This is why we can’t have nice things

 

My wife and I just had the most incredible time in Iceland. Our second Fanfest was amazing and we both enjoyed every minute of it, meeting old friends and making new ones, which is what Fanfest is really all about. The people. I even managed to finally put to rest the four year old history between Suleiman Shouaa, the CEO of The Tuskers and myself. Which was awesome. And that’s the thing about Fanfest really, it is a chance to interact with real human beings and share the one thing we all have in common, our love for internet spaceships. It was a tremendous amount of fun.

Except for one thing.



That one thing stretches back almost six years now. I’ve written about this one thing for a long time on my own blog Eveoganda and here, on Crossing Zebras (most recently last Summer), and that one thing is the Eve Store and what it represents. So it was with some enthusiasm that I planned to attend the “Brand & Eve Store Roundtable” on April 7th. This would be the first chance I’d have to hear from the new Brand Manager since the new store finally opened. After the cancellation of my own contract with CCP and the resulting year-long attempt to finally get some answers about what happened, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand my interest in the roundtable.

Before I get into what happened during this roundtable, let me briefly outline some history here. As I mentioned previously I’ve been banging my head against this wall for a long time, but the real meat starts in the Summer of 2014 when my “Art Print Poster Series” really starts to take off and gain attention both inside and outside of the Eve community. That’s when new management approaches me to work together on re-visiting the idea of the Eve Store and how CCP works together with the fan base. At first we discussed a wide range of issues and solutions, these were very exciting days for me. Finally some progress and I imagined this process opening doors for all Eve community creators, not just myself. You can see this enthusiasm yourself in the video of my player presentation at Fanfest in 2015.

We finally decided to ‘trial’ the new posters during Fanfest 2015 and they became the highest selling item at the store that year. Players loved them. I signed a ton of posters. I spent the entire Fanfest putting myself out there to help promote not only the posters, but the concept of CCP working together with players. I was so happy, the barrier had finally been broken. The doors would finally be opened to many more creators and we’d get 3D printed ships, art, t-shirts, and tons of other stuff to enjoy.

None of which happened. And I don’t want to retread the reasons why this never happened. Because I believe in dealing with the here and now. The way things are, not the way we wish them to be. Which is why I was excited to hear from some new management at the roundtable. Lessons have been learned hopefully and I was eager to hear about how we can move forward together again.

Imagine my surprise when all we heard at this year’s roundtable was the exact same words that have been said to us over the past four years. Not words in different clothes. But the EXACT SAME WORDS. Fifteen minutes into the roundtable and I was so angry that I was afraid to speak. Literally I could not speak for fear of what might come out of my mouth. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to say something and yet I could not bring myself to do so. Trust me, if I had opened my mouth I may have been kicked out of Fanfest. That is how angry I was. I’ve calmed down since then and all that remains is a huge hole of horrible disappointment in my chest. Everyone in that room felt the same way, I know because we all talked about it afterwards amongst ourselves. It is simply the most disappointed I have ever been with CCP. Ever. And I lived through Incarna.

There is so much negativity present from the team in charge of the Eve Store that I find it amazing they function at all. The people in charge actually admitted several times that they don’t know what they are doing, that retail is hard, and that they had to take classes in order to learn what they were doing after they got the job – a job they got essentially by default. There is no passion for the community and the incredible creativity that it has to offer, no understanding of the market and how best to exploit it to benefit all of us. The same droll excuses dragged out by the same tired people to try and explain away the fact that the Eve Store sucks. They still can’t ship to Scotland for goodness sake!

I walked through the Eve Store several times at Fanfest. You know what was missing? Spaceships. Not one product with a spaceship on it. (And I don’t include books in this because books are the domain of other people and Eve books are awesome!) Nothing that tied in to the entire event of Fanfest either. You’d think with all the effort that was going into producing the Kyonoke event that something, anything, would be offered – but you’d be wrong. This is “Marketing 101” stuff here people. Basics. Basics like patches. Missing. Ship models? Nope. Anything with a spaceship? Nope. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this an internet SPACESHIP game? And for the record the free Fanfest shirt has spaceships on it, just to be fair.

