An EVE Online Play to Earn Announcement is Coming at Fanfest

This is a prediction, not a statement of fact.  But it is a prediction based on evidence provided directly by CCP and Pearl Abyss.  That doesn’t mean it is a sure thing, but it seems likely.  Very likely.  And I like to make predictions, so I’ll revisit this post after EVE Fanfest to see how it played out.

To start with, where is this prediction even coming from?

Yes yes, we’ll get to this soon enough…

Well, Pearl Abyss has been talking about blockchain and pay to earn (which I guess is sometimes pay2earn or P2E… so I’ll go with P2E to shorten it) for a while now.  One need only go back to their Q4 2021 earnings call to find them directly saying that blockchain and pay to earn are in their future, with direct reference to CCP and how smart both companies are about running economies in video games.

Given that CCP has exactly ONE video game, EVE Online (NetEase runs EVE Echoes, CCP only gets to advise there and the bigger worry is that CCP will take bad ideas from it), it isn’t exactly hard to guess where CCP’s economic reputation will come into play.

But maybe that was just all for the market.  I mean, EA was out there talking about blockchain and NFTs one quarter, then went somewhat quiet on the whole thing the next.  Gamers have been pushing back on the whole idea.

That is where we get into something a little more concrete.

Back on March 9th CCP introduced a new for cash pack in the web store that would sell players a fully fitted Retriever mining barge.  This made some of the player base angry, and the CSM put out an open letter that very same day asking CCP to remove the pack from the store and to not create any packs like that in the future.

On the evening of March 18th, nine days after the introduction of the pack and the publishing of the letter from the CSM, CCP responded with a reply to the CSM open letter thread and said they were listening to the community and had removed the pack from the web store.

This made me wonder if things like the open letter, the complaints on Reddit, or the Twitch Blackout protest might have swayed CCP.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it did not, or at least it did not have sufficient impact.

First, there is the timing of the post, which not only came after business hours in the US… and coming up to midnight in Iceland… on a Friday, which is when you publish things you hope people won’t read, but it was preceded by nine days of silence on the topic.

And, as it happens, nine days was how long the login event promoting the mining changes ran.  So it is not outside the realm of possibility that the pack was supposed to come down once the event ended in any case.  CCP had a timer on it when they were presenting the pack offer to players after they ran the new mining career agent missions.  So it sure seems like the pack was going away already.

Finally, the response came in the form of a reply to a post, many message into the thread, on the forums, which is also a good way to post something to say you have responded while ensuring few people will ever see it on accident.  Important things get dev blogs.  Even Incarna got dev blogs about the situation.  The forum is reserved for things that are not important to the company.

The evidence suggests that CCP was not listening and did not do anything in response to player outrage or polite CSM requests.  They carried on with the plan and ignored any input, which is a familiar theme for CCP.  Redline XIII probably lost his partner program membership for nothing… well, he kept his self respect, which is not “nothing,” but the influence on CCP seems minimal at best.

CCP wasn’t necessarily lying when they wrote, “We hear your concerns about the Prospector Pack,” but that doesn’t mean that they changed their plan one iota.

I know, cool story bro, but what about this P2E prediction, where did that come from?

It comes straight from the statement that CCP buried in the forums.

One of the topics for Fanfest is a new project that we’re in the middle of developing, that will transform these and any future packs – a paradigm where packs of this type will be supplied by players, ensuring that any ship we offer to new players through sales, will have origins from actual player work in New Eden: Made for new players, by veterans. This feature will also not only supply each ship from the player base but allow the community to influence which ships will be put in these packs.

That isn’t exactly a “Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick” level of admission, but it does set some parameters.

There will be an announcement at Fanfest.  At least that is an easy read.

There will also be more packs.  Again, evidence that CCP was not listening at all, they refer to future packs.  Now, they soften that with the word “any,” as if to put some doubt behind the idea that there will absolutely be future packs, but the whole paragraph is a non-sequitor if there is no plan for future packs, so you can safely cross out “any.”  There will be more such packs.

But these new packs will have the contents supplied by players.  And you know what players aren’t going to do?  They aren’t going to build and fit ships for free.  CCP will need some way to incentivize players to build ships and modules and whatever, or it simply isn’t going to happen.

The best way would be to put up buy contracts for specific hulls and modules so that the ships in the packs would come from the player economy and not be created out of thin air.

Even if the contracts reward just ISK, that still completes the loop for a pay to earn scheme.

But I hear you ask, “Isn’t that how the EVE economy works anyway?  What makes this different?”

