If you're a day late with the rent, your landlord will usually let it slide and there's no damage done. But if you're even an hour late with the rent in the game EVE Online, it can lead to a full out war.
That's what happened this week when a player forgot to pay the monthly sovereignty bill, resulting in an epic battle involving more than 7,500 players and causing more than $300,000 of real money loss in less than 24 hours.
A player from an in-game coalition called the Pandemic Legion failed to check off the autopay option for a tract of space called B-R5RB. The missed payment opened B-R5RB up to invasion and a rival coalition known as the CFC seized the opportunity on Monday. Both sides were adamant about not letting the other seize control, but ultimately the Pandemic Legion retreated and the CFC won.
Both sides incurred heavy losses that hadn't been seen in the game's 11-year history, and those losses have a real-world value. Ned Coker, a spokesperson for EVE Online's developer CCP Games, said that players won't be able to replace their ships by swiping their credit cards. "We don't sell ships in game for money," he told ABC News.
Instead, the game can convert players' subscription payments into ISK, the game's currency. "You buy a month of game time and essentially turn it into a regular item," said Coker. "That's how you make a conversion between the game's currency and real-world dollars."
Players can also earn ISK in the game's complex economic system by mining asteroids or manufacturing ships, among other tasks.
Coker said that it's this element of cooperation among several thousand players at once that drives players to stick with EVE Online. "The relationships between people becomes the focal point of the game itself," he said. "You kind of never know what's going to happen," he said.
As for whether the financial cost of this battle will cause players to ease on the hostilities, Coker is confident that history will repeat itself.
"I expect something like this to happen again," he said. "The defending side has already vowed to come back and seek vengeance."