The Imperium has finally done it. Through systematic aggression and alienation against the entirety of the EVE community, The MIttani, Goonswarm, and greater Imperium allies have somehow managed to find themselves in an all versus one war that will, god willing, dwarf any conflict that has happened in EVE Online to date. Years from now, we might be reading of the fall of The Imperium much like we did the fall of Band of Brothers years prior. 1ronBank Sends His Regards.
Understanding how we got here, however, is another thing entirely. If I've learned one thing about EVE Online in the year that I've been writing about it, it's that the string of events that precede these conflicts are never simple to interpret. EVE Online players are famously revisionist, and even The Mittani himself has been accused of rewriting the fall of EVE Online's greatest empire to place him front and center.
What is clear is that this war is a direct result of a large portion of EVE's player-made empires finally having enough of The Imperium and The Mittani. Some of them just want to have fun fighting, but there's a distinct thread of this narrative that reeks of a bitterness towards the way The Mittani and Goonswarm (the major entity within The Imperium) have managed to rebuild the living narrative of EVE to center around them for the past few years.
As I mentioned, nothing in EVE Online is easy to interpret, and often the devil is always in the details. Even worse, those details are, even now, part of a tug of war between The Imperium and its enemy, Money Badger Coalition, as each struggle to put their spin on events. Simply put: History is written by the victor.
Here's what we do know: Last year, resentment towards The Imperium reached and all time high, both due in part to the fact that EVE Online was stagnating in an alarming way and because of their own actions. Player counts were dropping to the lowest they had ever been, and the mechanics of operating an empire in nullsec space were recovering from a series of unpopular changes that the community largely didn't like. But while everyone was struggling to find an excuse to log in, The Imperium was only getting bigger and bigger, expanding outward and forming an impenetrable wall of allies that was also making nullsec a less enjoyable place for many alliances to be. In EVE, chaos is fun, and The Imperium was bringing order.
That schism between The Imperium and the rest of EVE was made even wider when The Mittani launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a book about one of EVE Online's most famous conflicts, The Fountain War. The book would be penned by accomplished military science fiction author Jeff Edwards. Despite a strong opening week, the campaign quickly lost momentum as the community on Reddit's r/eve took to savaging the book and its author, decrying it as an attempt by The Mittani to monetize his adventures in EVE. There might be some ground for those claims, as even the name The Imperium was a clever rebranding of an earlier name, The Clusterfuck Coalition, meant to make Goonswarm and its allies a bit more marketable.
But even as the gap widened between The Imperium and a large portion of the EVE community, it wasn't until recently that things snowballed into what is now being called "World War Bee" (a clever jab at the Goonswarm mascot, the bee). Recently, The Imperium suffered defeat at the hands of an elite group of lowsec alliances, a campaign that quickly spiralled out of The Imperium's control as this relatively small cluster of corporations went from being on defense to aggressively taking the fight to The Imperium. Around that time, one of The Imperium's alliances, SpaceMonkeys Alliance, made the poor decision to level some dramatic claims at I Want ISK, a gambling organization within EVE Online that lets you play slots using your in-game currency. That was a bad move.
I Want ISK could very well be one of the wealthiest entities within EVE, and when The Imperium pissed them off by accusing them of being involved in real-money trading (that is, using real money to buy and sell ISK illegally) I Want ISK took the opportunity to finally take a swing at The Imperium's impenetrable wall of defense. By funding this group of lowsec entities, I Want ISK and one of its main benefactors, 1ronBank, created a precedent that showed the rest of the EVE community that The Imperium weren't invincible. Soon after, other alliances including Pandemic Legion, the ultra-tough space mercenaries, had taken IWI's money to bring the fight to The Imperium.
The war is still in its infancy, and right now there's little guarantee if this will truly shape up to be the earth-shattering conflict that just about everyone hopes it will be. Already The Imperium has suffered some defeats and has even been betrayed by one of its biggest allies Circle of Two. But the Money Badger Coalition (the organization of alliances fighting against The Imperium) are, at this point, a haphazard conglomerate of loose allies united only by their desire to see The Mittani and The Imperium pulled from their self-made throne as the kings of EVE Online. Though early conflicts have been impressive due to the numbers of players showing up, we've yet to see either side risk their supercapital fleets, and so it remains to be seen if we'll get a battle like B-R5RB.
What I'm positive of, however, is that The Imperium have certainly put themselves in quite an interesting position. For years they have been playing the role of the bad guy, pushing the rest of the community around with their impressive weight while asserting their dominance not only over the nullsec region of EVE Online, but the game itself. But that empire could be cracking.
If it does, EVE Online will see a major upset to its political landscape not seen in years. If it doesnt, The Imperium will have proven that they are, indeed, the "winners" of EVE Online. If an entire galaxy of alliances can't bring them down, what can?
Images courtesy of Lord Maldoror.