[This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Time Magazine and originally appeared in their June 2019 issue.]
The astounding rise of the once quiet northern european island nation of Iceland into a commercial superpower is to be celebrated in a ‘renaming’ ceremony held by the Icelandic government later this year. Iceland is to be renamed ‘New Eden’ in honour of entertainment industry juggernaught CCP’s commercial achievements and service to their country and to the world.
An improbable story to be sure, but the contributions made by what started life as a modest, yet ambitious, games development studio aiming to provide an immersive online ‘internet spaceship’ experience cannot be overestimated. After an initial ten-year period in which they were considered niche and were overshadowed by then market leaders Blizzard, their enterprise and dedication to a truly open ‘sandbox’ experience eventually provided CCP with the platform to exceed their competitors and surge into other markets.
The appeal of their flagship product ‘EVE Online’ was infinitely broadened in 2011 by the introduction of real human avatars in the ‘Incarna’ revision of their futuristic world. After a low-key start, the then cutting-edge character creation and world interaction attracted an increasingly larger audience. The subsequent release of the initially console-only ‘DUST 514’ first person shooter enabled a further demographic to be drawn into the universe of New Eden. Utilising the same technology in ‘World of Darkness’, a gothic vampire MMO, continued to build the momentum. But the real masterstroke was the release of the Machinima toolkit that allowed users to make their own movies using the game worlds.
By 2013, the quality of user-created movies was often surpassing professionally-made television series and CCP found themselves courting the likes of James Cameron and J.J. Abrams. In 2014, the first EVE-based Hollywood movie, ‘New Eden’ won box-office acclaim (although purists claim that the entirely fan-made ‘Clear Skies’ television series, which aired on SyFy earlier the same year, was the real watershed) and cemented CCP’s position as an entertainment superpower.
Meanwhile, with the explosion of interest in EVE Online and associated products, CCP’s technological infrastructure was threatening to buckle. This gave rise to pioneering efforts in the field of technology and the invention of cold-fusion hyper-clusters, which was a quantum leap in the field of computing. This allowed for the millions of users to interact in a smooth virtual environment and finally eradicated the lag that had plagued busy game areas for years.
CCP’s in-house technology team then went from strength-to-strength and the introduction of their retinal imaging projection systems in conjunction with Microsoft’s Kinect technology allowed unprecedented levels of immersion. As well as revolutionising the entertainment viewing experience, by 2017 CCP was providing the ‘de facto’ standard total immersion social and business networking tools across the globe.
In 2018, the licencing of virtual real estate within EVE Online allowed the digital distribution of third party ‘entertainment suites’ – essentially games produced by third-party developers that were narratively consistent with EVE Online’s universe – which gave birth to infinitely diverse ‘cultures’ on individual stations and planets. Player-run organisations within the universe could licence developers to practically build worlds for them. Many real-world corporations started to lay claim to systems and hire player alliances to protect the space above and defend their property on the surface beneath.
Today, in 2019, CCP stand literally and figuratively on top of the world. Iceland is now ranked as the 8th strongest economy in the world and is accredited with contributing to leading the world economy out of the austerity period. They continue to provide the most immersive science-fiction simulation available whilst simultaneously being major players in the technology and movie industries.
Whilst they have their detractors and some religious groups have expressed their objections to the renaming, there is no avoiding the fact that the future will be in New Eden.
And now the whole world is watching.