As 2017 begins, Goonswarm Federation faces the new year in a unique position. With over 21,000 members, the high-profile EVE Alliance is unquestionably the largest player organization or ‘guild’ in gaming history. By comparison, Currently Online, the largest organization in World of Warcraft’s industry-dominating 12+ million player history, claims just under 10,000 active members.
This has created a unique entity in the history of gaming culture, able on short notice to call a mass rally and project forces not only across the galaxy of EVE, but to send thousands of its members to sow mayhem in other titles beyond New Eden, such as PlanetSide 2, ArcheAge, Atlas Reactor and H1Z1 within the past year.
The road to this point has not always been an easy one. Only last year, they were driven from strongholds that long seemed unassailable. Disgruntled former members, long-time enemies, and power-brokers eager to make a name for themselves came together for common cause. They engineered the largest coalition of disparate groups the game had ever seen, funded by the unassailable wealth of out-of-game casinos. Their stated purpose: the utter destruction of Goonswarm.
This was not the first time enemies had sought to eradicate Goons from EVE Online. Early in their history in EVE Online, Goons ran afoul of the most powerful alliance in the game, Band of Brothers. The conflict saw a powerful space empire try to stamp out a dedicated alliance of partisans in small, disposable ships. It would re-make the map of conquerable space, and be remembered forever in EVE as The Great War.
Nor has everything among the Goons themselves always been smooth and seamless. Almost seven years ago, the original GoonSwarm alliance fell to betrayal from the top. In February 2010, alliance leader Karttoon left the alliance shut down and emptied. He claimed the alliance had lost its way by relaxing their recruiting standards. In a final message to the members, he even called it ‘euthanasia’.
The Goons would rebuild, though, and within two years once more held a vast empire under their control. Their sphere of influence expanded until at one point they and their allies controlled almost half of all the sovereign space in EVE.
According to a source within Goonswarm, one reason for Goons’ success is talented and responsive leadership. As the organization has gone through its trials and tribulations, the people at the top have been willing to take chances. Perhaps more important is their ability recognize mistakes and work to correct them. In the words of one member of that cadre, “Most of our policy is due to experience. We have tried about everything in 11 years of gaming, so we tend to not repeat the same mistake twice.”
Goonswarm’s sense of community likely also contributes to their success. Part of this is an outgrowth of their origins in the SomethingAwful.com forums. From their earliest days, Goonswarm was more about their internal community than about EVE. Unlike many groups, Goons hold frequent meetups for members, active and inactive alike. These can range from occasional get-togethers at local bars to bi-annual mini-conventions. These meets help to cement friendships born in the fires of space war. Faceless voices in the fleet become flesh-and-blood drinking buddies. It is this purpose – to serve and advance the interests of the Goonswarm membership both within the game and in the real world – which has seen the organization survive and thrive in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
This means Goonswarm is similar to another successful online gaming organization: The Syndicate. Founded in February of 1996, the Syndicate is currently the world’s oldest active online gaming group. They attribute much of that success to the organization’s nature as its own community. Real-life events help Syndicate members connect to one another and keep the community strong.
Goonswarm has fought, laughed, and stumbled its way through some of the most tumultuous days in EVE history. The Goons have endured the hatred of their enemies, massive armadas arrayed against them, and betrayal from within. They are still young when compared to The Syndicate’s almost 21-year history. As the new year dawns, though, they find their organization larger than ever before, and eager for the future. Considering the foundation that has already been laid, that future looks bright for the largest player organization in the history of gaming.