVE Online store we’re likely to get… and it is never going to be a profit center for CCP.

5 thoughts on “And What of the EVE Online Store?

  1. rixxjavix

    Oh man, where do I even begin? I’ve written about this so many times. There are a dozen ways to make an Eve Store viable, but the first challenge is to develop an actual strategy about what such a store should achieve in the first place. My personal and professional opinion is that the Eve Store should exist to promote the game, enhance the player experience, and provide high-quality items that players actually want to purchase. But that it should not be seen as a profit-center, but as a marketing center.

    Provide a legal pathway for third-party merch, such as the spaceship models, or people like myself who have entire libraries of material ready to go. And then sell core items from continental centers in NA/EU/ASIA to avoid shipping nightmares.

    As you mentioned, the game is too small to make merch a profit center. But as an extension of marketing the game, an Eve Online Store to exploits available, and willing, third-party opportunties avoids the the risk of failure, while providing players with the materials they want. And opens the world of Eve to new players – all at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. anypo8

    Nothing I have seen since the Pearl Abyss acquisition contradicts the theory that this Korean company merely wanted access to Chinese gamers. I don’t suspect Pearl Abyss cares about EVE at all other than as a conduit, and I don’t expect them to lift a finger to do anything substantive with it other than bring the Chinese servers up to the current EVE version. In the medium run, I expect they’ll try to use their new Chinese access to bring other gaming properties there.

    Like

  3. Shintar

    Over at Massively OP their EVE Evolved column decided to pick a couple of items that CCP ought to work on and I couldn’t disagree more with the proposed focus, and all the more so because the article’s alleged point is monetization. Neither ideas is a money maker.

    I feel like this about sums up every article at MOP on the subject of “how we think MMOs should make money”, heh.

    That Everquest Zippo lighter genuinely made me laugh out loud!

    Like

  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Shintar – Certainly if I wrote a blog post every time I disagreed with a Massively article I wouldn’t have to worry about what other topics I ought to approach, I’d be doing that full time. Though it would probably be less now that they don’t have Syp doing EVE Online patch note posts. He knows so little about the game that he doesn’t know what the words actually mean… I will admit jargon is an problem with the game… and so used to just interpret them however he felt at the moment.

    But this particular one was a double whammy. Reviving a dead feature, not going to make any money. And the cash shop is one that I have heard over and over from EVE fans. “If only you sold item X you would make soooooo much money.” No. The gear shop will never make money for a game the size of EVE. At best it won’t cost too much. That is just life. And I feel fully vindicated in this when the biggest proponent of gear shop reform and expansion, Rixx Javix, agrees that it is a marketing effort and not a profit center. From that point I can have a discussion as to what their marketing plan ought to be.

    I actually met Brenden Drain at EVE Vegas a couple of years back. He seemed nice enough until he figured out who I was, then pointedly never looked at or spoke to me again.

    Like

  5. Nogamara

    At least you could (reasonably) buy that non-decent merchandise, over in the US.

    I’d never seen this shop, so I quickly checked. 23$ for a T-Shirt (Gallente of course) – not too bad. Oh wait, I don’t see shipping costs. Ah well, CCP is in Europe, but maybe…
    Ok, need to fill in a fake address to even see shipping costs to my country. Yikes – 20.xx USD FOR SHIPPING. Are you kidding me? Qwertee manages to ship single shirts for a few bucks…

    Like

Voice your opinion... but be nice about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s