EVE-Online-Merchandice

What’s in Store for Eve?

 

As anyone who attempts to visit store.eve.com can tell you, the site is “temporarily unavailable while we work on bringing you a better shopping experience.” It has been this way for a long time. The purpose of this article is not to re-hash the troubled history of the Eve Store, nor to throw shade or point fingers at anyone. As always, I want to focus on a more positive message and propose a working solution. A way to get the Eve Store back from the ashes in a world increasingly dominated by ‘on-demand’ services.

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you can easily find illegal Eve IP knockoffs for sale

Spend any amount of time on the internet looking for Eve swag and you’ll quickly realize just how much of it is out there. Visit any third-party on-demand site and you can easily find illegal Eve IP knockoffs for sale, from RedBubble to Amazon, there is no shortage. As these sites continue to grow in popularity and ease-of-use, this problem will only continue to increase in scale. Frankly, it is only the desire to work legally within the system that keeps people like myself and others from jumping into this market with both feet. Most of us want to work within the system. It is important, both from CCP’s perspective and ours as players and fans. CCP want to control their own brands, and understandably so. It is imperative that the brand be presented in its best light, from a quality and control standpoint. As players and fans we understand this. But we also want the chance to purchase merchandise and swag that proclaims our love for all things Eve.

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The problems from CCP’s perspective are daunting however. As I discovered working with QMX on my poster series, third-party providers can often let you down. Remember that Eve is a global community and as such, shipping is a major issue. Not only is it a major logistical nightmare, but costs can vary significantly across the board. This can make it extremely difficult to build into a profit margin. Many potential partners, like QMX for example, are simply not prepared to offer solutions for that issue. In that specific case, it leaves a major portion of the Eve audience without the opportunity to purchase items without significant shipping charges. Traditionally, the way around that issue is by warehousing, purchasing items in bulk from a supplier and then moving them to a central location for shipping after purchase. That solution takes manpower, planning, and a large potential audience of buyers. CCP tried that solution once and got stuck with a lot of merchandise. Understandably, that isn’t something they are looking to repeat any time soon. Once bitten.

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Which brings us all back to a cold, hard fact: The potential audience for Eve is rather small. Compared to other global IPs, the number of people around the world that would be interested in purchasing Eve products is tiny. There is no way around this. And it creates its own set of issues. If we go the traditional route to solve that issue, which would most likely be pre-orders, we can often be stuck with a number of potential projects that never happen due to low demand. This creates a negative environment that can adversely affect other projects. The lack of a large potential buyers market also makes it difficult to negotiate partnerships, because the numbers are so low. This can hamstring all but the most unique and higher-cost items. Like books and levitating Nyx models.

Can we find a solution that bridges the gap between our wants and desires, and cold, hard reality?

I’ve purposefully painted a rather dismal picture. Building a proper Eve Store is no small task. CCP is not a large company, selling swag is not their primary business. They make games. The Eve audience is rather small and spread out over the entire world. There can be no doubt that providing Eve players with merchandise that proudly proclaims the Eve IP in all its forms is good for the brand, even though it might not be great for business. It is a low-profit, marginal, and time-consuming proposition, but one that players are desperate to see fulfilled, even if it means creating illegal knock-offs. Is there a way to make this work? Can we find a solution that bridges the gap between our wants and desires, and cold, hard reality?

I believe there are solutions. But it will take (and pardon me for using a phrase that I hate) some out-of-the-box thinking.

Let us imagine together an Eve Store portal that is home to everything that CCP creates, books, models, everything directly from corporate. In addition, the store also includes items for sale from officially licensed providers who are using third-party on-demand vendors to create merchandise. All of which is presented to the buyer as a unified, cohesive brand store. In this imaginary store, orders are collected and distributed individually, or they are individually distributed to separate providers, that is a mechanical issue that can be worked out in development. Either way, these individual licensed providers are creators that have been granted limited licenses with CCP for specific areas of interest. In this imaginary world CCP has developed a small handful of limited licenses with approved creators. Each one of which has very specific constraints that protect both the creators and CCP.

These limited licensing agreements are the heart of this system, so let’s take a look at how they can work. Since this is a trial program we’ll create only five such agreements in the first year, just to see how things go. Each one will have a built-in time limit, say 18 months, at the end of which will be a review process. Each license will spell out areas in which each creator can create and sell items bearing IP from Eve, Valkyrie or other CCP trademarks. Such as apparel, print, models, etc. There will be some overlap allowed, but not much. Each provider is allowed to partner with their own providers but standards must be maintained and each creator will be held to a standard. How do we manage this without increasing manpower at CCP? Easy, we make the players themselves the judges by implementing a “Amazon” style review system into the site itself. Creators are held to that system and should they fall behind a certain threshold the agreements can be cancelled within a time-period. Which makes another license available.

Not all license agreements have to work with outside providers, there is room in this system for creators that provide their own supply and shipping. Again, the point is to take as much of the management out of CCP’s hands and automate it, as possible. Granted, we’d need someone placed at the center of the process, someone that can monitor and implement the program. Either a CCP employee or a trusted outside provider who answers to someone at CCP. It would only take a minimum amount of manpower to implement and maintain the system once the legal and technical platform was built to support it.

