Friday, February 24, 2023

EVE Online One Year After The Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

A year has passed since Russian military forces crossed the border into Ukraine, turning a low-level conflict that began in 2014 into Europe's first major war since the end of World War 2. The effects of the war are not confined to the borders of Ukraine. Like in EVE Online, the effects of war ripple throughout the world. With today marking the beginning of the second year of the escalation, I thought I'd look back at how the war affected one of my refuges from the real world, EVE Online.

Right off the bat, the average player count online plunged from around 21,000 players down to around 18,000. Back when CCP released subscriber numbers, we knew Russians and other citizens of CIS states made up approximately 10% of the player base. Between Russian cyber-attacks on Ukraine's access to the internet and the disconnection of Russia from SWIFT, EVE players in the conflict zone were prevented from playing the game. Add in the inevitable losses from players conscripted to fight, those who fled as refugees, and those killed, and the single shard game was affected greatly.

EVE players tried to help those affected by the fighting. In a PLEX for Good campaign, players and CCP combined to raise $501,652 for Ukrainian war relief efforts. The money was donated to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the National Bank of Ukraine Humanitarian Assistance campaign.

Back when people thought the fighting would last a very short time, EVE players tried to save the positions of Russian and Ukrainian alliances in null sec. But as EVE players know, headshots like the one attempted by Russia on Kyiv rarely work. As time passed, so did the truce. But at least the Russians and Ukrainians in the game had a chance to recover.

But the war didn't just affect Russia. Sanctions on Russia affected the European Union's access to Russian energy, particularly natural gas. Overall, the Eurozone suffered 8.6% year-over-year inflation from January 2022 to January 2023, led by increased energy prices.

Increased energy costs came at a bad time for CCP, who had already committed to increasing the subscription price by a third in May 2022. So at a time when inflation was eating into players' disposable incomes, CCP increased prices.

CCP also faced a challenge as the two main currencies used by EVE's European base, the euro and the British pound, plunged in value against the U.S. dollar. CCP conducts all of its financing in the dollar, converting other currencies into dollars as soon as CCP receives payment. The United States is considered a safe haven in times of trouble, and with Russia doing relatively well militarily in Ukraine, the revenue from Europe went down just due to the changing currency exchange rates.

While I normally see an improving US economy and the Federal Reserves easing of interest rate increases as reasons for the recovery of the European currencies, I can't help but notice the bottom of the decline occurred on 28 September, when Ukraine's gains from its Kharkov counter-offensive looked to be long-lasting.

Finally, as further evidence of the rapid decline of players due to the Russian invasion, a look at CCP's game revenue is in order. While the chart above includes EVE: Echoes, CCP suffered a 10% quarter-over-quarter decrease in game revenue from the first to second quarters in 2022. Interestingly enough, quarter-over-quarter revenue grew in both the third and fourth quarters, if only slightly. Still, the year-over-year revenue in the final quarter of 2022 was down 9.7%.

One does have to wonder what New Eden would have looked like had Vladimir Putin not sent the Russian army across the border to attack the Ukrainian state back on 24 February 2022. Everything from the lives of players in the conflict zone, null sec politics, and CCP's financial situation were impacted in a bad way. Perhaps war is good for EVE in game, but in the real world?

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