A deep, world-wide recession is currently underway, and while gamers may not realize it, game companies are certainly feeling the crunch - even successful ones like EVE Online developer CCP, which says the tough times may ultimately force it out of Iceland.
Mention Iceland to most people and they'll think of ice and not much else. To gamers, however, the country is held in somewhat higher regard has the home of CCP, the developer and publisher of EVE Online, a space-based MMOG with a small subscription base of roughly 300,000 users that is nonetheless regarded as one of the genre's enduring success stories. But in recent months, Iceland has gained a more unfortunate kind of fame as its banking system and currency have collapsed under the weight of the worst economic downturn in decades.
The economic turmoil knows no borders, but Iceland is being pummeled particularly harshly. As a result, jobs are vanishing, bankruptcies are rising and many young workers are leaving the country in search of greener pastures elsewhere. The situation is exacerbated by legal restrictions on access to foreign currencies and foreign investment into Iceland. That's a problem for CCP as it looks to the future and further expansion. "To make new games, we need foreign investors," Eyjolfur Gudmundsson , a former professor at the University of Akureyri who now supervises EVE Online's virtual economy, told The Guardian. "The present currency restrictions are putting us in a straitjacket. We are in talks with the government, but if we can't let capital in, we might be compelled to leave Iceland, even though this would be against our wishes."
Economic realities can be tough bullets to dodge, but I've always looked at CCP's Icelandic base as the bow that ties its odd little package together. EVE Online is hardly a conventional MMOG, and CCP isn't even pretending to compete with the genre's World of Warcraft and Age of Conan behemoths. Yet they've managed to carve out a successful niche in the arena without abandoning the frozen wastes of their homeland. An Iceland-free CCP would be just as successful in the industry and quite possibly more so, but its unique charm would suffer. Not a great reason to risk toughing out a devastating financial whirlwind, perhaps, but I'm still hopeful that CCP finds a way to keep it at home.