Of Marketing and Mercoxit: An EVE Vegas Interview

I sat down with David Reid, Chief Marketing Officer of CCP Games, and discussed "the most dangerous, complicated and rewarding journey in video games."

EVE Vegas: the largest fan-organized EVE Online gathering of the year, and a great opportunity to talk one-on-one with the developers from CCP Games. As a result, I had a chance to interview David Reid, the man whose decisions shape our perception of gaming's most enigmatic journey.

Today's chat, part one of two, narrows in on his behind-the-scenes look at marketing such a complex game. We also talk extensively about current events, including EVE: The Second Decade: Collector's Edition and the upcoming Rubicon expansion. Even if you don't play EVE Online – as I didn't, prior to this event – the discussion is still fascinating for anyone interested in the games industry as a whole.

Without further ado, let's begin!

Hey there David, thanks for joining us! Think you could start by telling us a bit about who you are?

Sure! I'm David Reid, and I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of CCP Games. I've been with the company not quite yet two years; I joined in January 2012 after a fairly interesting period in the company's history, and I'm currently based out of Reykjavik. I moved my family there for a year because now is the time when a lot of big things are happening at CCP. We had the 10th birthday of EVE Online, we had the DUST 514 launch, we have EVE: Valkyrie coming up next year, just a ton of things happening. Felt like it was time to go buckle down at headquarters for a year and really work on stuff there.

Good call. EVE being a complex game, how does that influence your marketing to new players?

Yeah, absolutely, this is a great question. I was four years at Xbox, and at some level your target customer at Xbox is a much wider range of gamers of course, right? And it's a very different value proposition, but the venues of finding these people are much more understood. With EVE, we're proud of the fact that we have a very complex game, and that it's a very difficult one, and it's a very sophisticated one, but that does make it a little trickier to make sure we're finding the right people. We aim more at people who are PC gamers, of course, but what we're also seeing is that there is something happening in the PC gaming community now where it is okay for games to be a little more player driven, a little more complicated, right? I don't just look at things like EVE, but I look at things like League of Legends, and World of Tanks, and I look at Minecraft. I mean, those are groups of people that show a spark of "Ooh, maybe they will evolve and want to become EVE players" As they become more sophisticated, there's only so much complexity that you find in other games; if you've been a big player of a Player versus Player sort of thing, you may want to graduate to EVE.

At the same time, there's also what we need to do on the product side. Part of the job of the marketing team is to drive consumer insight and market intelligence and things into the product development process...not from a perspective of "Let's make all our ships pink so girls will play"; we have to do it with integrity to the brands. It's just where some of the things you're seeing in Rubicon, for example, are part of that discussion of "Don't make EVE easier, but do make it easier to understand." Right? And so this is where like you're seeing your ship tree stuff, and you're like "Whoa, ya know, now I can understand.", like...when you start the game and you're flying your little frigate, you're like "One day, I can go all the way to the end of that chart, and I can be piloting a Titan, but I have an appreciation for what that journey is like and what I will have to do, and it gives me a reason to do my mining and to do my missions and to do my skill trees." It's those sorts of things that are probably fundamentally more important than any particular marketing campaign toward bringing in a new group of players. EVE is an amazing thing because, in a lot of ways, it does market itself. These giant player-driven stories – The Fountain War, Burning Jita, The Battle of Asakai – I mean...most other marketers, I suspect, just look at this with envy of like "Geez, I wish we had these things that just...happened!" We have them, so we have a different challenge we have to solve.

Since it's so player-driven, people bring in their friends in to be a part of the story.

Absolutely. And that, in fact, is really how the game got its first legs, right? This is a funny little story, but basically when EVE first launched, the internet wasn't quite as wide as it is now, and it wasn't quite as easy to find friends online and things. When people started playing the game, they did exactly what you said: they grabbed their friends and, as a result, you had these concentrations in the EVE universe that were geographically based. One of the things that wasn't available at launch was a lot of localization, and so a group of industrious Russian players figured out how to localize the game themselves with a hack. When they did this, they could speak to each other in Cyrillic font, but for everybody else they tried to talk to it...it just came up as a bunch of ASCII code, triangles and gibberish, and thus began the Russian-Scandinavian war! When the Russians couldn't communicate with anybody through verbal means, they communicated through violence, and this was one of the biggest early things that happened in our game.

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