The game, a science fictional adventure set in a star cluster dominated by five major civilizations, first launched in 2003, and its subscriber base (currently about 400,000) has grown every year since launch. Revenue has been growing too, at a compound annual growth rate of 53 percent, bringing in total revenue of $300 million over the game’s lifetime. As for profits, CCP would only say that it has “very healthy margins” — a claim backed up by the fact that it has grown to more than 450 employees despite only raising $3 million in seed funding.
This might seem like an illustration that traditional online gaming, overshadowed in the media by casual social games like those from Zynga, can still work as a business model. At the same time, CCP’s new CMO David Reid says the company has been excited to embrace new models, in addition to the traditional subscriptions offered by EVE.
CCP has already been experimenting outside the standard subscription model in EVE, by allowing rich subscribers to essentially pay for others to play, in exchange for virtual currency — something that has been used by 40,000 people, the company says. Its next game, DUST 514 is scheduled for release this summer, and will go further in this direction, charging players for in-game items rather than subscriptions or playing time.
That’s not the only ambitious thing about DUST. With its first-person shooter gameplay, this is CCP’s attempt to reach the audience that made franchises like Call of Duty a hit, while also connecting to the EVE universe. Through mechanisms like orbital bombardment, the space-based players in EVE can actually affect the planet-based combat in DUST, and vice versa.
As a result of its plans for DUST, as well as Asian expansion for EVE, CCP says 2012 will be its biggest year yet. In fact, the Icelandic company’s CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson says an IPO is a possibility, though predictably, he wouldn’t commit to anything.
“We want to be ready for an IPO from a policy standpoint,” Petursson says. “We’re quite a substantial company, so we’re thinking, ‘Okay, what is the next step?’”