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EVE Spotlight: An interview with Somer Industries


EVE Spotlight is a bi-weekly feature in which we interview prominent members of EVE Online's player community or development team. Every two weeks, we'll be shining the spotlight on a player or developer who has a significant impact on EVE to highlight the efforts of EVE's most influential people.

If there's one thing I've learned about EVE Online's community, it's that every now and then a player will create something unexpected that changes the way many of us play the game. Every time I think everything has already been done in EVE, someone always comes along with something new and innovative to blow away my expectations. Early players will remember the introduction of corporate killboards, for example, which not only changed the way combat was seen in-game but also spawned an entire killboard hosting industry. The introduction of public investment schemes was another such moment, bringing in completely new ways to play the game.

The last emergent innovation from the EVE community to really grab my eye was Somer.Blink, a web-based gambling game contained entirely within EVE Online. Gambling in EVE has been going on for some time with the EOH poker league and similar schemes, but Somer.Blink brought casino-style gambling to the masses. When I first took a look at Somer.Blink, the organisation behind the site was in its infancy and it had yet to break many significant milestones. Having now served over 24 trillion ISK in winnings, the site has transformed its creators Somer Industries from a fledgling corporate venture into one of EVE's true financial giants. Even the theft of over 125 billion ISK in prizes didn't seem to slow down this gambling behemoth, which now generates enough ISK to effect major change in New Eden.

In this EVE Spotlight, I talk to Somer Industries representative Somerset Mahm about how the business got started, where all the ISK generated goes and what the future holds for the corporation.

As a small, private corporation, Somer Industries didn't really have a video to share with us showcasing its achievements. The greatest lesson from the massive success Somer.Blink has enjoyed is probably that a good idea and a lot of determination can get you far in EVE. Every player starts his EVE journey the same way -- a newbie in a flimsy frigate flying amongst powerful veteran players. It's up to each of us to craft our own empire of friends and wealth any way we can. Produced by CCP Games, the video below is perhaps the greatest explanation ever made of how players can rise from nothing to create an empire in the sandbox of New Eden:

Massively: How did you first come up with the idea for integrating a gambling website with EVE, and was it a difficult project to get off the ground?

Somerset Mahm: Before Blink, I had a long history of running lotteries on the EVE forums. These were fun, but they lacked the excitement of real gambling. I took a hard look at the situation and put a lot of market research into best way to bring that kind of "Las Vegas" thrill to EVE gambling. I experimented with a lot of different formats and minigames within my "normal" lotteries, but I still felt dissatisfied. Forum-based lotteries can never have that endorphin-high of having it "all on the line." They're too slow-paced.

The actual first draft of the Blink site was written over a weekend of intense coding, followed by several days of testing from the awesome folks in the "Somer Lotteries" channel. On a humorous note, when I launched Blink, I thought, "I can sell a normal 5 billion ISK lottery in 3 days or so. I'll bet that with work, Blink could do 10 billion ISK per week in business." Now we see hundreds of billions of ISK given away per week!

There are now several competitors out there in the EVE gambling website market -- how have you tried to stay ahead of them?

Ultimately, Blink's true advantage in EVE gambling is that we're not in it just to make a buck off passing customers. We're here to make gambling exciting! We do our best to listen to our customer base and to find new ways to keep building the thrill. When we hit our 1 trillion celebration giveaway in during first month, the big free giveaway that had everyone excited was a single PLEX. Now, just a few months later, we give away free prizes equal to half a dozen PLEX on a daily basis, and we topped our last celebration with a Titan giveaway. We're always trying to find ways to increase the excitement and improve the experience.

Can you tell us a bit about the huge promotional events you've been running and how people can enter them?

Promotional events ("promos" as most people call them) run every day, several times a day, at random times. If you have an account on the site and have played even a little bit, you can enter them for free. Prizes range all the way from pirate frigates to massive goodies like Jump Freighters, Dreadnaughts, and Carriers. If you can name it, we've probably given at least one of it away in our day-to-day business. We give away more free items than any other entity in EVE, whether gambling-related or not. When we hit one of the Blink "milestone celebrations," like last week's, we really amp up the giveaways. In only one day of that celebration, we gave away over 50 billion ISK worth of ships, modules, and PLEX.

Back in November, one of your prize-distributors ran off with 125 billion ISK. Can you tell us a little more about that?

When Blink was new, we were still learning a lot about the best way to keep things secure behind the scenes. Happily, we had the foresight to prepare for that kind of event, and while the theft marked the loss of a person we considered a friend, it didn't in any way disrupt our customers' fun (or prize deliveries). We've since completely reformed our internal methods to make prize delivery not only safer for us but faster for the customers.

We've heard some pretty impressive statistics coming out of Somer Blink. Can you give us any interesting numbers?

As I'm writing this, Blink's ticker reads "Winners have taken home over 23,667,454,819,461 ISK." That's around 24 trillion ISK in less than six months (Blink will be six months old on March 14th). After I finished writing and went back over my responses, I looked at the ticker again and it said "23,690,866,819,711 ISK." We did about 23 billion ISK of business while I was answering your questions! We have over 14,000 accounts registered, most of which are not alts, since we discourage alt use. That's a huge percentage of the active EVE userbase.

We've completed over 238,000 Blink lotteries, with 2,163,958 tickets purchased. Blink has purchased 1,766 Dramiels to send to people as they're one of the most-claimed ships. Players have earned nearly 1 trillion ISK in free achievement awards. In terms of new information, our promo giveaways have totaled over 325 billion ISK of prizes, completely for free. That's a figure we've never publicly released before.

With the amount of ISK you're producing, you could effect major political change in EVE. Have you ever done anything like this?

We honestly do our best to roll any profits back into giveaways and events that rewards the players who got us here, keeping the excitement and fun high for both us and them. We'll leave politics to the politicians.

Does Somer Industries ever plough ISK into schemes to help new players or otherwise give back to the EVE community?

We try to stay fairly low-key about our donations, but we have involved ourselves in a few charitable events. As far as I know, we're responsible for EVE University's largest single donation. We also established a fund at Agony PVP University to allow pilots who can't afford the cost of their classes to attend for free. In addition, we have sponsored various events and tournaments with one-time donations of both cash and product.

What does the future hold for Somer Industries? Are there any new projects on the horizon?

We have several exciting things in development, so always stay tuned. Some of them will even be of interest to the non-gambling EVE players! Whatever we come up with, it will have our novel spin on it.

Is there anything you'd like to get the word out there on that wasn't covered in the interview?

What we'd really love more than anything is for EVE players who haven't given Blink a try yet to come check it out. We've arranged a special promotion just for the awesome readers on Massively. Sign up for a Blink account using the promo code "Massive Fun" and get a free 2,000,000 ISK to try the service out with!

Thanks for interviewing with us!

Thanks for having us.

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