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Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's all about fecundity.

"Intelligence is a valuable thing, but it is not usually the key to survival. Sheer fecundity ... usually counts. The intelligent gorilla doesn't do as well as the less intelligent but more-fecund rat, which doesn't do as well as the still-less-intelligent but still-more-fecund cockroach, which doesn't do as well as the minimally-intelligent but maximally-fecund bacterium."
— Isaac Asimov
'Fifty Million Big Brothers'. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Nov 1978), 55, No. 5, 93.
 I've pondered lately, as I realign my PI facilities, what's driving CCP's decisions. If you listen to the players, CCP should concentrate on pleasing the existing base. Failure to do so could result in a tremendous loss of revenue. I read recently on Seleene's Sandbox the following quote from a long time EVE player which seems to support this belief,
"You get to a point where you wonder if you're going to see anything new in the game you've played for so long. I don't think that I am, which is why my last paid subscription runs out 12 October. When I say I want something to do, I mean I want something else to do. Going on ops and doing the same thing I've done countless times before isn't the be all end all for me. EVE used to evolve along with its players and that's just not happening anymore."
However, I feel this is anecdotal at best. We all know that games don't last forever - regardless of marketing hype. What is the cause of that demise? Does failing to create new content for existing players really kill the game?

We have some hard data on accounts and log-ins for EVE. Jester has done a huge amount of work on this. You can find that excellent work here. They are indeed ugly curves Jester. But is Incarna the cause are merely the justification?

At Fanfest 2009 we got some real numbers for CCP subscriptions. Here is what Ten Ton Hammer reported back then as EVE's demographic:

95% of account holders are male
28 years old - average age
76 years old - oldest confirmed active player
20% of 2004's first month subscribers are still playing
That is somewhat alarming. There are no generation millennial to speak of. Half the population is absent. Women are just not interested except for a few notables. Why is that? According to mckimmins on that same Ten Ton Hammer article is was because of this:
"My wife likes to game a bit with me and we play lotro together. I cannot get her to even try Eve though. She says that since she cannot creat a pretty avatar and dress her up that she has absolutely no interest in the game." -- mckimmins
Now, all EVE veterans that I know about would scoff at dressed up avatars. I imagine they'd pony right up to CCP's bar an shout, "This is a game of Internet Spaceships damn it! We don't want no stinkin' Barbie fun house sorta game CCP!" Isn't that what they've been doing since Incarna? Wasn't that the point of shooting up Jita like some old Wild West cowboy all-night drunk?

When I look at demographics like the ones above, I get worried. I want EVE to last forever. There's a lot of potential customers missing from the figures given above. There must have been a lot of questions flying around CCP Corporate. Of all those accounts, how many are alts? If we lose a subscriber due to RL issues how many accounts to be lose? How many accounts are less than 2 years old? What is the account retention rate? How does that compare with the ratios in 2007? What about now? Are unique accounts diminishing? How do we tap into the 50% of the population that won't even try the game without pretty dresses?

This is how Incarna came to be. I think it was originally supposed to be done concurrently with ongoing EVE development. Then the recession hit - hard. CCP had to make a decision. Where do the resources go? Do we continue EVE development while we watch multi-account users drop off slowly as they lose their jobs? Or, do we go after the untapped markets? If we go after an untapped market, which one?

CCP needs their account base to multiply like bacterium. It's all about account fecundity. Eve is the intelligent gorilla. It needs to be the bacterium.

Frankly, generation millennial has very little money. My son is of that generation and doesn't pay me rent - 'nuf said. That is a poor market by all definitions of the word. Then there is the finer sex. They have money just like their hubbies and sig-others. They have time. They form social cliques and when one joins others follow. But there are no pretty dresses... there are no pink spaceships...

Guess what CCP decided to do?

Fly careful.

P.S.: Dust514 is for generation millennial. Free-to-Play is just right for them. They have no steady income, but when my son does get money he still doesn't pay me rent. He gets another tattoo. That's the RL equivalent of a micro-transaction. Think about it.


  1. With no real subscriber data to back up the number of simultaneous log-ins for EVE, it's hard to know if people actually stopped playing or if there are just fewer accounts online at one time because Incarna made it harder to have multiple clients open on a single box.

    Anyway, you had to know they'd go looking for new players sooner or later -- it's the only way they could really grow the subscriber base.

    Kids and their tattoos, what are you going to do ...

  2. The only problem is that there is nothing in Incarna that actually appeals to women. The fashions are crap.... the room is non-customizable and ugly as shit. If ccp is chasing after women, they need a little bit or work.


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