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The impact of Eve Online’s Band of Brothers coup

By on March 12, 2009

I know this happened over a month ago, but I’ve been trying to think about its implications.

Band of Brothers, one of the biggest alliances in the Eve Online universe, was destroyed by arch-rivals GoonSwarm by the oldest trick in the book: the defector.

The defector, who was a high level member of BoB, stole assets and capital ships, kicked out the corporations that made up the alliance, and left BoB’s territories open for attack. The animated gif below shows the consequences. 

CCP let the event stand despited its unprecedented nature. There is further detail in an official news story from Eve Online  and on Destructoid.

The extent of the destruction is clear; the real world value of it less so. Destructoid estimates that $4,500 of cash and capital ships may have been taken, plus capital ships under construction that would have been lost when the sovereignty was forfeited. Each one could have been worth over $5,000.

So not only is it “griefing on a massive scale”, it’s a real financial loss to people who have put months or years into the game.

CCP has become well known for allowing players to do whatever they want within the rules of the game, and to use the Eve universe to explore a whole range of economic and behaviour theories. Financial malpractice, infiltration and distrust are all part of the game universe.

But it left me wondering the implications of this.

The first one is that it says to me that Eve Online will always be a niche game. A hugely popular, highly-profitable niche game to be sure, but one that can never hit a mass-market. For players trying to escape the daily realities of a credit-crunched world, online deception, treachery and outright theft of money and ships built from months or years of work is a poor alternative.

The second is that as the value of Eve Online’s world increases, and players have virtual assets with real world value, they will get progressively more frustrated if those assets get stolen. Possibly even frustrated enough to sue CCP. I hope that their terms and conditions are clear that CCP confers no right of ownership to any of these ‘in-game assets with real-world monetary values’.

The final one is a warning to other MMO developers. If your game world allows for theft and treachery on such a massive scale, you better make sure that your community is aware of it. CCP was clear but if they had not been, the screams of the players who logged in to find their virtual world destroyed could have been heard even in Iceland.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: