Community Spotlight: Markee Dragon
The EVE community is wide and varied. There are people who make amazing tools, help out new players, produce awesome videos, and more. There are even people who have surprisingly made a living out of working with the EVE Community. No, we don't mean the Community Team! We mean someone whom, if you've ever purchased an EVE Time Code, you quite possibly have dealt with.
Having sold over 1 million EVE Time codes, Markee Dragon has kept players subscribed to EVE Online for hundreds of thousands of man-years. In addition to keeping players playing, his affiliate program is utilized by a number fansites to make a little real world money on the side and pay for their hosting and other overhead.
The Birth of a Business
Back in the primordial era of MMOs, when Ultima Online was kind and the abbreviation “RMT” hadn't even been conceived of, Markee Dragon discovered a market inefficiency with game time codes. Selling in-game currency and items for real world money was considered legal back in UO's early days (though don't ever try this in EVE unless you want a visit from our wonderful Security Team!), and Markee Dragon realized he could trade a UO game time code for gold and then resell the gold for approximately twice the cost of the time code.
A business was born! When EVE Online came around, Markee Dragon tried it out, but couldn't quite get the hang of it. But perhaps recognizing its potential, he added EVE Time Codes to his store. While he couldn't utilize the model of selling them for ISK and then selling the ISK (which is a violation of the EULA), he focused on the electronic and digital distribution of the time codes. To his surprise, he discovered the codes were very popular.
At the time, ETCs were available only physically, so he had to purchase the codes, have them shipped from Iceland, and manually scratch off each code and type it in by hand. Eventually the number of orders became so large he became an official reseller of ETCs, supported and sanctioned directly by CCP.
Affiliates and Fansites
As the EVE Time Code business grew, Markee Dragon started to realize that EVE fansites were plentiful. But he wondered, “How are these sites supporting themselves?” He looked into it and discovered most of the sites were supporting themselves through their owners' own pockets. Markee Dragon saw an opportunity for mutual benefit, so he contacted some of the sites with an offer. Markee Dragon would sponsor the sites in exchange for them linking back to his company for ETC sales.
This initially worked out quite well. The fansites were happy to have their costs at least partially covered, while Markee Dragon received advertising and traffic. But he wanted to take the idea even further. So he developed a full affiliate system allowing the fansites to send customers to Markee Dragon, who would then compensate the fansite owner directly for each sale. The bigger the site, the higher their operating costs, but also the more players they sent to Markee Dragon for their ETCs. Some corp leaders and fansite owners were actually able to make a full living supporting EVE through Markee Dragon's affiliate program.
Markee Dragon isn't sure exactly when they began turning a profit on their affiliate program. However, the formula proved to be spot on and they grew spectacularly. They were growing so fast they found they could not hire people fast enough. Sales were more than doubling each month and they could not keep up. They actually had to limit the number of new costumers they were willing to take to try and cap their growth. Any higher than that and they were unable to provide quality customer support.
30 Day Challenge
Of course, all the passion from the community eventually got to Markee Dragon again. He had tried EVE Online before, but always felt it was so complex that he failed at it. Then he accepted the EVE 30 Day Challenge. He dedicated himself to learning as much as he could about EVE within 30 days and become the best capsuleer he could. Somer BLINK helped sponsor the event, while CCP did promotion. Best of all, he documented the entire process in a series of videos.
He anticipated about 20 people would show up to his first event. Instead, 500 people wanted to fly alongside him.
While the flooring amount of support from the community was, as he described it, insane, he somehow managed to figure things out. Over the 30 days he learned many things about EVE. He learned it required teamwork and is the most complex MMO out there. But he also learned EVE players can be a generous sort.
The Air Hogs corporation took the fledgling pilot under their wings. Though they were a merchant corp that did not seek out conflict, they quickly found themselves and their high-profile rookie the target of numerous war decs. In order to complete his challenge, Markee Dragon found himself and his rookie ship under protection from helpful corp mates. It cost Air Hogs billions of ISK to replace ships and hire help to defend them. But the dedication spoke volumes to Markee Dragon about what the EVE community can do when it works together.
Several days into the challenge, Markee Dragon made a comment that his bounty was starting to get big, sitting at 2 billion. He quickly found out that was a mistake, as his bounty soon ballooned to over 60 billion courtesy of a pilot named “Anonymous Bounty Guy” (if that is his real name)! He is convinced Somer BLINK was behind the bounty, despite vigorous denials.
He had a wonderful time doing the 30 day challenge, though his favorite moment is one many EVE players have experienced at one time or another; the Drunk Roam. For the second half of his 30th day in EVE, Markee Dragon scheduled a drunk roam of his own. He had ten people on camera and another hundred in his fleet enjoying some adult beverages and flying. Deciding that a Drunk Roam might not be the best time to fly their faction-fit pirate ships, they loaded into noob ships and swarmed anything they saw.
They got a few very big kills and a lot of drinks. The videos from the 30 Day Challenge are still being released daily, with the 30th day (Drunken Roam included) still waiting to be released!
Markee Dragon has found that he loves EVE and the community. He considers EVE players to collectively be the best anywhere. He has found them a little more mature and smarter than the average gamer! He has been with the game professionally for 10 years now. Now that he's gotten involved successfully in playing the game, he's eager for the next 10 years and is going to do whatever possible to see it through!