The Hidden Cost of Eve Online’s $300,000 Battle at B-R5BR!

On January 27th, a missed rent payment led to the seizure of corporate property.  This sort of thing happens every day; naturally, the landlords were quick to sell to a rival company, while the first lessees were left confused and ready to contest the eviction.  Such a contest involved each corporation dispatching their finest negotiation tools, “legislative” implements of the largest, most  titanic size. As news outlets like Fox News later reported, hundreds of thousands of American dollars were put into play.  The skies above this property seemingly erupted, reinforcements poured in, and chaos ruled for nearly a full day as these two corporations and their allies committed their resources to vaporizing their opponents with massive laser cannons and missiles.

That’s how business is done in Nullsec, anyway; a lawless region of space in the massively multiplayer game EVE Online.

EVE Online?  Three hundred grand?  Kind of…

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m pretty experienced with video games.  From Mario to Grand Theft Auto V, I know how they work.  More to the point, I’m very familiar with MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, strategy games like Utopia and Tribal Wars, and – lately – Kerbal Space Program.  I’ve never played EVE Online myself, but here’s the gist of what happened in the fictional star system B-R5BR:

Eve Online

“Just another day in B-R5BR,” by Reddit user armycadetz.

Two alliances were at war.  The first, PL-N3 made a huge logistical mistake and didn’t pay rent, so their enemy, CFC, moved in to take over the unoccupied base.  The PL-N3 called in reinforcements to try and save the day; the CFC called in their own to win it.  The battle took roughly twenty two hours of real time to complete; to deal with technical issues, EVE actually prevents crashes by slowing game-play down to a pace that their servers can keep up with.  Tremendous numbers of Titan ships, often said to cost thousands of dollars each, laid waste to one another.  It was broadcast live to over ten thousand viewers via Twitch players such as Nick_fuzzeh, while I believe I was introduced to the mayhem by Dobbb’s.  The chaos was pretty much mind-blowing.  When all was told, some very fuzzy math generated the headline that three hundred thousand American dollars were lost.

The biggest problem with this narrative is that the value being thrown around, $300,000, is based on faulty math.  EVE’s subscription model is handled by players buying in-game items called Pilot License Extensions (PLEX).  These in-game items can then be bought and sold for in-game currency, ISK.  Also buy-and-sellable?  The mind-bogglingly huge starships used in the game?  This dollar value being kicked around is a result of converting real money into PLEX, then converting the PLEX into ISK.  PLEX and ISK do not convert back to real dollars, at least not within the realm of the game.  (Yes, nothing stops people from wiring real money into another players’ bank account in exchange for in-game items; this is probably a bad idea, though, and may violate the game’s terms of use).


The Real Cost of EVE Online:  Time

The only thing that harshes the mellow of gamers seeking to drop four grand and jump into EVE is, well, your character wouldn’t know what to do with one if they got it.  It takes months of training a character just to be able to use a Titan.  It takes months more to actually build one in the game world.  That underscores the investment that EVE players undertake – they spend years building characters up, gathering equipment, and waiting for the right time to use them.

Take a look at the video below:


While that video may be relatively short, you can never forget that it has been re-compressed after the time dilation mechanic extended the functional duration of the battle.  Remember, this thing took twenty-two hours.  People called in sick and took off of work to play.  They stayed awake for hours upon hours just to play this game that they have dedicated a huge portion of their lives to.  While the instigating event was probably unpredictable, preparation for something like it had been going on for weeks, at least, as one side or another invaded various star-systems and moved logistical resources across a galaxy.  Thousands of people coordinated for this one show-down.

Nerdy?  Absolutely.  Too much time spent in a game, and not the real world?  I’ve certainly heard that argument before!  But some people live for these kind of things, and if that’s their way of enjoyment, so be it.  Just remember that the media narrative here, suggesting that three hundred thousand dollars were pissed away, is completely wrong.  In December of 2013, EVE’s owners and players raised over $190,000 to send to the Philippines to help alleviate the damage from Typhoon Haiyan.  That’s a battle worth fighting to these players, too.

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