I don't pretend to understand the culture of EVE Online, but when a fiasco gets a Downfall-meme video, that's a kind of visual Esperanto for "this shit is officially f—ked".
Our inboxes have been exploding with reports that EVE's culture is on the verge of collapse over publisher CCP's decision to sell microtransaction items at macrotransaction prices, with "literal" rioting (pictured) taking place in the game.
EVE, the science-fiction MMO, prides itself on being more than a game, and when pirate raids destroy actual real-world goods, and virtual bank heists pay off in actual currency, it's a legitimate claim. Now comes word that thousands of EVE players are demonstrating in the game's two main trading hubs, angered by CCP's opening of a vanity-item marketplace whose prices are (and whose merch is) truly insane.
"At the main trading hubs of Jita and Amarr, people in their thousands, (seriously, thousands) [are]firing upon a memorial statue in rage, locking down the trade hubs and crippling the in-game economy," writes one EVE-playing Kotaku reader, who supplied that picture above. " I can't help looking at this like a virtual geek version of the 'Arab spring' of late."
Sounds a bit extreme, but to many, the sale of $US68 monocles, however ridiculous, portends a "pay-to-win" model in which virtual items with real in-game applications are put up for sale.
As with any community riot, there are allegations of bannings, forum censorship, human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria, etc. This probably is to be expected when a CCP internal newsletter debating microtransactions, entitled "Greed is Good?", is leaked to the public. (CCP is definitely upset over this, telling the community it was an internal document sent for purposes of debate, and lamenting that so much hatred has been directed at those whose names are on it. "Seriously, these people were doing their jobs and do not deserve the hate and shitstorm being pointed at them.")
Like so many things in capitalism, this comes down to growth versus sustainability. EVE's community - so dedicated it has a frigging parliament that meets in Iceland - has invested millions of hours of time in making it "more than a game", and also a virtual environment with its own government, economy and justice. EVE's maker is, like all video game publishers, a for-profit business, and it doesn't matter who it is or how much goodwill they have, that means one thing and one thing only: make more money this year than last year.
It's disillusioning for EVE players to discover that; it's painful for CCP to have it laid bare. But at least both sides understand each other perfectly now.