Investigating the Eve Online Player Revolt
During June an update was released for Eve Online and it led to a player revolt. Despite being widely reported I didn’t fully understand what happened or why. All I knew is that there was a monocle you could buy for your in-game avatar which cost $60 and players were pissed.
To make things perfectly clear: I do not play Eve Online and I have never played Eve Online. I find player revolts interesting and I wanted learn what happened and why. I’m only a pretend journalist so please be gentle and kind in pointing out inaccuracies. :)
What happened? CCP released an update to Eve Online that added a captain’s quarters. For the first time players have an avatar that can walk around. Naturally, players will want to customize this avatar. This opened the door for microtransactions.
Most games with microtransactions have clothes and items that cost $1 to $5. That was not the case in Eve. Most items cost $5 to $20 and one item, the monocle, cost a whopping $60. Gasoline was thrown onto the fire when an internal newsletter titled “Greed is Good” discussing microtransactions was leaked (
Those are all player controllable ships. From the teeny tiny dots to the epic Titans. How much do they cost in isk. The following image, which is over a year old and out of date, is the best answer I could find.
The largest ship costs about 120 billion isk. Today a $15 plex card can be bought for 370 million isk. It would take 325 plex cards, $4875 worth, to get the 120 billion isk required for a single Titan. Titans are the biggest ship in the game and only the largest corporations pooling money from hundreds of players can afford them. It took several years for the first Titan to be constructed. In the game’s eight year history I’m told that only several dozens of Titans have ever been built.
Ship prices cover the full spectrum. The most basic non-free ship is around 100,000 isk. This price is just for the hull of the ship. More isk must be spent to deck it out with guns, armor, and equipment. A decent gear setup will cost 25-100% of ship cost while an awesome setup may cost 100-500%. When a ship is destroyed it is dead and gone forever so money must be spent with care.
A friend who has played for only about 3 months said he can make about two million isk per hour. Higher level players can naturally make more. I have no idea what that income rate is for high end players. Based on the chart it looks like the top end may make as much as 40 million isk per hour.
Rich vs Poor
Now we have a sense of scale for money in Eve. How does isk relate to $60 monocles? There are two ways to look at it. If you are isk poor then you must spend $60 to buy four PLEX cards ($15 per) and convert them to aurum. If you are isk rich then you only need to spend 1.48 billion isk to buy four PLEX cards (370 million per) which are converted to aurum.
Spending $60 for a silly monocle is beyond ridiculous. If however you own a corporation that just spent 120 billion on a Titan then raiding the coffers for a mere 1.5 billion for a monocle is chump change. At that point I’d only be pissed that I couldn’t buy a matching top hat.
The mistake as I see it, and recent statements seem to confirm, is that CCP launched the vanity store too early. Ships cost from 100,000 isk to 120,000,000,000 isk and everywhere in between. You can buy high end or low end. The vanity store only had the high end. What would the public reaction be if dozens of items cost $1 to $5 with only a select few costing substantially more?
Most games with microtransactions have a cash only currency for vanity items. Eve is highly unique in the ability to convert in-game currency (isk) to the cash based currency (aurum). Finding the right balance when you have dirt poor and astronomically rich players is going to be quite the trick.
World of Warcraft Bonus
I’ve never played Eve, but I did play WoW once upon a time and wanted to compare the two for perspective. How much gold do players earn and what’s the most they spend on items? What is the dollar equivalent of gold? Luckily I have three friends who are hardcore players with respectable fortunes to help answer this:
- Gold: 370,000 In USD: ~$693 Most Expensive Purchase: 15,000 gold (~$29)
- Gold: 260,000 In USD: ~$487 Most Expensive Purchase: 65,000 gold (~$122)
- Gold: 230,000 In USD: ~$430 Most Expensive Purchase: 55,000 gold (~$103) Bonus! Lifetime Gold Earned: 600,000
USD amounts obtained by treating $15 as 8000 gold. There isn’t a sanctioned method of converting cash to gold in WoW, but there are countless websites full of Chinese farmed gold to make up for it.