Eve Online is unlike most massively multiplayer environments I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a few, having made the study of them and the people who inhabit them a focus of my scientific career — what exists of it. Eve is certainly unique in it’s theme, in it’s gameplay, in it’s execution and in it’s ambition. I have first encountered it in late 2006, and kept playing on and off since, observing the goings on — sometimes with the bright excitement of a footbal fan, and sometimes with morbid amusement of watching a train wreck in slow motion. Often both. It is fascinating to watch and talk about even more than it’s fascinating to play. But allow me to make a prediction.
Well, I’m making it anyway, whether you allow me or not.
Eve Online has about five years left to live at most.
"Ah," you will say, "Another one of those."
Well, both yes and no. I’m certainly not unsubscribing, and you can’t have my stuff. I want to watch it to the end. My intuition tells me this is going to happen, I can tell you how it’s going to happen, and my predictions of this nature are typically correct about 50% of the time. It’s not dying per se, not yet, and it will be quite a while before it even starts, but the writing is on the wall already, and the moment when it will become inevitable is not too far off.
I’d love to be wrong, but if I can’t be wrong, I’d prefer to at least be able to say "I told you so." — even though I hate saying that, it’s better than having stayed silent.
Typically, it takes many years, sometimes decades, for a virtual world to actually die, as in closing down. Commercially, the costs of keeping it running are relatively low, and easily offset by subscriptions and other fees it can obtain. Development of new content or features is the real money sink, and is typically the first to go, and from that point on, the world slowly dwindles in a downward spiral, as less and less new users come in, while more and more old hardcore users leave for good, enticed by something else. Eventually, lack of development leaves the world forever out of date, irreversibly overshadowed by newer competition, but that by itself is not enough to kill it off either. Usually, the management has to decide that it’s time to put the world out of its misery by fiat. It’s painful to watch, but over the years I’ve seen it numerous times.
Unlike your typical virtual world, Eve Online is also rare for being in position to spectacularly implode while it’s still popular and famous, which makes this expected event all the more interesting. In the ongoing posts I shall describe what the problems are, and possibly, what can be done about them, trying to give all the issues as fair a treatment as possible.
I don’t have any horses in this race. I’m not really trying to influence anyone. I’m aware I might be biased or simply wrong, but like I told someone else before, "You don’t have to trust me. I’m not asking you to do anything." What you think about what I have to say is entirely your problem.
If anyone just starts thinking seriously about these things, without jumping to conclusions, that’ll make writing this worthwhile.