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I’ve never played Eve Online, but it appears very enticing from the outside. It’s a massively multiplayer online game about space travel and interstellar warfare, where players have almost universal freedom. Those gamers have turned that freedom into some insane in-game events that capture headlines and attract new players through word of mouth.
Developer CCP Games revealed today that its model is working. Eve Online recently surpassed the 500,000 monthly subscriber milestone. The studio is simultaneously preparing to celebrate the game’s 10-year anniversary and what it’s calling Eve’s “second decade,” which entails thinking about ways to expand the universe beyond Eve and Dust 515, its first-person shooter that exists on the same server.
“Shortly after the launch of Eve Online: Retribution in December, we announced that we surpassed 450,000 subscribers worldwide,” CCP Games chief marketing officer David Reid told GamesBeat. “Now, being over 500,000, we’re certainly enjoying a bigger commercial success [than ever before]. It’s a terrific time right now. It couldn’t be better for us.”
The second decade
Retribution is the 18th free expansion to Eve Online, and it is also the most successful add-on in the game’s history. Despite Eve’s age, or maybe in part because of it, the MMO has more subscribers than ever before. Eve turns 10 years old on May 6, which is two weeks after CCP holds its Fan Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland.
“We’re deep into the kick off of what we’re calling our second-decade celebration,” said Reid. “We’re doing a number of things on that front.”
This week, the Museum of Modern Art will add Eve Online to its permanent video game collection. CCP is planning in-game events that tie Dust and Eve together. The Fan Fest in Reykjavik is the largest one in the company’s history, and the developer is hosting the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra at the event.
“The overall message is that Eve has never been stronger,” said Reid. “It’s never been more exciting — the interplay between Dust and Eve, the growth in the Eve business itself — there’s a lot of exciting things to talk about, particularly as many other companies are shying away from some of the very business models that we are embracing.”
Eve Online is one of the few remaining MMOs that still operates under the monthly subscription model. Eve isn’t just surviving — it’s growing.
“One of the things that we’re very focused on this year is making a more visual view of the history of the Eve universe,” said Reid. “[Non-Eve players] have probably heard some of the crazy things people have done in Eve Online since 2003. The assassinations, the heists, the wars between corporations with 10,000 players on each side. We want a very clear visual timeline of that history — not just the fiction of how the Eve universe came to be and how the four empires took root — but what the players in the Eve universe have done to sway how things unfolded.”
CCP is planning for this visual canonization to both reward veterans who have made an impact and to attract new players who are intrigued by the game’s deep gamer-shaped history.
“This isn’t just another game where people run through these experiences that teams of game designers designed,” said Reid. “The reason we think we continue to see growth is that it really is about player-driven content. We’re empowering players with tools that allow them to create these stories. Things like that just don’t happen in other games.”
Dust 514 and beyond
CCP definitely has a unique model. The developer is currently running an open beta for its new first-person shooter Dust 514, which exists on the same server as Eve Online. The games are completely intertwined, and the events in one effect the other because they take place in one cohesive universe.
CCP is working hard to make sure Dust players understand that cohesion.
“As we’re adding new features, we’ll focus on informing Dust players on where they are in the Eve universe,” said Reid. “Where is this battle taking place, and why is it important? What are the resources that are at hand? Who are the corporations that control this territory? We want to emphasize that sense that player’s actions make a difference.”
The studio is working to officially release Dust as soon as possible, which could happen in March. After that, it sounds like the studio has some plans to expand the Eve universe into yet another new genre.
“There’s no reason why we need to stop at Eve plus Dust,” said Reid. “There are any number of interesting ways to think about continuing to grow this in terms of different genres, different platforms, and different business models. No one has really ever done what CCP has done by connecting a subscription-based MMO about flying in space with a free-to-play console shooter. I mean, why stop there?”
Reid didn’t give any specifics, but he hinted that CCP may have an announcement along those lines at the Eve Fanfest, which takes place in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 25–27. This team could have anything in the works. A strategy game for tablets, a mining simulator for the PS Vita, or a casino game for Eve pilots to vacation at — it’s all possible.
“At the end of the day, this [single-server] experience is a magical thing, and letting people get into it on their own terms, on their own time lines, in a way that they understand — that is a big opportunity for us. It’s definitely something we’re going after.”