CCP Games are currently attempting to quell an upsurge in player discontent as a result of their decision to provide unique and valuable prizes to a third-party website run by players.
Further to previous GameSkinny coverage (“Tarnishing the Legacy: Does EVE Online’s History Matter to CCP Games?”), Chief Marketing Officer David “CCP Pokethulhu” Reid has publicly responded to internal correspondence from the player representative body, the Council of Stellar Management, where he recognises that mistakes were made:
“Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, and for the opportunity to review your statement in advance of publishing it to the community.
“We acknowledge that we rushed this event, and we are certainly learning from it now.”
The popular SOMERblink lottery website and EVE Time Code [ETC] reseller affiliate (via Markee Dragon) is a prolific sponsor of many player-based activities including the player-organised meet-up EVE Vegas.
What’s the Problem?
For CCP Games, or indeed any game developer, working in partnership third-party organisations is simply business and should be of no real concern to end-consumers. So why are elements of EVE’s player community so disgruntled?
The controversy stems from the fact that SOMERblink began as — and still remains–an in-game enterprise, providing EVE players with an entertaining gambling mini-game playable through the EVE client browser.
According to the SOMERblink FAQ page:
“SOMER blink is an exciting way to play for cash, ships, and prizes in the world of EVE. Our microlotteries, called “blinks”, finish in just minutes… for a fast-action experience you won’t find anywhere else!”
SOMERblink is an impressively organised and creative way for its operators to get ahead in EVE Online whilst providing other players with content – it’s exactly the kind of sandbox activity that CCP Games are keen to encourage. Other, similar player initiatives exist, including EVEbet, Monocle Madness, BIG Lottery and EVE Online Hold’Em, each offering ways to gamble in-game currency.
Inconsistency and Favouritism
So far, so balanced, but the problems have arisen due to active involvement from CCP.
As a player-run third party enterprise, SOMERblink are able to control who has access to their content and therefore the chance to win exclusive prizes provided by CCP. This has been held in stark contrast to another, recent EVE community controversy in which, following some player-on-player banning, CCP representatives withdrew from a popular in-game player channel and set up an official equivalent in order to ensure inclusive access for CCP-run events.
This certainly shows some inconsistency in CCP’s dealing with player-run affairs, with a far more relaxed CCP approach being taken to the exclusive nature of SOMERblink’s content.
CCP’s motives are clear: it wants to encourage player initiatives like SOMERblink, which stimulate community activity and the turnover of ISK. This is beneficial from both a sandbox gameplay perspective and for CCP as a business. Such activity will result in the consumption of in-game currency and commodities, increasing the sale of ETCs which can be converted via EVE’s PLEX system for more ISK.
In CMO David Reid’s recent statement, he explains that “we believe CCP should foster the activities our players enjoy, and it is clear these kinds of activities have a lot of support in the EVE community, much like we see in other games.”
However, CCP has previously stated that they are the “hands-off janitors of the virtual world,” whose responsibility it is to maintain the game world and act as impartial referee. By playing such an active role as to provide a single player organisation with in-game goods (and now out-of-game Iceland trips) worth $1000s in in-game currency is courting controversy and player discontent.
CMO David Reid’s statement addressed this:
“…we recognize it is imperative for CCP to remain impartial with respect to which 3rd parties receive CCP support for these kinds of activities. To that end, we will develop a clear policy on how we plan to conduct future events, including how we will determine which 3rd parties and which events will receive CCP support, and we will develop that policy in consultation with the CSM.”
The open-world game universe of EVE Online encourages players to think and play creatively, with in-game corporations looking to find military and commercial dominance. The unique persistent nature and community-driven content often blurs the lines between gameplay and reality as exemplified in our recent series on EVE’s players who have found success outside the game client.
In nurturing both this creative culture and driving forward as a successful business, CCP Games faces some unique challenges. As real-world businesses increasingly look to gamification as a means of engaging customers and employees, CCP find themselves approaching the problem from the other end as EVE’s in-game enterprises begin to find success in the real world, provoking concerns regarding unfair advantage, RMTing and other unreasonable practices.
Where is the line?