To start with, rather than producing hulls and modules out of thing air, it will be for ISK, which is how it works in the game already.  But CCP will be opening up their own special ISK faucet to make the program go.  That is new.

And, of course, CCP will turn around and sell the hulls and modules, along with some skill points and PLEX added in of course, for real world money.  So even if you aren’t earning real world money, you do get a sense that this hull or that module has a cash value.

Now, that is the simplest version of their proposal I can imagine, and as a P2E scheme it only rises above mining ore and selling it on the market because CCP is going to then sell it to other players for cash.  It becomes an RMT transaction, which sort of gets it in the ballpark.  And it has an impact on the player economy.  If, as an example, CCP decides that it is going to make another Retriever pack from player stocks, so sets a buy price of 50 million ISK, that is the new price for that hull.  Why would you sell one for less if CCP might pay you that much.  And CCP’s price always has to be higher than the market price, or why would you sell to them?

The thing is, that is just my guess, and my most simple, straight path, easiest to implement one at that.  CCP may not do that, probably won’t do that.

CCP may not pay out in ISK, but in PLEX, which has closer to real world value.  You can buy PLEX for cash in-game or via the web store, and it can be turned into game time or a second training queue or buy things from the in-game store such as skill extractors or hypercores.

I think if CCP pays out in PLEX, then we’re safely into P2E territory.

But what if the plan is for something beyond ISK or PLEX?

As I stated before, I have no idea what the plan really is, but we still have the Pearl Abyss statements I linked to above where they seem all in on blockchain and P2E.

I certainly don’t think CCP is going to pay out in real world cash.  The first rule of business is to never give the customer their money back except as a last resort.  But letting players earn some sort of cryto currency, which they could roll up on their own, that has a theoretical real world value, they could go there.

It might even work… for a while.

The key problem with P2E with crypto is that supply eventually outstrips demand.  As we have seen with Axie, if the money seems at all reasonable, people will swarm in to make some and the market eventually crashes because there are not enough customers to absorb the boost in production.

With some sort of buy order mechanism acting as a limiter on supply, it can be metered out to fit the existing demand.

Of course, solving that one problem… and I won’t claim it actually solves the problem, it merely mitigates it somewhat… will still lead to the whole thing modifying player behavior elsewhere.  Humans get really weird when money comes into play.  I’ve lost a billion ISK ship before, and it stung, but I still undocked it and put it in harms way knowing the possible outcome.  But if I had put down $20 of real world cash for it, would I be so cavalier?  How about if I could trade that hull for some crypto?  It would change my perception of the risk.

Anyway, that is all speculation.  I am not making any sort of prediction down to that level of detail.  But it certainly sounds like we will be getting some sort of P2E announcement at EVE Fanfest… in Iceland… in front of a hall filled with the games most ardent fans.

I do hope they will stream it live, because I want to tune in and watch that in real time.  I expect it to be a real, “No sir… they’re saying Boo-urns” sort of moment.

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4 thoughts on “An EVE Online Play to Earn Announcement is Coming at Fanfest

  1. evehermit

    Now that was a depressing read – I had not thought it through to that possible conclusion. I can’t see how CCP could make it work for players to build to contracts etc – unless it was for some intermediate resource, like loyalty points or immediately applied skins. CCP could buy them off the market? If the number of pack purchases were low enough, that is an option, although would influence the market stock and price. Then what happens when they can’t get enough stock for popular packs? My brain hurts.

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  2. Nosy Gamer

    From what I’ve read, play-to-earn is a business model where users play a game and earn cryptocurrency while doing so. Not that much different from what we see today from CCP, except the payout should be better. There’s a reason financial analysts keep asking about EVE and the play-to-earn option on the quarterly earnings calls.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Nosy Gamer – If you buy into the crypto marketing hype, P2E *only* means earning some form of crypto. But, as you may have noticed, I am a bit skeptical of crypto marketing hype, especially when titles like Second Life and Entropia Universe have been doing something one would objectively call P2E without crypto for almost 20 years. (What was going on in 2003 that saw both of those titles launch?)

    Like any such term, it has soft edges and I have seen the more pedantic in the community arguing that gold sellers and people who take cash for in-game items or services constitute P2E.

    My own view at the moment is that if the company rewards you for doing something in-game with something that has arguable real-world value that you otherwise cannot earn in game, then we’re probably in P2E territory. So if CCP’s new pack idea pays you in cash, then P2E, crypto, P2E, PLEX, P2E, ISK, probably not P2E except, as I noted, the company is then taking your work and turning it into cash, so still kind of strange.

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