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A Titan-class capital ship in the sci-fi massively multiplayer Eve Online is worth about $3,500 in real-world cash. In a battle on Monday, players destroyed over dozens of these expensive vessels.
It started when one of Eve Online’s in-game, player-controlled coalitions failed to pay a bill to another group. When the money didn’t go through, a battle broke out that led to over $300,000 in destroyed ships, according to estimates based on in-game data.
Yes, that’s $300,000 in real-world money. How could a make-believe war lead to the loss of actual cash? Well, because Eve Online has a fully functioning economy because players can exchange in-game currency (known as ISK) for more game time, which has a real value. At the current rate, $1 is worth about 32.5 million ISK.
The Titan ships, which are the largest in the game, take months and billions of ISK to construct, and when one of the player groups loses a Titan, it hurts.
The Eve universe is almost constantly embroiled in war. The N3 and Pandemic (N3PL) partner coalitions are in a continuous struggle with CFC and Russian (CFC/RUS) forces, but both sides usually hesitate to commit their biggest ships to battles due to the risk of losing resources without getting much in return.
In this instance, however, when N3PL missed their protection payment to the computer-controlled police forces to maintain sovereignty over a key part of the universe, it lowered the alliance’s defenses. CFC/RUS took the opportunity to make serious progress in its war efforts.
“Upon seeing that Pandemic Legion and N3 had a smaller capital and supercapital fleet — due to the surprise nature of the fight and it occurring during a Monday work day — CFC and Russian forces decided that it was time to seize the opportunity for a decisive fight,” reads a blog update from Eve Online developer CCP Games. “Unlike nearly every other large-scale supercapital engagement up till this point, both sides thought they could win. They continued trying to get every single pilot into system with the most powerful warships they could bring to bear. After a few hours, the field was being lit up by doomsdays [weapons] and the glittering hulls of hundreds of Titans and Supercarriers and thousands of Dreadnaughts and Carriers and smaller ships.”
CCP provided some specific numbers about the battle:
- The bulk of the fighting lasted 21 hours.
- 7,548 players participated in the battle.
- 75 Titans were lost (which is the most for a single battle in Eve Online history).
- Players lost 11 trillion ISK in ships and resources.
Smaller remnants of the battle continue right now as N3PL struggles to regain full control over the sector. Many agree that N3PL lost the early fight, but the Russian forces lost a huge number of its most important ships and might see repercussions for that down the road as it tries to keep up in the wider war of attrition.
While the financial loss is staggering, it means little to the Eve Online players who are much more concerned with winning.
“The lost momentum in the Soutnern conflict due to the [battle] is a far greater loss than the ISK assets,” N3PL commander Elise Randolph explained in a statement. “Because try as you might, you cannot buy swagger.”