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 EVE Online  has more subscribers than ever, nearly 10 years later
EVE Online has more subscribers than ever, nearly 10 years later
December 13, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

The inability of companies like EA and Blizzard to retain MMO subscribers might tempt you into thinking that the monthly payment model just isn't working anymore, but at least one publisher is doing better than ever with it.

CCP Games recently revealed that its spacefaring MMO EVE Online just surpassed 450,000 subscribers for the first time, a record high in the game's nine-year history.

In fact, the company says that the game has managed to grow every year since its launch.

CCP attributes the growth to the recent release of its 18th expansion pack, Retribution, as well as the re-introduction of the game in China by new distributor TianCity (taking over from Optic Communications), which saw a surge in subscribers higher than CCP anticipated.

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Thom Q
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Awesome.. I'm sure being a very good game instead of a micro-transaction sucking machine has something to do with it as well :)

Michael Wenk
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Not to rain on EVE's parade, but I wonder how many actual people they have subscribed, not just accounts. CCP's very good about running deals where you can get multiple accounts, and EVE's designed to really require more than one. If we're really curious about popularity, that's really the measure. Of course its good news for CCP anyways, more revenue is always good.

Thom Q
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The article mentions the amount of subscribers, not accounts. So yeah, 450.000 subscribers, not accounts...

Ardney Carter
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Additionally, it's not entirely accurate to claim that 'EVE is designed to require more than one account'. Like any MMO, it's possible to do more things solo with multiple accounts if you don't feel like relying on others. But given the emphasis the game puts on joining a corporation and the fact that the skill system allows any character to train into any role you'd be hard pressed to say a second account is REQUIRED to enjoy the game.

Kevin Rittner
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Ardney, being an EVE player myself, I can tell you the game is designed almost precisely that way. The developers have said so themselves. I can honestly tell you that every profession in EVE benefits from (and eventually becomes indispensable without) having multiple accounts. Profitability scales with multiple accounts and for those that choose to fund their playtime with in-game currency that model becomes obvious within months of playing.

Also, in nearly every Corporation (including the one I run) everyone that joins usually brings their multiple accounts with them. Which explains why we have 112 members but only 30 or so real people.

You can't survive for long in EVE if you're solo. Not without feeling like you're wasting your time.

Ardney Carter
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"Profitability scales with multiple accounts and for those that choose to fund their playtime with in-game currency that model becomes obvious within months of playing."

But paying for game time with in-game currency is not a requirement to play the game. Some of us are perfectly happy to give CCP real money in exchange for access to their servers.

"Also, in nearly every Corporation (including the one I run) everyone that joins usually brings their multiple accounts with them. Which explains why we have 112 members but only 30 or so real people."

Because a thing is popular or even efficient does not mean it is required.

"You can't survive for long in EVE if you're solo. Not without feeling like you're wasting your time."

This statement is absolutely true. But being solo can be fixed merely by joining a corp. Buying another acount is not REQUIRED.

I too played EVE for years. 1 character. 1 Account. I joined a corp and ran ops. Some of the others had alts. Some didn't. Why? Because it's not a requirement to play. EVE is definitely a game about coordination, cooperation, and teamwork. Amazingly, this can be accomplished via groups of people as well as groups of accounts ;)

Jesse Tucker
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I hope more companies that want to make MMOs take a page from CCP's book and create a small, scaleable MMO with fairly original gameplay (or at least not a WoW clone) and grow it over time. Throwing an absurd amount of money and a popular IP into an MMO doesn't seem to be working.

Lewis Wakeford
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EVE is a very special case though because it is set in space. It can circumvent a lot of problems that games set on the ground run into.

I do think MMOs need to focus on player-driven content though. Most of the current members of the genre (including WoW) don't take advantage of the fact that they have hundreds of thousands of players. Unless you are end-game raiding you will rarely be interacting with more than 50 players at once, they might as well just be CO-OP or traditional small-server mutliplayer games. The worlds are always just "theme parks" as well, nothing you do has an impact on the game world.

