Sunday, June 26, 2011

EVE Online: Protests continue over microtransaction row

JITA - There are unprecedented scenes in one of the busiest game areas of EVE Online today, as player protests against game owners CCP continue into a third day.

Players form a ring around the Jita Memorial

Players are angry with CCP following the most recent game expansion, dubbed "Incarna". One of the additions to the game was the "Noble Exchange", where real-life money can be exchanged (via a convoluted route of in-game items and currencies) for in-game items. Most notable amongst these is a monocle, offering no in-game benefit and costing the equivalent of a very real US $80.

But what concerns players most of all is the prospect that items that actually affect gameplay - such as ships, skills and standings with the in-game NPC factions - might be offered for sale. A CCP internal newsletter to that effect was leaked, and later confirmed to be genuine, further adding ammunition to the protester's weapons (not literally, though maybe in a later version of the Noble Exchange).

For some reason, CCP thought that this developer blog would help matters. Entirely predictably, it didn't, and angry threads on the EVE forums have nearly reached one million views and over 10,000 comments. CCP's internal attitude was revealed by another leak to EVE News 24, an internal E-mail from CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson seeming to revel in the anger sown amongst the playerbase.

The view from the hangar of the Jita IV - Moon 4 - Caldari Navy Assembly Plant station, the busiest trading hub in the game

The largest, most visible sign of the unhappiness of a large number of players has been an in-game attack on a monument in the busiest system, Jita. The monument itself bears the inscription "A memorial to the winner of the Ruevo Aram Riddle Competition, Hienky and Shin Ra of Burn Eden". The statue (which is invulnerable in the game) stands as a reminder of times when CCP were actively engaged in promoting the community of EVE Online, making the current protests all the more striking.
Hundreds of players, as well as abandoned ships, protest in Jita
 How this will play out in coming days remains to be seen. Nay-sayers will undoubtedly say nay, while some think the protesters should just leave and let them play the game in peace. Are there any precedents from other MMOs of in-game protests on this scale? The ironic thing is that it's exactly this sort of community spirit that reminds me just why I enjoyed playing EVE for so long anyway.