Thursday, September 8, 2011
Behind the Power Curve and into the Coffin Corner
In aviation, being behind the power curve or in the coffin corner are bad things. When you're behind the power curve, even applying full power won't make the airplane gain altitude, and when you're in the coffin corner, even a tiny course correction can send the plane into a catastrophic spin.
The current CSM -- as well as the previous CSM, which I also served on, and many engaged players in the community -- have become increasingly concerned about the future of Flying-in-Space component of EVE. As CCP continues to devote lots of time and effort to their new projects -- World of Darkness, DUST, and Incarna (aka "Walking in Stations") -- the core game, the game that their players signed up to play, and their only real source of income, has been increasingly neglected and starved for development resources.
Getting CCP to put more resources into FiS has been a core issue for CSM for a long time, but it seemed like an impossible task. CCP upper management appeared to be focused on an agressive expansion strategy, leveraging their experience with EVE to help develop their new games. Indeed, a lot of the development effort on EVE outside of the visible FiS work has been devoted to projects that help them with their other games.
For example, World of Darkness is an avatar game, and Incarna is avatars in EVE. So a lot of the work done on Incarna is synergistic with World of Darkness. Similarly, the "Carbon" platform development work CCP has spent a lot of time on makes it easier to share code between the various games.
Up to a point, this is (from a long-term perspective) a good thing. The problem is that if you push this too hard, and put too much of your resources into it, you risk starving the cash cow. And, of course, there's the risk that unforeseen problems will conspire against you.
This may well be what has happened. If Jester's infamous PCU chart is a good proxy for EVE subscription trends, then Incarna is probably failing to meet expectations, and that is very worrying.
As I see it, CCP is at a crossroads. They can either double-down on their current strategy, put all their resources into their new projects, accept the huge risk that EVE subscription numbers will stall and plummet to the ground, and hope they can get their new games on the market quickly enough to keep the company flying.
Or they can refocus their available resources back on EVE FiS -- light the afterburners, if you will -- revitalize their cash cow (accepting that this will delay World of Darkness), and then use that as a basis for expansion. Obviously, this is the choice EVE players would prefer.
CCP is not yet behind the power curve, and they're not yet in the coffin corner. They can still make a big course correction.
Let's hope the Pilot-in-Command is Fearless.