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When you lose $300,000 on a video game

A screenshot of a portion of the battle last week in EVE Online, the most costly in the game's 10 year history.

A screenshot of an overview of the battle that took place last week in EVE Online.

A screenshot of the battle in EVE Online with the user interface enabled. Each red and orange dot represents a player's ship or drone.

If you know about Massively Multiplayer Online Games, you know that as a player, you can spend both fake and real money to develop your character and amass stuff. And in certain situations, you can lose the stuff you spend all that real and fake money on.

Eve Online is the largest science fiction game like this. And recently, there was a giant space war over territory in the game. And it cost some players a lot of real money. A few other terms you should know; some of the biggest space ships in this game are called "titans." And you'll see references to the N3 coalition, which was on the losing side of the war.

For an inside view, we spoke with Alex Gianturco who is a kind of powerplayer in Eve Online and was one of the leaders on the winning side of the battle. Click play on the audio player above to hear to the whole interview.


For a summary of the battle itself, read the official report from the game's developer, CCP Games. The short version is that a player faction forgot to pay the virtual rent on a territory they controlled, which temporarily lost them their hold on the area, which had some strategic value for moving ships around, but more importantly housed a space station storing a wealth of valuable ships and resources. A rival player faction quickly swooped in to gain control of the territory, and both sides continued to escalate the battle until it raged out of control over the course of about 12 hours. Some hightlights:

  • Over 2,000 individual players directly took part in the battle, with thousands more helping in the background.
  • 75 Titans -- the game's largest and most expensive ships -- were destroyed. Each is estimated to be worth around $5,000 in real world currency.
  • While it was the most costly battle with over $300,000 in virtual goods destroyed, it wasn't actually the largest battle in the game's history. Another battle last year involved more than 4,000 players directly fighting.

You can also watch a video summary of the battle here.

Something to keep in mind: The figures referring to how much real money was lost in EVE Online can be misleading, as players did not actually invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into the game (though they may have spent some cash on the ships), and the in-game currency cannot be legally exported to real-world money, as the game's developer could be subject to financial regulations if that were the case. The numbers are instead based on a calculation that accounts for the fact that the in-game currency can be converted into credits for the game's monthly subscription, which does cost real money. Losing tons of resources in EVE Online can be devastating, but usually only within the power struggles of the game community itself. 

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

A screenshot of an overview of the battle that took place last week in EVE Online.

A screenshot of the battle in EVE Online with the user interface enabled. Each red and orange dot represents a player's ship or drone.

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