CCP gets a vital, creative, and engaged store and creators get access to a legitimate, official channel

In this imaginary system CCP makes money from the selling of their own content and from the increase in traffic to the Store, but not from the items sold through the licensed creators. Given that the potential income from these sales is so low, it would be cost prohibitive to implement a system to monitor each transaction. Especially when those creators are already responsible for creating, selling, shipping, and third-party shares, of any potential profits. This creates additional incentives for each creator to provide superior products and service. CCP gets a vital, creative, and engaged store and creators get access to a legitimate, official channel to sell their wares. Everyone wins.

It is possible to take this idea even further. The entire enterprise could be developed, built, maintained and operated by a third-party provider. It would probably take someone who is intimately involved in the community and who understands exactly what that community wants, but it could be done. You’d just flip the process and CCP’s products would be the ones hosted in such a system, which would require sales reports and management time, not to mention coordination – but it could be done.

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Such a system would encourage other providers as well. Think about The Empires of Eve book that Andrew Groen did through Kickstarter. What better place to sell such a book than within the Eve Store? If we are going to create five limited provider licenses we can certainly provide one-time product specific licenses on-demand for projects like Andrew’s book. Or others. Imagine an artist who likes to paint custom watercolor portraits? Or a craftsman who enjoys making spaceships out of cut paper? The Eve community is full of such people, why not also create an environment that showcases their talents and products as well?

Another option is to simply do away with the idea of an Eve Store completely. Issue a handful of licenses and let the providers sink or swim on their own merits. This option does have some positives for CCP, it requires much less manpower and commitment, as well as significantly less development time and no need for server space or maintenance. There would still need to be oversight certainly, and requirements to maintain the licenses, but a more open concept allows for even more diversity. It doesn’t portray a cohesion to the brand, drive traffic to a central source, or provide as much protection for the potential buyers – which is why I wouldn’t recommend it as a first step. But given some effort, it could work.

And yes, no other gaming company is doing something like this. It is different. In my own career I’ve always been a problem solver and I’ve worked with merchandising programs and products for companies and brands like Marvel Entertainment, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins, and several paintball enterprises (and others) over the years. What I’ve learned is that each situation is unique and challenging in its own way, but that, working together, we have always found a way to make it work. To the benefit of all parties.

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I’ve worked directly with CCP over the past 18 months and I know a little about the challenges they face. Back during Fanfest 2015 I gave a player presentation about my involvement and the hopes I had that it was only the beginning of a new era between the players and CCP. Afterwards I sat on a roundtable with Andrew Groen and CCP Spitfire and openly discussed such an era in front of players. I met personally with CCP Seagull, with Torfi, and with any other employee that I could bend an ear with about these issues and challenges. I had a dream then, and I still have one today. I’m not going to give up on it. The plan I laid out above is only one potential path. There are others as well. But I truly believe that a path exists that works for all of us. A path that protects CCP and provides opportunity to creators.

In the end, that is why branded merchandise is so important. When I wear an Eve t-shirt out in public it not only proclaims Eve for all to see, it also generates interest, curiosity, and promotion to a new audience. It portrays Eve as a viable, engaged and involved community of players connected to a wider universe. It is, after all, a badge of honor. Something fun, something serious, and something you own.

It’s time to open the door again on the Eve store.

Tags: artwork, EVE Store, merchandise, 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!).

  • The thing is, if I want EVE gear, I can create my own design and go order one-offs from Cafe Press or any number of other sites with a customization option. Sure it’d be easier just to buy stuff from an official EVE store, and I surely would if one existed. But there not being a store is really not stopping people from buying swag if they really want it. Still…it boggles the mind why CCP has found it so difficult to make swag available in a wide diversity of branded items when anyone with WordPress and some basic tech knowledge could do it. What exactly ARE the obstacles? If you do know, maybe you aren’t at liberty to share. But if you don’t know, maybe you can speculate?

    • rixxjavix

      Single print custom on-demand items are not even an issue. What is an issue are the thousands of illegal Eve IP items available on Zazzle, RedBubble, Amazon, Etsy, and every other print site on the internet. Each one of which is illegal. The number of which has only grown exponentially in the time since the Eve store was taken down the last time. So everyone who is “buying swag” is supporting an illegal activity that violates Eve trademarks. So that is an issue in my opinion.

      I laid out the major problems facing CCP in the opening paragraphs. Other than those I can only speculate based on my own limited knowledge and experience working with them and proposing these solutions directly over the past 18 months. I wrote and re-wrote this article five or six times to try and avoid any speculation. But certainly I don’t think, as a company, CCP believes in merchandise as a profit center. And I have to agree with them that it isn’t. Which is why I believe it should be a creator-owned enterprise sponsored and endorsed by CCP. In the end I believe that is the only truly viable way to make it work.

