It’s Just BusinessDunk Dinkle
Afew days ago, CCP dropped a big announcement that basically said that they were shutting down gambling sites that deal in ISK. To no one’s surprise, there are strong opinions on all sides from horror to glee.
I’m not really going to take a side on whether the decision is good or bad for EVE players. Plenty of others will write about that. I’ll try to describe the likely scenario of how CCP got here and why.
IRL, I am a tech executive with a large company and as such often see how ‘big’ decisions are made by ‘business people’ like the CEOs and CFOs.
The primary of goal of any business is to make a profit and reduce the risks that might create a loss.
People can toss around mission statements, visions and other marketing terms but this is the hard reality. Business are about making money. As much as possible.
In most businesses, a primary cost factor is customer support. Making sure that customers are happy with what they are buying and can continue to do business with the company.
In CCP’s case, a larger and larger percentage of customer support time is being caught up in the prevention of Real Money Trading (RMT) and the hacking of customer accounts. The hacking is typically done to funnel resources into RMT.
With large amounts of ISK being transferred regularly, it makes it very hard to determine what is RMT and what is ‘winnings’
This year at Fanfest I saw a tired Security team describe the difficulty in dealing with the amount of stolen accounts that occurred while also trying to track down the ends of the trails that invariably ended with RMT’ed accounts. It took them days to handle individual cases. This is unsustainable in the long term.
EVE gambling sites add to the problem. With large amounts of ISK being transferred regularly, it makes it very hard to determine what is RMT and what is ‘winnings’ from the various games of chance on the gambling sites. EVE players get flagged and banned for RMT and invariably say that it was just ISK from winnings on said gambling sites. A place where you can see players protesting their innocence to a skeptical crowd is often the /r/EVE subreddit.
Imagine you are in a CCP board room going through issues that are increasing costs. The customer support costs of handling RMT and hacking are going to be high on that list. The costs will continue to increase and force CCP to spend more and more money to address the issue. This is bad from a business sense.
Besides the staffing costs, you have attorneys always looking to minimize risks. Risks are bad. They are unknowns that can affect profitability. Worse, risks make shareholders and investors nervous. Attorneys look at the situation and see all kinds of problems: lawsuits from disgruntled players, legal enquiries from governments about gambling, the use of CCP provided APIs to enable the gambling companies as well as using CCP intellectual property on their sites to promote it, reducing the strength of CCP’s copyright and trademark strength. IANAL, but I’m sure an actual attorney could triple my list of risks.
So, faced with increased costs and increased risks of gambling sites and the inevitable RMT that lives in their shadow, CCP looks at the benefits. In any business, if the benefits outweigh the costs and risks, almost anything can be found acceptable.
What are the benefits of EVE Gambling Sites?
Gambling sites have risen over the last several years as a primary contributor to the funding the various sites and communities of EVE players
The most obvious one is the funding of much of the fan community. Gambling sites have risen over the last several years as a primary contributor to the funding the various sites and communities of EVE players. While the gambling sites clearly have their own interests in mind, they have helped lead in to an increase in the quality and quantity of EVE related content available.
Secondarily, there is some acceleration of the EVE PLEX market as players put money into PLEX, convert PLEX to ISK, and some percentage funnel ISK into gambling sites. I can’t quantify the amount, but there is some amount of PLEX purchases which are directly accountable to use on gambling sites.
At some point, the business decision had to be made:
Do the costs and risks of allowing EVE Gambling Sites outweigh the benefits of letting them continue to operate?
Clearly, the decision was that the costs and risks are too high.
Killing the gambling sites won’t stop RMT, but it will reduce the amount of customer service work, minimize legal risks, and make tracking down other RMT operations much easier.
From a business point of view, the decision was probably easy from this point of view.
Having met many CCP staff in person, I’m sure that this was much more difficult as they all recognize that much of EVE Online’s strength flows from the strength of the community. I’m sure there was a lot of discussion about the impact on the various pundit sites, podcasts, meet-ups, and other community efforts that were funded by gambling sites.
I don’t think it was an easy decision, but I do think it was a business decision, driven by the fact that CCP is not a charity or a social club and thus can’t act like one. Those discussions must have been difficult and argumentative, but in the end “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”