The NeX Store: Time for a Mulligan?Proto
“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present.” – Donald Trump
In terms of Eve Online expansion history, none is more disdained or evokes as much emotion as the Incarna expansion released in June of 2011. The project was too ambitious from every conceivable angle, but we’re not here to revisit history and talk about what went wrong. Instead, I’m going to focus on the specific aspect of the controversy surrounding the NeX store and how I see it continuing to evolve.
From a business perspective, CCP can’t be faulted for expanding its revenue potential (albeit it is an unpredictable source of new income) or continuing to look for new ways to make quality of life improvements for players that are attractive enough to merit choosing to pay the expense. From that viewpoint, CCP was simply jumping on the bandwagon that many other games have gone to. Arguably, this type of in-game market works for other games like World of Warcraft. What could have been a superb marketing and revenue opportunity was, in the end, incomplete, not well thought out, absent of CSM input, and thus poorly executed as a result. But maybe the new ship skin blueprints now available in the NeX have shown us that CCP has possibly learned from the past regarding price points and we’re now on the right track to the little quality of life improvements we’ve been hoping for.
To backtrack a little bit on the history of why the NeX store took so much heat when it launched, we have to look at the series of unfortunate events that happened. Yes, the initial prices were unreasonable (hense, “Monoclegate”) but what struck the added most anger in players was former CCP Zulu’s Devblog that attempted to address concerns regarding Aurum and the NeX, except for the questions that were actually being asked. Furthermore, that the outcry from both the CSM and player base would go unheeded regarding the NeX’s current rollout. This coupled with the many other issues regarding Incarna, shooting at statues soon followed and Eve history was both made and scarred. An emergency summit was soon called for between the CSM and CCP.
During the Somer Blink fiasco, former CCP Zinfandel made a stand up appearance with Eve Radio’s DJ Funkybacon covering his personal experience and problems with the NeX store, how custom ship skins were already slated for planned Aurum purchases, and how that related to the Ishokune Watch Scorpion controversy. In that interview, he said that the IshScorp was already part of a wider scope of variant ships that was pitched as an idea for purchase by Aurum rather than ISK. It seems that scope has come to fruition.
“Not all virtual purchases will focus on customization: some will simply be new items, ammunition, ships, etc. that can be purchased outright.” – CCP Internal Newsletter – May, 2011
Time has gone by and it now looks like history, CSM, and player input is having an effect on the rollout of new items into the NeX store. I couldn’t be more excited for the possibilities. No, I’m not convinced that we’ll get back to the whole “Barbie dolls in space” thing anytime soon, but I do imagine that someday, we’ll all be sitting around in a space pub rather than spinning ships. But enough about my personal speculation, let’s look at the new items that we have now.
With the exchange rate of 3500 AUR per PLEX, and each PLEX giving roughly 675 million ISK, that averages out to 193 thousand ISK per AUR. For 45 AUR (about 8.7 million ISK) you can have your choice of a one run BPC custom skin for select frigates. Not bad at all. But as we go up in scale to the ten run and fifty run BPCs, we don’t see a price break for quantity. On this point, I believe CCP has dropped the ball yet again. They’re obviously learning to price things a bit closer to the comfort zone of the consumers, but they’re missing on the larger price selling points that would entice someone to get more for less by spending more each time they shop. This is the type of strategic selling that makes bulk wholesale markets successful by increasing the average transaction a customer spends AND charges them yearly memberships for the privilege of shopping there. Done correctly, Eve can become the virtual Costco of the gaming world.
The Future of the NeX
Much about the future of the NeX Store is still pretty much shrouded behind the barricade of the NDA. If these paint scheme BPCs are any indication, the tables have been tipped in the players favor, for the most part. Along with the continuation of the paint schemes, I’d like to think that we are going to start getting these types of customizations with POSs, possibly new custom weapon and module effects, and maybe making the captain’s quarters a bit more attractive – which definitely could use more interactivity and utility if CCP wants to continue to develop the out-of-pod experience.
I realize that most of this is speculation, but it’s based on CCP’s history with the NeX and coupling it against what I think players would like to see and subsequently pay for. We also have to consider that when PLEX prices increase, the “bang for the buck” that you get for your Aurum will decrease as the ISK per Aurum ratio widens. If the PLEX market should spike, you may see that new frigate paint scheme as a not-so-impulse decision. To this end, since Aurum is directly connected economically with PLEX, overwatching the market and quickly stabilizing sudden market volatility will become increasingly important as more items are added into the NeX and people start theoretically using it more. I also believe that the nerf bat should be taken to already existing items in the NeX in order to further promote developing the “impulse buy” aspect of the store. Yes, people have already bought items at the current prices. Regardless of that, something MUST be done to get people into the habit of checking the ZeX store on a routine basis.
In conclusion, I think CCP is finally going in the right direction with the NeX store. The more choices that we have to make these small quality of life improvements, the more we’re likely to spend. Let’s be honest, now. Some of these paint jobs are pretty sexy and it’s causing most of us to look toward the future when corporation and alliance logos will be prominent on our ships. That, and we are also looking forward to mercilessly podding the inevitable pink Hello Kitty ships into oblivion. Whatever changes and improvements may come our way, I’m cautiously optimistic. If CCP would treat the NeX like a real world market, they may just get more productive real world results. What kind of items would you like to see in the NeX and what would you be willing to pay for it?