Jesse Tucker
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You could have a scaleable ground-based game by foregoing a defined world map and providing instanced combat. For example, imagine a universe that is fragmented and connected by portals. As servers fill new areas are discovered, and as the population wanes the portals weaken and eventually lose contact with those instanced areas. You have your hub areas that always exist, and then the areas to explore and fight over are added and subtracted from the game as needed.

Alexander Ronalds
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I think the success and longevity of EVE over the years can be attributed to the very competitive nature of the design. I wish more MMOs over the years had followed this course rather than down the Everquest / World of Warcraft making the design less competitive.

Mikhail Mukin
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EVE is (roughly) for SciFi space crazy geeks :) For that group of people, I assume it is a fairly good product. You can't play EVE for 30 min - just to "kill some spiders"... and much later, for another 30 min. You need to invest time into this game... I watched a number of my friends starting EVE, but getting bored soon while mining asteroids etc - space and corporations are not for them.

I remember some (20+?) years ago, before the explosion of computer MMOs, some of my friends used to play those "space games" by e-mail, where once a day you give the orders to your planets and space forces, and some server computes what happens on this turn and sends everybody results etc. EVE is for people who could have enjoyed it.

So EVE will be very hard to expand beyond that group, to "accessible to everybody" WoW style (I assume they will try to expand to "MP shooters" people via Dust?), but on the positive side - it has this loyal group of followers. It also means it will be a very hard act to follow, unless you find another (big enough) group of people crazy enough about something - something "non generic", not like yet another MMO with mages and swordsmen... Vampires? Giant robots? Schoolgirls in uniform? :)

Is it IMHO not so much about payment structure (micro transactions or subscription), but about finding and structuring a "world" very attractive to a specific group of people.

James Coote
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Eve has a weird system where you can buy a 30 day subscription with real world currency and then convert that into an in-game item that you can then sell for in-game currency.

In other words, someone who can't afford a subscription grind the game and buy their subscription with in-game currency. People who want to buy in-game currency end up subsidizing the ones that do the grinding. So if there are 450k active accounts, CCP are guaranteed 450k * $15 per month, even if there are only 250k subscribers.

What is interesting is that the price of the in-game item representing a 30 day subscription is allowed to float freely on the in-game markets. The actual price of a 30 day subscription in in-game currency has been rising over the last year, indicating more people want to play for free than want to buy in-game currency.

Eve works because it encourages group activities. The PvE content isn't that great, and you only really get places by working as a team. Once you start interacting with others in the game, you form social bonds that make it harder to leave (or easier to come back).

Most of the player-generated content is actually in the form of shifting alliances, intrigue and stories of success and failure, rather than as physical items or structures in-game. Having that content about the players themselves helps further build the community.

The game difficulty appeals to a minority, but many eve players burn out from the high level of time commitment the game requires (grinding aside). However, they invariably come back because there is nothing quite like it.

Rob Graeber
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Sounds like the price of the subscription rising could also be due to inflation.

Kevin Alexander
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Both you and Mikhail are correct.

The game appeals to such a particular sector of the gamer base in such a specific way that once found, it becomes very hard to find anything else that can "scratch that itch" ever again.

This takes a superb product vision, and a steadfast commitment to knowing just who exactly is your target user, and design to exactly how they tick. This isn't an easy thing to do, but if you pull it off, I expect you'd see a similar slow but steady increase over time as users find your product regardless of payment methodology.

Lewis Pulsipher
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Not having played, but having read some accounts of the large-scale wars and trickery, it appears to me that EVE does well because the opposition comes primarily from the players, not from dev-created content. It doesn't matter whether a game is SF-space or something else, if you can arrange for the players to provide the "content" through direct opposition to other players - which is typical in tabletop games, of course - then the developers don't face the problem of the recent Star Wars MMO, that players ran through the content quickly, had no more, and quit playing.