Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ghost training — Winter Expansion !

Well, not really, just a minor update, but it's what all the cool kids do nowadays, so I figured I'd make it look big, too.

Over two weeks since the asinine planking of Ghost Training, and the whine thread is still going strong, having now broken the 180 pages and 5400 posts mark, and plowing ahead at a steady pace.

How CCP managed to turn the most fanatical fanboi userbase into an army of bitter ex-wives will probably win them another "Special" paragraph in the history of R-POWs… never has the irony of the Crowd Control Production brand been so biting.

What should happen happens, people consolidate their accounts, drop alts and switch from $$ to playmoney because they simply don't want to commit to the game publisher's future anymore.

The financial impact must slowly start to be perceptible, as accounts reach the end of their subs and don't get renewed, and it will only get worse, if my own sample is any indication: I've slated 6 accounts for hibernation already, but since some are well-fed, only two will show on CCP's stats as missing before the end of this month, while the rest are to limp till jan/feb on their prepaid subs, until they go to sleep more or less permanently.

Is it really because of Ghost Training ?
Only indirectly in my case.

Really, don't start a rescue playmoney fundraiser on my behalf just yet: as long as general inflation follows the price of GTCs at an acceptable pace, I'll keep making more than I need to feed whichever accounts I feel like keeping alive.
My position is a favored one, as I'm only dropping what could be called spare accounts so far: old ones that aren't really used on a regular basis but you keep alive for variety's sake or sentimental reasons.

I'm not shutting those down because I lost the ability to Ghost Train them, as I barely ever used the feature but by accident (letting an account lapse until I try to log it on and figure it's inactive, or EVEmon blinks stupidly while trying to sync on it), and a couple times during a week-to-month vacation from EVE.

I'm shutting those down because I don't really have a use for them right now, when CCP is building up for their own private financial crisis inside EVE without fully realizing it, and I'm bracing myself for the crash — all my accounts run on GTCs.

At current GTC rates, 6 accounts amount to 1.5b ISK savings monthly, which I hope will suffice for me to ride out the predictable raise of GTC for ISK prices as the GTC offer/demand ratio plummets in the next couple months — until inflation (and my revenue) catches up (if they do, which is unsure).
This trend of GTC ISK prices rocketing up as an isolated commodity can only be accelerated by an increase in RMT'ing, as people get pressured to get the most ISK for their buck to pay for their GTCs, compounded by the risky nature of RMT'ing and the foreseeable hysteria of CCP USSS over it, which should fuel the urgency to make the most of what amounts to a capital crime in EVE world (bannable offense).

Will I be selling my 'dead' accounts ?
No… at least not yet.

There's no real reason to think they may lose ISK value as the average SP count raises, since the character category hit the hardest by Ghost Training removal (growth wise) is the high-SP specialist population.

Fewer people will train new dread pilots without Ghost Training, for ex, considering their very limited/specialized role compared to the huge time sinks involved in bringing a toon from a very good sub-capital skill-set to a lousy capital one.
[This alone is a serious issue, as new players are once again getting the shaft while old timers like me benefit from an historical edge of accrued benefits, now boosted further by an artificially raised barrier to entry.]

Most of my accounts host at least 60m SP spread across 1-2 chars…
Any specialty depending on leaping wide training-time gaps to see any progression is likely to shrink in relative numbers, as proportionally fewer characters embrace those careers.
If anything, my semi-useless veteran toons will be worth more in a few months, after the panic fire sales, when the offer of high-SP chars starts dwindling and people realize they should hold onto what is essentially becoming a non-renewable resource.

What does that mean for CCP's revenue ?
Well, not much… on a micro-scale.

6 accounts worth of GTCs dropping is just 105$/month of revenue loss, arguably a drop in the ocean ; yet CCP just lost my (and I suspect a few others') most profitable drop in the ocean.

I'm disabling accounts that used to translate into near-zero server load (mostly skill switches, and the occasional ride around the block), and am now only contributing to CCP's operating costs with accounts that generate an above average load on servers (capital pilots crashing nodes, mass traders with bazillions of market orders, builders/researchers hoarding up to 66 slots of S&I worth of queries per acct, etc.).

You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

There's a saying in the service business that the best customer is one that pays his fee and never uses the service. True to themselves, CCP is making sure to drive those customers away before any other.

Also in true CCP fashion, and after enough clue-by-four has been applied to their chewy parts that they start having problems sitting comfortably, they show how good they are at taking a hint, coming clean and learning from their mistakes by reintroducing the 30d GTCs to he game in the most convoluted (yet brilliant, as stated here) way.

They're now halfway through fixing the very first crater from the GTC bombing, but went for the wrong half: bringing back 30d GTC subs without a price correction to match regular 1-month plans, and/or bundling some form of hooking susbtance with it (shameless plug) will not break the spiral of doom acceleration.

