Is Greed Good?Marc Scaurus
In the summer of 2011, CCP launched Incarna and forever changed the face of EVE Online. For better or worse, the introduction of microtransactions had begun. Accompanied by the leak of an internal newsletter entitled ‘Greed is Good’, the release of Incarna was a massive step in the wrong direction for the plucky Icelandic company that, for years, persevered against all odds and made a sustainable MMO in a crowded and daunting market. Within days, players rioted in EVE’s main trade hub while others unsubscribed from the game in disgust. Warranted or not, the message was clear: microtransactions are verboten.
Aurum didn’t go away though. The Nex didn’t close. Though the dreams of microtransaction fueled baths of money evaporated, as did 20% of CCP’s workforce worldwide, the hope that Aurum may one day provide a significant form of revenue for the company survived. Work continued, with additional articles of clothing for the captive capsuleer released quietly, surreptiously, over the years. Dust launched, and additional uses for Aurum were found in the free to play shooter.
Even in that game, where microtransactions were part of the plan from the beginning, CCP faithful pushed back against the brash, tone-deaf march of the Aurum. As one Dust player put it in an article on TheMittani.com, “CCP’s monetization mantra was going from annoying salesmanship to a personal agony.” That wasn’t about to stop them, though. The concept of microtransactions was here to stay.
Now, three years after the events of Incarna, the creep of microtransactions is welcomed in EVE Online. First came multiple character training options per account. For the addition of a PLEX, players can now enable more than one character at a time to train. This, anyone can agree, is a Good Thing. A long requested feature for the game; a feature that, I’m sure, many people avail themselves of. Before that, players were encouraged to pay a PLEX for an all-access HD pass to the world of Fanfest. Again, certainly not a terrible idea, and one that many players took advantage of.
Then, earlier this week, CCP announced the pilot paint job program. For Aurum, players can now have a modicum of control over the appearance of their favorite ships. The devblog for this program is careful to couch itself in mollifying terms. “Begin to gather data,” “Depending on the reception,” “going to start small” – all of this is qualifying language, meant to ease the concept of a new avenue for microtransaction revenue into the player population. Nowhere in the devblog do the words “if you really want this feature,” “if you want to spend Aurum on this feature,” or “should we decide to pursue” appear.
Then again, why should they? Prominent blogger Ripard Teg states in his writing on Jester’s Trek: “I’m thrilled at the prospect of custom ship skins.” “All I can say is OHMYGODIT’SHAPPENING! Thank you so much, CCP!” says EVE player Crasniya on the forums. The reaction throughout the community has been favorable, and in this we can hope that CCP finds a lesson: reasonably priced value additions are good. Outright money grabs are not.
At least, we might be able to hope that, was it not for a certain other project CCP is working on. I speak, of course, of the Worlds Within a World monument that CCP is commissioning to appear in their hometown of Reykjavik. What was originally discussed as an honorable monument to our fallen brothers and sisters of New Eden, is now nothing more than a marketing ploy and a cash grab.
It is easy to recognize the difficulties in erecting a monument solely to the fallen who counted themselves members of our strange little world within a world. Issues such as verifying real identities, real deaths, real tragedies – these are heart breaking and impossible. What is not easy to recognize is why, then, CCP did not instead tie the monument to some other, notable feature of EVE Online. Why not erect said monument with a list of each player actively subscribed to the game on EVE Online’s 10th anniversary? Instead, a random date (in the future, mind you) was picked to conduct this census of New Eden’s capsuleer population – the better that you might consider returning to New Eden or, perhaps, even make an additional account or two. Then, a second census date was assigned, to give players one last chance to be part of history.
In typical infomercial fashion, however, that’s not all! Now, for the low, low price of one PLEX, you can contribute your words to a time capsule, to be buried with the monument and opened in 25 years. Act now and for just two PLEX, you can upgrade your 1000 word text message to a two minute video clip! Wow, the future is great. Doubt us? Here’s Reykjavik’s mayor to tell you why you should partake!
From a monument to our dead to this. This is what CCP presents to us – not the opportunity for immortality, or future fame, or anything of the like. Instead, hollow promises wrought upon slabs of stone and metal, all for the sake of a buck. In many ways, CCP is a better company than they were in 2011 – they have the capability of sensitivity when it comes to microtransactions, and are generally making smart decisions when it comes to value additions to New Eden. Yet, we have the brash salesmanship of Aurum in Dust. The infomercial-esque beckoning of monuments and time capsules. The tone-deaf march of business carries on, leaving players to puzzle over the question: is greed good?