To thank them for running “one of the most awesome community sites we have" CCP Navigator apparently furnished SOMER Blink’s employees with approximately thirty of the special edition Scorpions Ishukone Watch this August.
In a leaked Evemail dated August 20 2013, Autumnries Mahm announces that they will be providing CCP with a list of employees “and each one will be receiving an Ishukone Watch Scorpion of their own, direct from CCP. I don't know exactly how they appear, I think they will go to your redemption system.” Autumnries Mahm is an alt of Somerset Mahm, who own and runs SOMER Blink. The revelation comes from a player who claims that as a SOMER Blink employee they were a recipient of one of the ships.
SOMER Blink is a player-run gambling site, featuring micro lotteries where players buy tickets for a chance to win valuable ships and other in-game assets. The tickets are bought with ISK that players have deposited in the system either directly, or as a result of bonuses that SOMER Blink offers to players who purchase EVE Game Time Codes through SOMER Blink’s affiliate program. By all accounts, a massive amount of ISK has passed through the system, with the site recently celebrating 1 quadrillion in ISK prizes won by players.
In an email exchange with TMC staff, SOMER Blink second in command Andrev Nox seems to confirm that the leaked mail is real. “CCP has been using the Ishukone Scorpions for community site rewards and ingame event giveaways for a while now, with Blink being neither the first nor the last in that program,“ he writes.
The special edition battleships are not available to manufacture and are rarely given out by CCP. Eighty-one were given away at FanFest as part of the Charity Poker Tournament and PvP Tournament and added to the game as part of the Odyssey expansion. Another was given out as part of a role-playing event and SOMER Blink was given ten to use as rewards. To date, there have been no other public giveaways of the ship, meaning that SOMER Blink employees' private rewards may account for a quarter of the Scorpions Ishukone Watch in the game. The ships tend to sell for 10-20 billion ISK meaning that the gift was worth 300-600 billion ISK.
The revelations come on the heels of another controversy surrounding SOMER Blink’s close relationship with CCP. In September, CCP announced and then walked back plans to reintroduce the Golden Magnate ship to the game via a giveaway on SOMER Blink’s site. Previously, only one Golden Magnate had ever been created (it was subsequently destroyed). They similarly had to cancel plans to offer new Guardian Vexors, another limited edition ship rarely seen in game.
To date, CCP has not responded to a request for comment. This revelation took place on a Friday evening, and neither of the CCP PR staff we contacted have been able to reply. The CSM has also not yet responded to a request for comment. We will update when they do. We have been unable to confirm Nox's claim that other community sites have also been recipients of Ishukune Scorpions.
CCP’s uneasy relationship with the line between engaging with the playerbase and offering unfair favouritism is well known. While CCP has offered perks like free advertising to groups like E-Uni or RvB and free fan accounts to official fansites, the size of this gift is unprecedented - so far as we know.
In light of that, perhaps the most troubling aspect of this SOMER Blink evemail is the call for secrecy on the part of the lucky recipients.
“Please do not immediately run to the forums and WTS the ship, 30 of them appearing all at once would be weird,” writes Mahm, “This is a really unique thing CCP is doing that doesn't directly map to anything they have done in the past, and we don't want to mess up that future relationship-- Navigator has already offered to help promote our events in the future.”
Approximately one month later, the controversy over the Vegas giveaways erupted.
Update: CCP Manifest has gotten back to us with an official comment:
We did end up giving Ishukone Ships away to SOMER's people as a "thanks" (as per the email) in a similar manner to our previous issuances of the ship. It's always been meant to be a promo item--for awards, rewards, charity-based efforts, promo items and more. The IshScorp was never meant to be limited at all or "capped" at a certain number--hence why it only refines for 1 Trit and is worse gameplay-wise than the normal Scorpion. There will be more given out in the future by the comm team and others (I will likely give out some some via social and through PR) and I am sure the price will go down--kinda like the pirate noobie frigs we gave out at events.
The core of the controversy does not appear to be the value of the IshScorp itself - it is an inferior ship statistically - but the nonpublic nature of the giveaways.