People still lack an incentive to spend their money on GTCs rather than RMT, and notwithstanding Oveur being happy-happy with his catchphrase about in-game trade of ETCs supposedly "Cramping down on RMTs style with a kill and a smile", this claim unfortunately has about as much substance as a Sarah Palin speech on monetary economics.

Looking at the horse's teeth (because it's a damn pricey horse).

The one thing that makes in-game ETC trade sexeh and worthwile is it magically 'materializes' time (the ultimate postmodern commodity) into a transferable token.

From the horse's mouth, about the new in-game ETC trade:
  • Lower barrier of entry for exchanging ETCs. Everybody can do it easily in-game [True]

  • ETCs now use a transparent and efficient market, our very own EVE market [True, yet filler]

  • Fights price fixing--one of the single most complained about issues with the current secure exchange [True and false, this is a blown-up issue, with a real fix to an unreal problem]

  • Opens up for a larger supply, lowering the ISK exchange rate in the long run as anyone can exchange their ETCs more easily [Blatantly false due to inherent scarcity of ETCs in a seller-led market configuration]

  • Enables you to create corporate Contracts for your members in exchange for Pilot Licenses [True, and sexeh as hell]

  • Empowers you to recruit new players on trial into your corporations with Pilot Licenses [True, and sexeh as hell]

  • Allows you to give someone a "free beer" (I like this part) [I like it, too — although it only repeats the two previous pitch points.]

  • Cramps down on RMTs (Real Money Traders) style with a kill and a smile [delusional at best, see below]

  • It‘s pure awesome [Is that supposed to make a point ?]
What's pure awesome is how easily one can foresee RMT'ers not caring one bit about the in-game trade of ETC.

The simple and only influence ETC trade has over RMT is to inform the top and bottom of the exchange rates vs $$.
  • ETC ISK price/time: portion of in-game revenue devoted to paying for game time.
  • ETC $$ price/time: $$ <-> ISK exchange rate indexed on CCP GTC price.
Last time I checked, a 60d GTC was going for about 500m ISK, which translates in 250m ISK per 'EVE month' (30d sharp period), and was selling for 17.5$, giving us a CCP exchange rate of 14.286m ISK/$, or 0.07$/million ISK.
Meanwhile, $->ISK by RMT shops is in the 28.57m ISK/$ range, or 0.035$/million ISK.

As long as RMT'ers can offer a significantly better $->ISK exchange rate to their customers, that's revenue that will evade CCP's wallet — with a kill and a smile.
To bring those exchange rates on level, and hope to break the back of RMT shops, the in-game price of the 30d ETC would have to climb to 500m, bringing the daily in-game upkeep cost of an account to 16.67 million ISK.
…all that, assuming the RMT'ers don't fight back by offering more ISK for a $ than they do now.

As explained earlier, I agree with Oveur that the ISK price of GTCs is likely to go up, hard, and I imagine in CCP's Economia FantasyLand they're betting on it to reduce the gap between state-approved exchange rates and black market, thus driving ISK buyers away from RMT'ers.

Although CCP's hardline-free-market advocates going all USSR on exchange rates is quite funny, it's nonetheless naive and doomed, knowing most RMT shops currently buy a billion ISK for around 22-25$, and reap at least 30% profit (accounting for in-game overhead such as banned accounts etc.), doing nothing but arbitrage — I have a hunch RMT shops won't close doors before their $ gross is cut by at least half, and they can bank on the desperation of ISK-for-$ sellers to take some of the margin heat by consenting to lower buying prices from RMT shops, down to 10-15$ per billion.

Welcome to HooverVille Online™, Reykjavik county.

16.67m ISK/day turns EVE into a pure grinding game for those people who depend on mundane hunting-gathering PvE to make a pixel living, if they can even scrounge it anymore.

Not only does the grind detract from player enjoyment (and thus motivation to keep playing), but such a radical raise of the in-game cost of upkeep (with no matching boost on average in-game income) is the best way to drive the consumer economy down the crapper.

The foreseeable impact of this is a reinforcement of austerity patterns in consumer economy, with people living hand-to-mouth, cutting on all non-necessary expenses and looking harder for any ISK-saving opportunity.
Thus putting the RMT exchange at a comparative advantage, despite a possible reduction in price gap between ETC and RMT.

En route to oblivion, double time !

Eventually, CCP's scroched-earth economic wizardry will indeed hurt RMT'ers , to the extent that less ISK overall is burned by a reduced number of active accounts, but if that's CCP's idea of a solution to RMT, we're facing a solid enough case of killing the patient to get to the disease to warrant a very formal: WTF?!

My guess is RMT'ers may bring the fight to the in-game ETC market before then, and corner it by leveraging their huge ISK liquidities and the worsening scarcity of ETC offers.
That opens juicy opportunities for price fixing on a meta-scale, and I foresee RMT'ers offering ETC+ISK bundles in their OOG online shops soon enough — at prices that will have CCP scratching their heads in disbelief.

That is, of course, unless CCP comes up with a yet-another brand of medecine, but what could it be, one must wonder ?

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