There were people at the roundtable offering to help in any way they could. Every suggestion was met with the same negativity. One gentleman actually worked for a medical device company and had extensive experience with 3D printing and essentially offered to work with the CCP team to make a solution that would work for providing 3D printed spaceships. I now have three 3D printed spaceships myself thanks to @UndockRamp and they are amazing and extremely well done. (I still need to paint mine!) Others around the table offered similar ideas, some just want to sell a few items here and there, or provide specialty items to players. No one is looking to make a fortune here, the Eve player base is small. We understand that. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of very talented people that would like to try. If only there was a way to do so. The only thing they got in return was more negativity and the same old excuses.

The “Frigates of Eve” book, which I had a chance to see in person at the Community Roundtable, is amazing. That sucker will sell out. The book team always does a great job and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Torfi and the entire art team at CCP. It is after all a book about spaceships! Our favorite subject. And it only highlights how horribly lost and confused the marketing and merchandising team at CCP remains.

It seems to me, at least from the outside, that we have tremendous leadership on the gaming side at CCP. Since CCP Seagull took over the game has been on course and attained the kind of development that has kept it interesting, expanding, and full of potential. Meanwhile, the marketing side of CCP remains rudderless, aimless, and haphazard. It feels as if there is little or no true leadership on that side of the ship. And while certain people can exclaim that, “We’re a gaming company and not a marketing company” all they want, the truth is that you need both to survive in every business. Product and marketing. Service and marketing. Engineering… and you get the idea.

As we all know, marketing has never been CCP’s strong suite and that remains an area of unrealized potential in my opinion. It also remains my area of expertise, so I’m not preaching in the dark here. But in a world where marketing is lacking, that only makes merchandising even more important. Even considered as a loss-leader or a break-even enterprise, merchandising can be an effective marketing tool.

Back in late 2016 I started a store-front called the Rixx Javix Store. I did so because I grew tired of waiting on CCP. The store exists to sell Alliance Wear and non-Eve IP “related” products of my own creation. It is run through RedBubble, who after an extensive search, I found to be the best of the “on-demand” branded store-fronts. Since launch the store has sold over 500 items and shipped them all over the world. RedBubble maintains shipping centers in the US, Europe and Asia. The items are quality made, in the same kind of “sweat shops” that CCP’s shirts are made, and shipping is reasonable. (I put “sweat shops” in quotes because that was yet another reason that was given for why CCP doesn’t go down the on-demand route and stop worrying about warehousing.)

I’ve even had items purchased and shipped to Russia, which the CCP team informed us was virtually impossible during the roundtable. Granted the store is an “on-demand” store front, so the quality isn’t the same as custom made merchandise, but we offer hundreds of items. All without the Eve IP sadly. But it would be easy enough to professionalize the offering and offer Eve related items.

I know the Eve community and the creators in it and how passionate they can be. I know that many of them have solutions to other problems and are eager to try them. I know that it would be easy to third-party many products and solutions through an on-line portal exactly like the Eve Store. I know that the world of on-demand printing and production is only getting better every day. And I know that such an approach solves the eternal problem of low demand from a relatively small audience. I also know that, while relatively small, the Eve community is also incredibly passionate and dedicated. Something I believe the team at CCP may have forgotten.

If CCP is not a merchandising company, then why are they so determined to keep trying to be one? Let CCP focus on what they do best, making games. And find someone else to take care of the merchandising for them. It doesn’t even have to be me. Although I’d be great at it. We can make low quantity work FOR us and not against us. We can make limited run items available for short periods of time, have weekly contests to design new t-shirts and offer interesting and creatively unique items that people actually want. Alongside staples like stickers and patches and keychains and mugs and whiskey flasks. The Eve Store could be a fun, interactive, engaging environment that reflects the community and slowly becomes part of that very same community. Instead of a dead, unresponsive website that offers things created by people who have seemingly never played a minute of Eve.

Retail is not hard when you have a dedicated and passionate audience desperate to proudly purchase your products. Sure we may be small compared to other audiences, but that no longer has to be a problem. In fact, I strongly believe it can be our biggest strength. Our most powerful asset.

Two days after Eve Vegas last Fall I offered the very first item on the Rixx Store. It was a “Warp to the Dance Floor” t-shirt. The same one worn by Manic Velocity during the opening ceremonies at Fanfest last week. He got his shirt from my store because the actual Eve Store doesn’t offer it. They did have black ones at Fanfest however, for three times the price and only in black. That took them six months. It took me two days. And that’s only because I had to set up the framework of the store, the design took maybe fifteen minutes.

Why am I the only one that sees this as a problem?

