At the monocular level
“CCP Zinfandel > The Looking Glass Ocular Implant (right/gold) is fairly expensive. It’s also a machine being installed into your eye and one would not want to buy a cheap version of something to go in your face”.
Said item, one of the first to be released as part of the new NEX micro transactions was on sale to capsuleers for 12,000 AURUM or, in old money, 4 PLEX (around 1.4Billion ISK). That’s the equivalent of 120 days of game time (a third of a year) or about $80. Needless to say the communities response has been…explosive.
However we need to put this all into context to understand why we’re witnessing what many will describe as another CCP gaff. After all CCP is a business, it exists ultimately to make a financial profit and MT are a part of that process in the current MMO industry.
The context though is that we are living in a RL economic climate that is rife with uncertainty. Many national budgets are still recovering from the shock of the banking collapse and personal finances are often stretched. For CCPs target demographic, aged somewhere between 20 and 40, this economic climate is at its most extreme. Many of us will have less than stellar jobs, a moderate income, and quite possibly hungry mouths to feed in the form of children. These players neither wish to pay for an $80 digital vanity item, nor have said item waved in front of their noses by those more fortunate and better off.
Combine this atmosphere with CCPs recent blog where they proposed monetizing the free player developed sites. Or with the prospect of ships for Aurum. Taking away something (shiny ships, clever apps) from someone who is used to having it evokes a very strong psychological response. For those of you who do have kids you’ll recognise this instantly – give a chocolate bar one day and life is all smiles, deny it the next and tantrums are the result.
And so we have the typical player, stressed from work, pressurised financially, seeing their perhaps singular outlet become more expensive – less accessible.
Most I’m sure will be familiar with the basics of game theory – you’ve no doubt heard the phrase ‘win-win situation’. In this case the ‘win’ for CCP is to achieve greater revenue, a more profitable business and a higher status within the industry. The ‘win’ for the player is an entertaining game, reasonably priced. For the vast vast majority of players $80 for a cosmetic alteration to a digital avatar is not ‘reasonably priced’.
The second, but not unrelated, aspect of the NEX (Nobel Exchange) is that it creates items that are rare, not because they are hard or risky to acquire within the game world but because of their equivalent price in reality. Rare items are in any MMO a visible indication of status or ‘e-peen’. Boil it all down to its constituent element and EVE is essentially about bragging rights. “I’m better than you because my alliance owns half of EVE”.
MTs though have nothing to do with “I’m better than you because I’m great at PVP and that’s why my alliance owns half of EVE” – its purely because “I’m more successful in reality”. Which of course is what many of us are seeking to escape from, however briefly. Over time of course those MT items will filter through the EVE market system and it will not be readily apparent if you acquired them through use of a credit card or by effort in EVE itself. Which is why introducing expensive items first is a ‘bad idea’. It not that they shouldn’t exist, but that by existing first they are a clear and unambiguous example of real world wealth.
Envy is a powerful thing. Yes, it drives the sales of items – that must have new gadget your desperate for because your peers have got one. The fear of being ‘left behind’, unable to compete drives to the very core of our instincts and nature. Misuse the application of that ‘fear of loss’ however and you generate not desire by hostility. Make something so unobtainable then it (and the owner) becomes despised by those who are denied it. It’s why Ferraris get key scratched. Its why very successful sports teams are hated by so many.
The solution for CCP is a relatively simple one.
Firstly reduce the value of the NEX goods, probably by a value of 10. Leave those few ‘ultra expensive items’ already purchased as they’ll serve as a good reminder of a wrong path taken but discontinue them as a available product allowing them to become follies of an item.
Secondly go back to things that have equivalent value to all – new features like smuggling or contraband, sovereignty or factional warfare. These elements of ‘game play’ – or the ‘entertainment’ piece of our win-win scenario are accessible to all, denied to none. EVEs popularity will rise as we praise the universe in which we play and CCPs coffers will fill with the sound of new subscribers coins dropping into it. Why?
Because right deep deep down, at the monocular level it is just a game.