EVE Online is going back to China! Back in July 2018, Tiancity announced it was parting ways with CCP, with the operation of the Serenity shard ending on 30 September 2018. Due to Chinese law, CCP needed to find a new Chinese partner to continue operating the Chinese servers. On 31 July 2018, CCP announced that Netease would take over the operation of Serenity on 1 October. So far, so good.
The situation became interesting as on 6 September, Pearl Abyss announced its purchase of CCP. The Chinese and South Koreans don't always get along. In a tit-for-tat in August 2018 involving the U.S. announcing the deployment of a THAAD missile battery to South Korea, China stopped issuing licenses for new South Korean mobile games. Needless to say, the reopening of Serenity became tied up in geopolitics.
That ended today, as Crowd Control Productions (CCP) announced that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had finally approved CCP's partnership with Netease to operate Serenity.
March 12, 2020 – Reykjavík, Iceland - CCP Games, the Icelandic creators of the in-depth and uniquely player-driven spacefaring MMO game EVE Online, are pleased to announce that EVE Online has been authorized to operate in the People’s Republic of China, in partnership with publisher and distributor NetEase Games.The inclusion of Iceland's Minister of Industry and Innovation is an interesting development given the Chinese desire to join the race to exploit the mineral wealth at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. Chinese investment has slowly increased over the years.
For close to two decades, EVE Online has brought people together from all over the world into the vast universe of New Eden. Available in China since 2006 and gaining numerous players through its distinctive graphical style and innovative gameplay, EVE Online will soon be open to millions of new and returning Chinese capsuleers taking flight to chart their path forward across the stars.
EVE Online will launch in China soon, with the development teams at NetEase Games and CCP Games currently making final adjustments and optimisations to the game before it goes into Open Beta.
“We are very happy to start the next chapter of our journey with EVE Online in China,” said CCP Games CEO Hilmar V. Pétursson. “It started when we visited ChinaJoy in 2005, showing our game to Chinese gamers for the first time. Since the initial release of EVE Online in China in May 2006 we have been energized by the passion and dedication that Chinese players have shown, inspiring us to embrace all the great developments we have seen both in Chinese science-fiction and Chinese science reality.”
"While China is the biggest nation in the world and Iceland is one of the smallest nations in the world, we have met kindreds spirits and made friends throughout our decades together,” Hilmar continued. “It's with great pride and honor that, together with our friends at NetEase, we bring our spaceship adventure game to the biggest gaming market in the world - the best version of EVE Online we have ever delivered!"
“All of us in Iceland have been following the journey of CCP Games and EVE Online since CCP Games’ foundation here in Reykjavík in 1997", said Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Industry and Innovation. “We are excited to follow this next chapter in EVE’s long history and I want to congratulate CCP Games and NetEase. Partnerships like this one are very important in fostering innovation and sustainable economic growth.”
Chinese investment constituted almost six percent of Iceland’s average gross domestic product for the five years covered by the CNA study [2012-2017]. That investment has created economic dependence on the Chinese while giving China access to Iceland’s politicians, scientific facilities, geothermal energy expertise, and telecommunications infrastructure. Chinese investment accelerated following the 2008 global financial crisis, when Iceland was particularly vulnerable economically.I noted at the time of the sale that Pearl Abyss could have purchased CCP due to China's interest in Iceland economically. That influence could very well have come into play today. We will see if this approval will lead to approval for the mobile version of EVE currently under development by Netease & CCP.
In 2011, Chinese businessman Huang Nubo tried to buy land in northeast Iceland for a golf resort, a dubious venture given Iceland’s climate. Indeed, my interviews with Icelandic officials revealed a worry that the real intent was to build a Chinese-controlled airfield or port. Iceland’s Interior Minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, was subject to tremendous political pressure to allow the deal, according to my interviews. The Icelandic economy needed an injection of capital, and everyone from the prime minister on down saw the real-estate deal as an easy win. Jonasson ultimately rejected the deal because it did not comply with Icelandic law, and he worried about the purchase’s geopolitical implications. (Click here for a more detailed account of his thinking.) Despite this setback, Chinese entities have persisted in their attempts to buy into Iceland’s economy.
Iceland was open to Chinese investment to the point that one of the rationales for Iceland’s 2011 Arctic strategy was to increase cooperation with China, according to my discussion in 2015 with Ossur Skarphedinsson, the foreign minister at the time the strategy was published. According to Skarphedinsson, Chinese investment would help the economy and could be used as geopolitical leverage with the European Union and the United States.
China and Iceland signed a bilateral energy accord in 2012 and a free trade agreement the following year. In 2015, Chinese automaker Geely invested in an Icelandic methane company, and the Chinese government funded a northern lights research facility in 2016. The two countries inked a $250 million deal in 2018 to provide China with geothermal expertise. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, reached a deal with Icelandic mobile phone companies to test 5G technology in February 2019. Because of these investments, Iceland cannot blatantly disregard Chinese preferences without significant economic risk.
Normally, I wouldn't bring up all the geopolitical ramifications when writing about a video game. But I think EVE players might find that political plotting involving the New Eden universe isn't confined to what we see on our computer screens.