The last excuse is the one that hurts the most. During the roundtable it was said multiple times that CCP doesn’t want to work with community members because they don’t want to “set up anyone to fail”. This was said at least four times. And it was this comment that drove me to angry silence. What exactly is lost when someone fails? Ponder this question a moment and realize that to many people my poster project with CCP from 2015 might be considered a failure. I didn’t pick the store that sold our posters. I didn’t negotiate the deal with them. I didn’t realize until people started complaining that shipping to anywhere outside of the US would cost so much. Someone else handled all of that. The same someone else exclaiming that they don’t want to, “set up anyone to fail”.

So let’s assume for a moment that I consider that adventure a failure, which I do not. Have I quit? Have I slunk off into a corner sobbing uncontrollably? Of course not. If anything that experience has only served to invigorate my resolve. Failure then is often the way in which we learn valuable lessons. What worked and what didn’t work. Mistakes we made that we can agree not to make again in the future. Failure is often out biggest success. And our greatest Teacher.

I sat down in that roundtable eager to hear about the lessons we’d learned and the path forward that we could take together as a community. A wiser path. And instead all we heard was the same tired excuses and the same old negativity.

A wiser man than me would probably give up. By all measures of sanity I probably should. But instead I am going to re-double my efforts. The Rixx Store will continue stronger than ever. In fact, if you run an Alliance in Eve and would like to offer your members quality swag at an affordable price, we should talk. And I have several other projects that I am dedicated to working on in the coming months. One of which I will be traveling with later this year to play-test at player meets around the world as a build-up to next year’s Fanfest.

I encourage you to also not give up. CCP is a great group of people that make a fantastic and incredible game that we all enjoy. It is possible to love them all and still not be happy with everything they do. I believe it is our obligation as a community to point out their failings from time to time, in the hope that things will get better. It is in that spirit that I continue to believe the best days of the Eve Store remain in our future.

Keep the courage.

 

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Tags: EVE Store, fanfest, rixx javix

About the author

Rixx Javix

Artist, video maker, blogger, lowsec pirate and overall a pillar of the EVE community for years - Rixx Javix wears many hats (and makes them!).

  • Bisu Deckryder

    Its nice that you can afford vacations in iceland, its not so nice that you can afford it while begging us to pay your child support

    • Marc Callan

      Word of advice: before you start accusing someone of things, you should be certain you have your facts straight.

      • Bisu Deckryder

        Good thing I do

        • Alan Mathison

          You are misinformed on several things, certainly including the current situation. But much more to the point, the value that Rixx has brought to the community over several years, including pieces and presentations garnered from Fanfest and Vegas, has been considerable.

          I’m sleeping very well at night with my support of Rixx’s values and actions.

        • Alex Barnette

          Jelly

          • Bisu Deckryder

            Yeah I wish I could find suckers like that out there

          • Alex Barnette

            Sorry I should have elaborated, you are obviously very bitter about something, If his supporters know what he is doing which they do and they are willingly participating I don’t see what the problem is. He is trying to stay in business and that’s how you do it. He has to be where the business is and also where the business intelligence is, he knows what he is doing. He also is using the resources he’s collected and distributing them where they need to go whether it be salary or trips it’s none of my business just as long as he keeps what he’s doing going then he’s doing the right thing, I want RJ merchandise.

    • Watson Crick

      You do realize that you have invoked EVE’s equivalent of Godwin’s Law.

      • theseconddavid

        That every online discussion about Eve will devolve into a mention of Rixx’s SO begging for money so he won’t go to jail for paying for child support? If you don’t want to be known as the guy who begs other people for child support money, don’t be the guy who begs other players for child support money. But hey, maybe the Rixx store can write off a trip to Iceland as a business expense.

        • Bill Bones

          There’s an idiot in your mirror, go check it!

        • Marc Callan

          Word of advice: before you start accusing someone of things, you should be certain you have your facts straight.

          • theseconddavid

            Awww, I’m sorry your friend is a scum bag. Maybe make better friends.

    • SaintChuthulhu

      I can’t remember excactly, but what did you do for the EVE community? And remember this is an article about the EVE store and nothing else.

    • Bill Bones

      There’s an idiot in your mirror, check it out!

    • Kamar Raimo

      What’s up with you people who are angry at Rixx for his pleas. It’s not like he forced you to pay. If you think he doesn’t deserve your help then simply don’t give him money. Those who do have their own reasons to do so and that’s their own decision to make.

