Thursday, June 30, 2011

Biting your hand.

Working assumption: CCP needs more than they currently get from EVE to keep the freight load of WoD and Dust development rolling, and reckon just overheating a tad the old locomotive boiler won't do it.
In short, they need to borrow money, and they're fine with selling their coal-car to buy a new suit and enough bubbly, leather seats and drapes to impress the bankers — hoping EVE will be nice enough to keep running on its momentum and look the part until moar funds are secured.

The sad thing is they probably are going to drive their entire train off the rails and into the ground before even they run out of coal, when they could still save the entire operation by showing the least bit of common sense — although I'm not entirely sure to which extent it's still up to them by now.


I'm not privy to the secrets of the gods, and not even to those of Icelandic blowhards, so I obviously can't say for sure why CCP figured it was a good idea to slaughter their lone cash cow in the name of overpriced carpaccio.
On its face, it seems pretty clear they want to make more money like, yesterday, but it could be a tad more twisted, because CCP is far from a family shop nowadays, and the majority of shares in no longer in the hands of CCP founders or current directors and employees.
The garage studio that could now has to answer to VCs, like most startup with fuzzy business plan, and not much of a revenue model beyond IPO day.

At that could be the root of all ebil here, that CCP doesn't need money as much as it wants to look like it could make a lot of money, leading them to jump with two feet into 'it' stuff like VGS on dual currency and macrotransactions, because that's what's touted as the new Eldorado of games profitability.
It would go a long way toward explaining why they're going at it like they're chasing a bus, flailing their way into disaster and embarrassment: they've no clue how to retrofit those fancy monetization schemes onto their old locomotive, and try to compensate for their obvious insecurity with clingy assertiveness.

Local in Jita.
Whether the entire monetization is sound business doesn't really concern CCP directorate, because what they're presumably going for is really a quick scam: leverage their exceptional track record for cheap and lasting customer acquisition and retention, and pretend it can mix nicely with overpriced handjobs for tourists.
How does this make sense ? Because on paper, to a clueless banker, it would.
Here's the elevator pitch:
"We've been growing our paying customer base non stop for 8 years, and we manage to retain more of them, longer than about anyone in the business, and now we want to take it to the next level !
With VGS and microtransactions, we can basically print money… a lot of it, considering we own a devout fanbase that will pay anything to be part of the EVE experience."

I want to believe they know it's bullshit, but hey, in a void it could look good enough to persuade a banker to hand over a few dozen million dollars to see it through.

And then what ?
I'm glad you asked, but I'm afraid you might be sorry I answered: brace yourselves.

In CCP twisted analysis, it doesn't matter if they kill EVE in the process of securing funds to make Dust and WoD, because they believe it's their shot at making it big.
CCP wants to go global, and somehow believe VGS, microtransactions and bazillion users are the one path to infinite profit, something EVE is terribly ill-suited to, with being too niche and full of an entrenched player base of annoying bittervets.
From their perspective, either EVE adapts and reaches to a wider audience of more docile customers ready to gobble for-pay content, or it dies, taking down with it the annoying noises of its contrarian old user base. 
While CCP would obviously prefer the former, the relief of being rid of the naggy old wife would make it worth losing money in the divorce.

We didn't want those subscriptions anyway.
Unfortunately, financial and empirical reality sometimes intersect, and EVE is haemorrhaging susbscribers as we speak, making a mess of the place that will be hard to hide from the would-be loaners, bringing the very survival of CCP and EVE into question.

After the two-day emergency session starting in a few hours, the CSM will be able to report on :teamawesome: mental state (I'm quite confident CCP lacked the foresight to include a provision in the NDA stopping CSM members from expressing honest opinions about CCP turning batshit insane), and judging from recent public statements from prominent members, the CSM is bringing more loaded briefcases than hugs and strawberries to the reunion.

And that's the healthiest thing that can happen to CCP directorate at this point, assuming they manage to get their heads out of the hákarl-stinking sand for a minute: connect with the reality that EVE is close to die on them, and that it means curtains for CCP, as nobody's coming to the rescue. 
The only valuable assets CCP ever held were talent, vision, track record, a solid established user base and a crazy level of customer goodwill. That's quite a lot, come to think of it, yet CCP has gone out of its way to prove nothing (actionable) remains of the former, and to squander the latter through hubris, aloofness and incompetence.

Gnawing your leg off the steel-jaw.
CCP doesn't have any serious source of income but EVE until Dust and/or WoD hit the market, and nobody will trust the CCP-that-killed-EVE with the cash injection they'd need to complete either of their other projects, much less both.
Any way you look at it, if EVE doesn't pull through, CCP is done — even :teamawesome: must be starting to get the clue by now.

The only way out for CCP starts with regaining the trust of the very customers they were looking forward to dump (and who know it too well by now).
Yeah, that's a tall order but it can still be done, in just a few, however painful, steps.
  • Come clean.
  • Pay the price, in blood (preferably CCP's, the players have been sucked dry already).
  • Shake hands.
Short of that, EVE is very much likely to be a goner, or at least too weak to subsidize a 600-person company beyond 2011, by which time CCP may find itself circling too close to the drain to realistically hope regain escape velocity.

[To be continued.]

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