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It’s Just Business

 

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.

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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.

 

 

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Tags: business, ccp, dunk dinkle, gambling, rmt

About the author

Dunk Dinkle

Dunk Dinkle has played Eve since 2008. A life-long gamer, he's played MMORPGs since the first days of Ultima Online. In Eve, he's taken a path from high sec mission running to factional warfare to null sec. After the battle of Asakai, Dunk landed in Brave Newbies where he annoys FCs with an extensive soundboard.

  • JEFFRAIDER

    Are you sure there was a lot of discussion about the effects of this on the community? Every mention of that I’ve seen has been answered with a fucking smiley face at the end of their reply.

    • Vertigoe

      🙂

    • Ghost Rider

      It’s CCP, not like they have a history of not giving a shit about their players

  • Rob Kaichin

    I think this may be a case of “invisible benefits: visible drawbacks”. It’s easy to assess how much Team Security costs the company, it’s very hard to assess how much the community gains the company.

    • DireNecessity

      I, for one, will miss the delightfully disquieting implications generated by having a Casino kingpin patron supporting my pretentiously intellectual nannerings about EVE Online. Post Casino EVE, I’ll still nanner pretentiously and I may well still get paid for the pleasure, but said nannerings will proceed more out of Capsuleer’s gentle benevolent natures rather than malicious greedy scheming. EVE used to be a dark and sinister place that, for CCP business reasons, is goody two-shoeing up. This makes me sad.

  • luobote kong

    “Imagine you are in a CCP board room going through issues that are increasing costs..” Fair point. Or alternatively, imagine you are in a CCP board room that has moved to London in order to appeal to investors and then suddenly a whole bunch of legal traps come out of the woodwork (Valve and Fifa) to muddy the waters. This really isn’t about the game. This is about corporate reputation and the liabilities that due diligence would expose. CCP would have acted much earlier if it was truly considered a game issue.

  • Mike Dawe

    Our communities and fansites will survive. They did before the casinos. It is a hit but not a deathblow.

    m

  • bob@wormholes.com

    Maybe CCP could themselfs ramp up their community support by giving events more isk/plex, … ?

  • Freelancer117

    CCP games is not your friend, it is indeed a Company that wants to make money from you, with friendly facing staff.
    Sad to see the suits, including the former EA suits and the new directors from the private equity firm, not invest more
    in Eve Online, and facilitate the security team with more staff and tools to combat rmt, and go after all them bad apples.

    sources: http://nosygamer.blogspot.nl/2015/11/ccp-gets-new-investor.html
    https://www.ccpgames.com/news/2015/maria-sayans-joins-ccp-as-chief-customer-officer/

    So the bottom line is the good have to suffer yet again by them bad apples, and profit margins will fook customer experience.
    Remember to vote with your wallet, and for those Eve content creators that need to be paid to enable “Fun”, good luck 7o

    Regards, a Freelancer

    ps: EVE Online – EULA Changes & Exclusive Interview
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83n3Bl-_k7U

    • Ghost Rider

      So the same as every other company, why should CCP be any different

    • Marsha Mallow

      All of the people complaining need to watch that video you linked. Thanks for posting it btw 😉

    • Kamar Raimo

      I love how you are lambasting one side with your text and the other with your video. Socrates would be proud of you!

    • cloaky sniper raven

      If you are smart you will avoid that video. It is a troll.

  • Jonathan Rauscher

    Dunk dinkle: what are your personal thoughts on how CCP indiscriminately pulled isk from hundreds, if not thousands of players? A number of people think that CCP could have simply eliminated the big three (Keep, IRON, and Lenny) and left everyone else alone that they couldn’t find hard evidence for.

    • Ashterothi

      I mean… this is EVE? IWI could have just as easily said “LOL screw everyone” and kept their wallets for themselves (assuming they were not banned for RMT) as we have seen this kind of thing before. Anytime you transfer ISK, you risk not getting it back. Dems da rulez.

      • Jonathan Rauscher

        So that gives CCP the same right? They aren’t players.

        • Ashterothi

          EVE is about trust. If you trusted IWI with your ISK, it doesn’t matter if they lost it because they scammed you, or someone looted their bank and ran, or CCP confiscated it for RMT. You trusted the wrong person with your ISK, and lost it. Much worse has happened in the annals of EVE history.

          • EVE is not about trust. The whole game facilitates breach of trust as the most risk free way to earn ISK, via anonymity of alts among other things, allowing players to create “legit” fronts easily.

            Anyone trusting a third party that they or their friends do not control themselves is just volunteering to be scammed.

        • Ghost Rider

          It’s their game, they are God, they are Judge, Jury and Executor.

          • Goat Rider

            Oh no, not the executor! Please! Don’t take charge of dispensing the provisions of my will!

    • Ghost Rider

      “Everybody else alone that they couldn’t find hard evidence for”

      That is part of the problem. They do not have the man power to investigate every player that used these betting sites. Much easier to confiscate all isk

    • Dunk Dinkle

      I think it sucks, but it’s a known risk that players took. Personally, I like Somer Blink and thought it was fun. When it was shut, I ‘lost’ ISK. I was bummed, but understood that CCP can do what they want. My bad was leaving a significant balance in an out of game system.

  • Tenetan

    For those who have missed it, steam is currently under fire from a few states in USA in regard of ‘gamling’ sites for CS GO, they as well have banned gamling sites due these events, I’m pretty sure CCP just protecting themself from whats to come.

  • Kamar Raimo

    I still lament the fact that it had to happen. Some of what Freelancer117 says below also went through my head. It is lamentable how the many have to take a hit for the actions of a few.

    I also wish CCP would rather invest in better tools to vet those who intend to just run a service and prosecute those who break the rules.
    Additionally I am disheartened when I see how much mob mentality and petty schadenfreude appears in some members of the playerbase.
    Although, that also has its good sides. There is something to be said for knowing who the spiteful people are who will take great pleasure from laughing at even the slightest misfortune of others.

    On the other hand, what Dunk says is nuanced and true, no matter how unfortunate it is.
    Thank you Dunk for this sober and down-to-earth piece. It helped calm my nerves quite a bit.

    Mike’s statement is the bottom line under all of this. Fansites have existed and thrived before the sponsorships from gambling and betting sites. We may have been pushed out of our comfort zone a bit, but we all do this because we like to, not for the ISK.

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  • Aiken Paru

    Good article but pieces such as this need to specify definite numbers and sources for those numbers. As the article is, what is a major, and what is a minor fraction of cost etc is purely speculative until the reader does the writers homework : research

  • Provi Miner

    I am personally affronted with the idea that governments should have any say in how I spend my money. If I want to give money to a charity no problem. I want to give my money to this or that no problem. But should I choose to give my to a casino cause I am as stupid as rock oh nooo we have to control that. Personal responsibility is the key and way forward.

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