  • Dust Merc

    we need a warp stab picture with the circle and bar through it

    • rixxjavix

      Well I can’t do the picture of one (Eve IP) but I do have something like that in the works.

  • I hope CCP tries something new in this area, thanks for the update Rixx.

    • rixxjavix

      You are most welcome. Never give up, never surrender.

  • David Knight

    Very good article and echoing most of my feelings about the new store, living in the UK I won’t order anything from it because a) nothing appeals to me, b) shipping is way to expensive. That being said I have ordered the “Frigates of EVE” thanks to your reminder!

    I remember the old store that was run by Musterbrand and had a lot of the things that you discuss, I especially liked the themed clothing range they did. I purchased 2 x copies of the “Second Decade” from them – these are the kinds of items we want in the EVE store including model ships and other trinkets!

    • rixxjavix

      Thanks. I maintain that we are an easy bunch to please and it shouldn’t be hard to do so.

    • luobote kong

      I bought a backpack from Serenity. The quality was comparable to the Eve Store equivalent and but the price and shipping was way lower. Tiancity have proved it is perfectly feasible.

      • Kamar Raimo

        That is what amazes me most. How can Tiancity ship all across the world cheaper? Are they using some exploitative worldwide Chinese shipping service that pays its people peanuts?

        • Alex Barnette

          That doesn’t exist, trust me I would have found them by now, it’s relatively easy depending on what else they ship on a normal basis to get those rates especially if you have a shipping broker.

  • Kamar Raimo

    It is not entirely true that they had nothing with spaceships in the fanfest store. They did have limited cut-away prints from the upcoming frigate book. I do agree that the current state of the EVE store is sad. The wildly different shipping fees (shipping the frigate book to the EU is 20$ more expensive than to the UK) the fact that they still have difficulty shipping to all places where EVE players live and the very lackluster range of products. The whole thing makes me wonder what happened with all the designs CCP once had on the old EVE store. Did Musterbrand retain those and CCP can’t re-use them? If so that would have been a bad business decision back then. Even if that were the case, CCP have hired designers for their in-game clothing. Much of that isn’t even so complex or weird that you couldn’t make it into actual t-shirts or jackets people would wear outside of cosplay scenarios. Why don’t they use those designs?

    No matter how I look at the issue I only end up with questions resulting from puzzlement why CCP has such a hard time to set up a proper merchandise store.

    • rixxjavix

      I mentioned several times that I wasn’t counting the books and I intended the cut-away posters to be included in that because those products are done by an entirely different team at CCP. Say what you want about Eve Books but they are always gorgeous and well done. They can also be pricey, but that comes from having to do such limited runs. I believe they told us the Frigates of Eve book is only 1,500 copies for the initial run. Not including the limited edition version, which is most likely in the 2-500 range.

      • Kamar Raimo

        1337 to be specific 🙂

        • rixxjavix

          Of course, how could I forget that number?

    • Alex Barnette

      I used to take my Second Life designs (WAY back in the day) to print and market in RL all the time.

  • Alan Mathison

    Worlds of wisdom, Rixx.

    What’s interesting to me, though, is how often CCP, apparently, and maybe even you, mention “how small” the EVE market is. I’m not so sure. OK, yea, we’re not selling Windows-based computers or anything, but the EVE market is big enough to be 1 or 2% of the GDP of Iceland. It’s big enough to continually support a company that for the vast majority of its existence has been a “one trick wonder.” It’s big enough to support the salaries of a couple hundred people, in several offices, all over the world. and attract some venture capitalists. I think you’ll agree that you and many of the content creators you probably know would be very happy to be able to effectively sell to “that small” of a market.

    Can merch. be effective marketing? You know it, of course! I know it from experience. I’m constantly wearing my EVE University and Star Tide Industries sweatshirts. A couple of years ago we made a friend in the local supermarket through wearing these shirts. He’d stopped playing, but still seemingly kept up on things. After weekly conversations (“Hey! What are you guys doing this week? Did you see the new battle in…”) I know now that he’s playing again. Omega even.

    But I’m preaching to a priest on this, I know. Now we somehow have to bring that religion to CCP.

    Keep the Faith!

    • rixxjavix

      “Relatively” small compared to other markets certainly, but I also do not buy into that being a legitimate excuse. While we may not bring the numbers when compared to WoW for example, I do believe that the Eve player base is an extremely passionate and dedicated one. The kind of audience that any good retailer would love to have in order to sell to. Especially in the modern world, the options are limitless.

