Monday, 4 May 2015

Viva la Bugs!

It was cool to take advantage of the bug in the SKIN system and paint up Sarum Machariels and the like. Police Domis look fucking cool.

Of course, this broke CCP's business model for commoditising the SKIN sales to make money from space-rich nerds who want to customise their space pixels and make them look sexy...and then fight zoomed out so everyone's just a collection of little boxes (or, soon, various sized red or white or blue little triangles, of various sizes).

The thing is, this bug in the SKIN system has doubtless done a hell of a lot more to promote the SKINs and generate buzz and interest in re-skinning and customising your ships than any marketing buzz CCP could have ever come up with. Ever.

Sure, Police Comets are kind of fun. But the Police Domi, or Police Tempest, they look fantastic and awesome and none of this was intended, and suddenly if I could buy a SKIN (or since i already have it, just apply it) and use it on whichever ship i wanted, then I would do that. I would save my pennies if not dual-training my alt into a gank dread for nullsec carrier killing, or dual-training my other alt to be a probe alt spy, I would totally blow a billion a month on SKINs.

However, CCP has put the kibosh on the fun, and that's understandable. However, it raises a question about whether there's alternative business models for SKIN sales and usage, which will be more lucrative for CCP.

Under the current SKIN system, you buy a SKIN for a specific ship for an account or character. If you have a Khanid Oracle, you have a Khanid Oracle. Job done, US$15 for CCP, Hilmar gets to put some fuel in his super yacht this week.

However, what if you had a Providence, and liked it when the bug allowed you to make a Khanid Providence? Shit out of luck, you might get a Roden Providence. Or, wait, bad example: what if you have any fucking Minmatar ship whatsoever, and want it to look badass, and don't fly the Hurricane so you can get a badass Sebiestor SKIN? Shit out of luck, even though the Roden Cyclone was blind as fuck and I want one.

CCP loses $15 from me (via hook or crook or PLEX or Aurum traded to me for ISK won from belt rats) because I won't be buying any Minmatar SKINs. I also won't be buying Quafe or Police Pursuit skins for my Cyclone, now. So CCP is losing out on $15 that way.

So, CCP has to consider that they might make more money by taking their SKIN system business model and evaluating the likelihood that people will actually buy more SKINs if they can apply them to more ships.

Sure there should be limits. Some SKINs don't transfer over well from ship to ship; they can be blocked out. Or maybe restrict the SKIN to a ship until it's death or repackaging, or lock it to a hull on application for a month or something, to prevent churning. Whatever.

I think that this bug has really shown us that people are incredibly interested in making their ships look cool - more interested than first imagined. I certainly find myself more interested in customising Minmatar ships with Amarr, Gallente and Caldari colours than with the selection of naff ones available. This also shows that what's cool to one person (say, a CCP art designer) is not cool to everyone else (c.f. the Justice Edition Naglfar) but if you think it's cool, you're likely to buy the SKIN and apply it to whatever you think it looks cool on, and voila, CCP makes money.

So the business model needs a rethink. I think that with some tweaks, not nerfs, CCP stands to make a lot more money, and have vastly more satisfied customers, than under the rigid, locked-down system they put about initially. Viva la bugs!

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