      • Yes, I read the opening paragraphs…it just seems like CCP tends to overcomplicate the whole swag store thing. and my unspoken point was that maybe they just figure since people can order their one-offs, why bother with a whole store. On a related note, the merchandise store at EVE Vegas seemed pretty busy last year and had a great selection at very reasonable prices.

        I like the idea of licensed purveyors something like you describe. It would open up a lot of opportunity for creativity. As for demanding that illegal vendors cease and desist, that can be hugely time consuming. I wonder how diligent CCP is about pursuing them.

        • Bill Bones

          I think that one advantage of Rixx’s proposal is that legal swag would be of a better quality than ilegal one. Ilegal swag is often of dubious quality, whereas licensed partners would have all incentives to release quality products. Given the choice between nothing and a Redbubble shirt, people will take the Redbubble shirt. But Redbuble shirts could not compete to higher priced and higher quality licensed items even if manufacturing and delivering them is up to a licensed 3rd party and not CCP itself. That is, legal competition to ilegal swag would be more effective than try and chase every last scoundrel with a computer in some God-forgotten corner of the big world.

          On the other hand, I think that Elite: Dangerous faces similar challenges about a small customer base and yet they have an active and satisfactory game shop, including partnerships with brands like Thrustmaster. I may be wrong of course and maybe E:D enjoys 5x or 10x the customer base of EVE, but I kind of doubt it. EVE’s been in the market for 13 years, likely they’ve enjoyed millions of customers over time…

        • rixxjavix

          All I know is that CCP was very diligent about pursuing me. And I value my Eve subscription and my character enough to be wary of risking it again. Not to mention I have an issue with breaking the law and exploiting someone else’s trademarks. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have a legal way to do both.

  • Alphax45

    🙂 thanks for writing this – we are on the same page but you have a lot more influence than I do!

  • A.D. Sixx

    CCP might not see physical merchandise as an immediate profit source, but that’s rather counter-productive in a long term view. What they could gain in ‘free’ advertising as that swag walks around (shirts, jackets, bumper stickers, posters, etc.) is another new player recruiting tool I think would be worth the initial headache and investment in some sort of official and legal marketplace that has oversight over quality and content. The best recruiters are those passionate about what they are recruiting for. The return on time and legalities investment would be new players to Eve from the hype given by walking billboards asked about their wicked shirt or unique tote bag, giving all of us new blood to pew at/with.

    Now if only the NPE wasn’t a giant kludge so more new players stay past the first challenge cliff base jump… but that’s a battle for another post.

  • Proto

    Mynxee and I had a discussion on some of these ideas after the last Eve Vegas. I think Seagulls Thinkgeek idea was sound and one other creators could share a portal with CCP.

    • rixxjavix

      I’m not on the “know” as to what happened with ThinkGeek. All I know is they were excited about it and then it went away. A lot of things went away last Fall. And far be it for me to remind everyone what happened last Fall.

      • Bill Bones

        What happened last Fall? vºv

        • rixxjavix

          Before the KS things were positive and moving in a certain direction, after the KS things changed. This is not an opinion, but a statement of fact. Emails stopped being answered, phone calls dried up and a few months later contracts were cancelled. That is what happened. And while the KS might not be the only reason, it couldn’t have set well with some people that CCP went out on a limb to support it publicly only to have it fail miserably.

          • Bill Bones

            Some of the latest developments around EVE Online cast a doubt on who and how is managing the game since Hilmar moved on to VR projects. Whether EVE Online is switching tracks to a new direction or is just spinning out of control is unclear, but something that could either be a new order or just chaos is showing its head.

            The erratic behavior about EVE swag, the chaotic and unsatisfactory development of the new camera, the mess with simple stuff like a docking/undocking camera, the issues to implement properly new PvE code (Drifter incursions…), the general lack of interaction to players over PvE, the way how structures are becoming a no-soloers zone, the lackluster Fanfest 2016 with its rehashing of old news for main, second and deserts, the anonymous and mostly irrelevant CSM 11, the growing gap as veteran community builders go silent and newer players fail to replace them… the ship still goes on, but is someone at the helm?

          • Nick

            Well if that is the case then it is all on CCP. Why on earth anyone would put all their eggs in a basket of a group that has done literally nothing in the book industry, literally nothing in the marketing industry, and is lead by literally the most hated person in the only thing they have ever been successful at(eve content). Considering the actual content of the book in question, unless they only planned on selling the book to a single coalition’s playerbase, then it was doomed from conception. There is a reason why most historian avoid writing about more modern history(like the cold war), it is far to easy to turn people off that were involved in it. Where you can write about Alexander, and say how much of a great man he was despite all of the awful things he did.

  • Aderoth Anstian

    As for an amazon-type review system, I see an obvious problem. Eve nerd applies for and receives a limited-license. A different eve nerd does some digging and figures out the connection between the licensee and his ingame persona(s). Sees an opportunity to play the meta and tanks the licensees reviews denying him rl money and opportunity.

    • rixxjavix

      Product reviews would not be the determining factor. So they would be extremely difficult to use in the way that you describe. Certainly the primary factor would be sales. But I do believe reviews can be a considering factor in a system of factors. But not a primary one.