  • Fuzzysteve

    The shipping to Scotland thing is, thankfully, fixed.

    • rixxjavix

      At least that is some good news.

  • Aderoth Anstian

    Basically anyone who has had a garage band could head the merch team for CCP and do a better job. That being said, marketing and advertising tend to represent a gigantic increase in budget to realize any real effect on sales. This is probably the number one reason why CCP is gun shy when it comes to marketing and advertisement.

  • Kael Decadence

    Wait… CCP is bad at marketing? I don’t believe you.

    • rixxjavix

      lol

  • Snaff

    “gaming company and not a marketing company”…
    However, even they knows “Rockstar Games”, a gaming company that creates a Grand Theft Auto franchise…
    They are marketing company too ! CCP only have to look at “Rockstar Warehouse” a lot of merchandising they are… (sorry for my english guys..)

  • RoAnnon

    EVE Store: People doing something they don’t like, admittedly don’t know how to do, and rejecting any and all offers of help from those that both know how and are passionate to do it. 0.o Demand for EVE Store products will remain low until the store actually offers items the players want.

  • Björn Jansson

    CCP is so bad at shop stuff that I have several EVE things I’ve ‘designed’* and had others make me stuff (like t-shirts). I’ve surely broken some trademark thing but I say “bite me” too that. Because CCP just can’t get anything done. And as even a lazy bum like me can that’s quite a lot of shit-talking about CCP.

    *designed: cutting and pasting spaceship imagery and adding some text and sending the stuff to a t-shirt printing company.

  • Buddha

    I’ve been playing since 2003 and it’s been the same story the whole time. It is a shame but I really like your perspective of ” I believe in dealing with the here and now. The way things are, not the way we wish them to be.”

    That said I admire your effort to make them better and you may add my voice to the idea that the user community should be given the opportunity to fail in today’s market. They have demonstrated that they aren’t a marketing company, and i believe they should allow a managed marketing offering working with the community. Think of the EveNT model but for marketing.

  • SaintChuthulhu

    I was in the same roundtable and I wondered why you don’t say a word and now I know. Well, this was my 4th Fanfest (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017) and because I’m interested in merchandising and advertising I went all 4 times to the roundtable. And I can tell you, maybe not all the time the same persons, but all the time the same words: We’re small, we’re a game company not a merchandising company, we don’t know what do to, it’s risky, we will look what to do. But what: No, there was a new say this time: We don’t want to have clothes from a sweatshop with child labor. Well, I looked into the labels of the T-Shirts, Hoodies and Polos I bought this year at Fanfest: Ethiopia, Honduras, Vietnam and Morocco. Well, countries very well known for the highest standards in workers’ rights.

    But don’t look back, look to the future: F…, there will be no things in the future. Because the people responsible for this at CCP have obviously no interest. Why do I say this? Because, people in the room made suggestions what to do: One told that he has some experience with model building with a 3D printer, some with clothing and other suggestions. I made a suggestion at the roundtable: You don’t know how to do it? Start a competition. Who writes a perfect business plan wins. What he wins? CCP will name a system in EVE after her/him. I would kill for that. No reaction on any of the suggestions. And in the other years people also made suggestions.

    The sad thing is: It’s 2017, not 2000. Lots of things can be build when ordered. I will call it: Merchandising on demand. You don’t have to produce 1000 T-Shirts, books or ship models, put them in a warehouse and sell them piece by piece. Your item will be produced, when you order. It works with clothing in Rixx Shop (www.redbubble.com/de/people/rixxjavix?asc=u.) And it works worldwide. I live in Germany and my hoodie came from Switzerland. So, no problems with customs and affordable shipping cost. Books: There a companies you send in the file for the book. They have a store where you can order, they will produce it after order and send it direct to you. For Europe: https://www.epubli.de/shop. Also they will send to the USA, but I have no idea what shipping will cost. But I’m sure that they are companies in all over the world that will do the same business. Also other things like pictures, poster, whatever… Companies producing it at demand.

    But I don’t know why CCP sticks to the old world of merchandising. And if they don’t change they mind, we will have some things at Fanfest and a shop where I can’t buy because I pay the same amount for shipping as for the goods I buy (1 Polo for $25, cost $21,38 shipping, 3 Polo for $75, cost for shipping $47,03, are you nuts?). No to talk at customs, that will add. I have no hope, so I’m making my own things only for myself.

    Excuse my English, but I’m not fluent on it.