EvE: Monetizing the creative player

I regularly stumble across decisions which I don’t understand the reasoning for and only can acknowledge with a facepalm (emoticon: “m(” ). In fact, in the last two years, this happened kind of often. I’ve developed some kind of gallows humor to deal with it, but bad decisions are still bad. My personal facepalm of the day was sponsored by CCP.


CCP prides themselves for having one of the most creative game community. In fact, the available offerings of applications and services around EvE Online as a game is quite astonishing. A lot of things have counterparts in WoW, too. For example, in WoW, I have a few third party tools, which I’d call “essential for the game” as a raider and partially as a guild officer. In my case, these includes DBM, Recount (mainly for seeing why people died), my RaidTracker for tracking loot, Grid and Bartender. Those were there for a long time and I couldn’t play the game the same as I do now without them. Granted, Blizzard acknowledged that their game interface is/was flawed in multiple parts and started to adapt popular addons into the game client (the new raid unit frames are a basic copy of Grid). You will find such game essential tools also for EvE Online, although not in the form of ingame addons but external programs. Even as a total newbie, I’m already dependent on EvEMon for skill planing and EFT for testing ship fittings before buying them. I couldn’t play EvE the way I do now without them.

Additionally, there are also a lot of additional services. What may be the web based DKP-System for a WoW guild is the killboard for an EvE Corp. And there are a lot of information portals and news sites for both games, most of them are financed by ads. The available services for EvE go a bit further with examples like EvE Online Hold’em for spending in-game money or EvE News24 as a side for news about ingame events. WoW don’t have any counterparts for services like that. I think the main reasons for that is, that EvE is a sandbox based game and additionally, the WoW community is heavily divided on a lot of different servers, which makes the possible target audience rather small.

CCP themselves acknowledged these creative services and prides themselves with it. They are encouraging them and have created a few dev blogs for promoting these services. (Found here, here, here, and here). AFAIK, as long as you don’t charge real money for your services and not violating the EULA and TOS, you have relatively free hands on creating something around, for or in EvE. Then, very few developers asked for a way to charge money for their applications. They were willing to pay some kind of licence fee in order to do so. Nothing wrong with that, why not give some guys the opportunity to make some money and let them pay money for it, as long as anything that is free stays free.  There are WoW related services that charge their users. An example would be the WowStead-project of Curse.com. I don’t see a problem with that. Well, so much for the theory. Then, out of thin air, a certain dev blog arrived…

Facepalm and Rage

Incoming what looks like a new CCP revenue stream. Or something written by a bunch of ignorant “biz devs”.

If you read this far, you are probably interested in this whole post. So please, read the dev blog first. Please be aware, that the green parts were added later.

Have you read it? Good, read it again. And maybe a third time. Just to make sure, that you get the whole scale.

So, now you know this dev blog so lets tear it apart a bit.

Starting this summer you will be able to charge people for usage of your applications, websites and services for EVE Online.

The initial announcement. As I mentioned above, I don’t have something against other people who develop something and want a bit of money back for it. There are environments, that simply demand money in order to actually work out (for example, developing for the Apple iOS platform or putting apps into the Apple or MS store thingy). What should attract attention is the part “applications, websites and services for EVE Online”. The list of things this should apply is very vast and in the current way includes almost everything that is created by players around EvE. Not just some application for platform X, but also a websites (e.g. EvE News) or ‘service’ (and that list is quite large…). So, looking at the worst case, some lawyer might interprets that as “everything that has to do with EvE or that functions in EvE”. So, what are CCP plans for it?

* Inexpensive – $99 per year, no other fees
* Open-ended – You can charge subscription fees, receive donations, sell your app in an app-store and more
* Non-commercial websites and apps will now require a (free) license.

This is the part, where it start to go wrong. First off, I don’t see the issue with having a yearly 99$ fee for developing a commercial product. I don’t see the issue that non-commercial products have to apply for a free license. The point that made me raising my eyebrow was that open-ended-line: “(…) receive donations (…) and more”. This looked like accepting donations is a commercial use. Really? This has to be some kind of misunderstanding. Well – the Q&A section of this post was getting quite clear on that:

Q: Will corporation and alliance websites require a commercial license?
A: No, private websites do not need a license. However, if you have an external facing part of the website that uses the EVE IP you will require a non-commercial or a commercial license, depending on your use.

Q: Will services for in-game currency require a commercial license?
A: Yes, if you require any sort of payment for your services you will need a commercial license.

Q: Will website ads require a commercial license?
A: Yes, for ad-supported websites you will require a commercial license.

Q: Will donations require a commercial license?
A: Yes, for donation supported websites you will require a commercial license.

The first question adds “EVE IP (=Intellectual Property)” to the list. So this isn’t the “worst case lawyer definition” anymore but the CCP definition of what parts this effects. Furthermore it defines in-game currency accepting, ad financed and donation accepting projects of any kind as commercial. WTF? Not just only it puts popular projects like EVEMon, EVE-Central, EVE-Search, EFT, etc. under the “99$ yearly”-licence, but also anything that uses EVE IP with ads, donations and in-game currency. Like the before mentioned EVE News (=EVE IP with Ads), EOH (=playing poker paid with in-game currency), the EVE-designed corp page that has the Shattered Crystal link on it for paying parts of the hosting cost (=EVE IP with Ads). Really? That’s like hosting a WoW-themed DKP-System which displays ads for years and now suddenly Blizzard comes around and says “Hey, nice WoW IP themed site. Now pay us 99$ each year, please”. Has anyone but the so called “biz devs” thought this through?

