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CCP debates micro transactions in EVE Online

Leaked internal newsletter reveals disagreement amongst developers

EVE Online developer CCP Games appears to be as divided over the question of micro transactions as the game's community, according to a document purporting to be an internal newsletter from the company.

The document first appeared on forum Failheap Challenge and although it appears to be authentic its contents have not yet been commented upon by CCP.

The primary focus of the newsletter is micro transactions, with an introduction to the concept describing the revenue model as:

"...as a subscription based golden goose, EVE needs to incorporate the virtual goods sales model to allow for further revenue - revenue to fund our other titles, revenue for its developer: you. The model also supports the notion of creating a meaningful experience and identity for the player..."

The concept is then debated by various employees, including lead game designer Kristoffer Touborg, who comments: "I would like virtual goods sales in EVE."

"In fact, I'd like to sell a lot more than vanity items. Does this mean I'm an evil capitalist that, unless stopped, will cause the entire company to catch fire and be buried at sea by a secret team of Navy SEALs?

"Let's hope not, although that's the impression I get sometimes when interacting with our customers. There is a pretty overwhelming perception amongst EVE players that these changes are bad. I think they're brilliant, but our players don't. We're going to face an uphill struggle, and the reason many of us never talk about this publicly is that we'd be burned at the stake by the players."

Touborg then suggests that using microtransactions and in-game currency as rewards could be a key way to winning over sceptical players.

"I think we should be giving money away too. Giving people small amounts of micro-currency for being loyal subscribers, or even as a reward for high level gameplay like taking sovereignty should be just as legitimate a part of the business model as charging players."

CCP's John Turbefield was against the concept though, arguing that it would unbalance the gameplay and there was no clear benefit from introducing the new business model.

"I feel that if people have already paid a subscription fee then unless there is a good reason for the overall community to introduce a gameplay-affecting virtual goods sales (such as with PLEX), then gaining an in-game advantage isn't justifiable. More revenue is of course an aim, but making our customers feel like they are being 'double billed' to be able to play on the same level as others is just a step too far."

The potential for microtransaction to unbalance PlayStation 3 title Dust 514, which uniquely takes place in the same virtual space inhabited by PC users, was also highlighted:

"With no subscriptions in Dust, we have to be careful about selling permanent awesomeness, as there's a danger of saturating the market. When everyone has everything, there's no reason to buy anything anymore. Concepts such as planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence thus play a key role (obsolescence referring to the deliberate shortening of a product's lifespan)."

Scans of the entire newsletter can be found at GamesIndustry.biz sister site Eurogamer.

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David Jenkins