Monday, November 10, 2008

Atari to Bring EVE Online to Retail

Atari has revealed at CCP's EVE Online Fanfest that it is teaming up with the developer to bring the MMO to retail. CCO's VP of Sales talks about the marketing strategy.

by John Gaudiosi on Monday, November 10, 2008

Atari to Bring EVE Online to Retail

Reykjavik, Iceland—At the close of its fifth annual EVE Online Fanfest, CCP Games announced to a crowd of 1,500 players from around the globe that on March 10, 2009 Atari will bring EVE Online to retailers around the globe. The Games for Windows PC DVD-ROM game will sell for between $40 and $50 and include all nine expansions of the science fiction massively multiplayer online (MMO) universe, as well as 60 days of paid subscription Game Time cards (a $30 value).

"The future of gaming is about network-centric gaming online," said David Gardner, CEO of Atari on a taped video shown at the event. "CCP Games has done a great job of building up a subscription base of gamers around the globe. But most consumers today still get exposed to games through retail."

This will mark the second time that EVE Online has gone to retail. The game originally launched in 2003 with Simon & Schuster Interactive distributing the sci-fi MMO, but after six months of slow sales, CCP Games bought back the distribution rights and switched to exclusive online distribution. That's when the game really started to take off.

The game currently has 250,000 paying players around the globe (not including China, which runs on a separate universe and is handled through a partnership with Optic), and over 50,000 players using the free 14-day trial version. The game is currently available through EVEOnline.com and Steam.com.

The entire MMO game can be purchased and downloaded for $20, which includes 30 days of Game Time play (a $15 value). Every new expansion, including this week's Quantum Rising (out November 11), is delivered to gamers free of charge. Magnus Berggson, vice president of sales, CCP Games, said that the time is now right to partner with Atari and bring EVE Online to retail.

"The average age of the Eve Online player – 27 years old – is older than most MMO gamers," said Berggson. "Those types of players don't go to the sites we've been advertising on with banner ads. They go to the store, like myself, and see what's new out there. We're predicting that we'll be reaching a new set of players that we're currently not reaching today with our online efforts."

CCP Games will be working with Microsoft and Nvidia in conjunction with Atari for the retail launch. EVE Online will be certified for Games for Windows by launch. In addition, Berggson said his company will be announcing specific agreements with some of Nvidia's big video card manufacturer partners around launch.

"We like working with partners like IBM, Nvidia and Steam," said Berggson. "It always proves to be more successful when you work with somebody. Nvidia card manufacturers will have specific partnership arrangement programs that they can step into. This effort strengthens our retail offering because we can cross-promote between the cards and the retail version of the game in stores."

CCP Games talked with a number of publishers and ultimately found the best fit with Atari in terms of how that publisher views online gaming and the direction they want to take EVE Online.

"We had the same vision of what we want to do in this online gaming arena," said Bergsson. "As gamers, we love the Atari brand because we grew up with these games. And when we met with the new management, they have a fantastic group of people."

Bergsson said CCP Games has been doing a lot of online banner advertising this year. Next year with retail, they will work with Atari on specific retail marketing.

"We did TV advertising this year as a test and we're looking at possibly doing that next year as well with the retail launch," said Bergsson. "The thing with us is that we track everything to death and TV is hard to track. The problem with TV advertising is you don't know who you're reaching and it's very expensive. Normally a game company spends a lot of money for TV with ads at launch; Eve came out in 2003 so we don't have the luxury of a launch."

Each year, CCP Games releases two major expansions for EVE Online. The fall 2009 expansion will introduce space stations that players will be able to dock their ships at and socialize with other players. As a result, Bergsson said a refresh of the retail copy of EVE Online will be released in time for the 2009 holiday season with this new content on the DVD-ROM.

CCP Games develops EVE Online in Iceland and has marketing and development studios in Atlanta and Shanghai. A team of 300 are dedicated to creating new technology and game expansions for EVE Online in the Iceland studio.

EVE Online is the latest game in Atari's 2009 turnaround effort, which includes releasing Ghostbusters: The Videogame across six consoles as well as Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in the spring. via GameDaily

Jason Kiwaluk

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