Unsurprisingly (well, at least for any non CCP employee), this created a big threadnought of… despise and hate. There is no other way to describe it. And after CCP themselves have praised their “creative players” for so long and now suddenly asking for a licence fee, the hate seems justified. Also unsurprisingly, the backpedaling began just three hours later in this “clarification” forum post. These are basically the added parts that were added to the dev blog. The green text parts, you might remember. Lets examine this:

1) The blog represents the first draft of what our bizdev department is thinking of in terms of the license agreement. We published it to get feedback from you guys. This is not the final word on the matter and we want to build this service up with you so that it’s fair and empowers you to build these applications and services which better the game.

So yes, nobody but the “biz devs” have thought this through. So, there might be one possible explanation how this post was created in the first place. It might have happened like this: “Hey, biz devs guys. A dude said at Fanfest that he would like to pay for a licence for developing a third party thingy around EvE Online. Can you make the licence stuff up, please? – Third party thingy? Don’t know what you’re talking about, but sure, can do. We’ll give you a dev blog when we are finished. – Ok.”. Weeks later: Suddenly a dev blog.

2) Regarding this clause:
Q: Will services for in-game currency require a commercial license?
A: Yes, if you require any sort of payment for your services you will need a commercial license.

I’ve spoken to Biz Dev and this is something that might be revised, possibly to exclude ISK payments. I’ll let you know as soon as I know more.

3) This project is not about CCP making money. Whether we charge $100 or $50 or $10 for a commercial license won’t make a big difference to our balance sheet. $99 is the lowest that we estimated that we could reasonably go and still justify the cost of the service. If this is too high for app developers, this is something that could possibly be revisited.

4) Nothing is set in stone. We’re willing to reconsider anything you deem unfair about the program. Donation and ad supported ventures is a tricky thing to allow without any sort of a commercial license though and that’s a legal slippery slope. Whether that license needs to be $99 per year is something we might reconsider.

So, the biz dev guys “might possibly” exclude in-game currency stuff. But not donations or ads. All of the sudden, after years of encouragement, this is “a tricky thing”? And if it is not about the money and doesn’t make any difference if they “charge $100 or $50 or $10 for a commercial license”, why the hell don’t they charge 10$? Or 1$? Or nothing? The non-commercial licence is a free licence after all, isn’t it? So there is a way for a low or zero fee licence. This backpedal post is thought through even less than the initial dev blog.

So, unsurprisingly the threadnought went on, reaching 32 pages in less than a day. It seemed, that CCP then had to draw the “This is all a misunderstanding because of confusing wording. This wasn’t meant that way. We would change it know, but we are busy with <stuff>. We’ll post something new in summer. Can you please forget this now?”-card. m(. Well, using a quote from Revy of the Black Lagoon: “Misunderstanding my ass.” I think the original dev blog with the Q&A section and the “clarification additions” were quite clear. I certainly hope that this post wasn’t meant the way it is written. The sad thing is, that it made its way into public in its current state in the first place. So, then it’s a basic situation of “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand does”. This situation clarifies even more, if you take a look at the following post:

(…) So for example EveMON could continue on as if nothing happened.. (…)

This is correct. (…)

Let me reiterate:

Q: Will services for in-game currency require a commercial license?
A: Yes, if you require any sort of payment for your services you will need a commercial license.

Q: Will donations require a commercial license?
A: Yes, for donation supported websites you will require a commercial license.

EVEMon - Donations accepted.

Any questions?

Why the hell are you raging about that?

Two reasons.

  1. I like the game, but I’m able to recognize that I’m dependent on multiple 3rd party tools, applications, websites, etc. I’m able to see that all those tools weren’t created if the “licence” as mentioned above was there from the beginning. I also think that a lot of those tools will cease to exist, if they start their licence scheme the way it was presented the first time.
  2. I played around a bit with the EvE database export, which is provided by CCP for 3rd party developer (go figure). I have some ideas floating around, that I’d like to code, if I have the time. Yes, I tend to put a “If you like my stuff, feel free to donate cash or ISK”-line on it. Paying just for the ‘right’ to put a ‘donation are accepted’ message there shall cost me something? And then 99$ a year?

I’m working on MRT now for about 1,5 years, which in turn gave me a whooping 30€ out of donations and CurseForge reward points. I’m currently in the situation that I don’t have to pay for hosting and other stuff (like my GIT repository), but this will certainly change at some point in the future. I’m pretty sure, the 30€ won’t pay the hosting cost of 1,5 years, so I’m not commercial by any means. And the option to express that I would accept donations should cost me extra money? m(.


Searching a TL;DR version? Then check out the Sleepless in Space blog of Shadai, who wrote a much more summarized post about the same topic.

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