On Tuesday 26.1.10 the rent for Tactical Control Units (TCUs), the structures that determine sovereignty on 0,0 systems, seeded by CCP with the Dominion expansion became due. Some Alliances had taken care of the bills in advance, some were prompted by the eve-mail three days before, some had enough money in the correct Corporate wallet division to cover the costs.
Three alliances were too disorganised to pay and sovereignty dropped in some of their systems. For the Goons, the largest alliance in Eve at the time, this triggered a failure cascade that led to them abandoning their space empire to their old rivals: Bob, now known as the IT Alliance.
"at 04:06 eve our batch of Sov bills came due to be paid automatically from the Master Wallet. Master Wallet had ~282m in it at the time and first bill(but QY6) was paid leaving ~30.5m in the wallet at which point the rest bounced and CCP is a harsh fucking mistress. at 04:18 it looks like someone went 'oh shit' and dumped a bunch of isk into the wallet but i guess by that time it didn't matter." (Dramaticus, SA forums)
Over the next ten hours -A-, Sys-K and IT aggressively attacked the TCUs in the vulnerable systems while some Goons tried valiantly to slow them down. Unfortunately it seems a number of Goons assumed it was a bug that would be rolled back and so didn't contribute to the defence. In their defence a similar bug had recently affected CVA, an Amarr roleplaying alliance, and that did get rolled back.
It's like sport. In sport players are coached to play to the whistle, even if they feel they've been fouled. Because if you stop playing and the ref doesn't concede the foul it can be disastrous.
On the other hand a lot of Goons would argue that if you have to play, especially a stay up all night call to arms type operation, when you're pretty sure it's all going to get rolled back then you're taking the game far too seriously.
Those ten hours proved crucial because of two factors, both eerily reminiscent of the fall of BoB described by the Mittani on Ten Ton Hammer. Goonswarm docked most of their capitals at a single station, as it turned out in one of the systems made vulnerable when the bills went unpaid. This is just what BoB (then called KenZoku) had done a year earlier, docking hundreds of capital ships in PR-8CA, a system Goonswarm were able to cut off, trapping the ships.
As Manfred says "We had decided that the Primary targets overall had to be J-LP and NOL-M9 the former being Goons capital staging point and the latter being there subcapital staging point and main market hub."
This allowed the invading forces to trap a large enough proportion of Goonswarm's resources that defence of Delve ceased to be a viable option.
To their credit the Goon leadership reacted decisively: they gave a State of the Goonion address announcing they would pull out of Delve and move back to Syndicate. "It now resembles Haiti, except that it is Haiti busy being invaded by the Chinese and several other great powers". Also very creditably they prioritised the extraction of the resources of individual members rather than corporation assets. They're planning to get the Alliance assets out with spies later on. They may not be able to recover 300 billion isk which is in a corporate wallet only available to CEO Karttoon (on holiday, and possibly unaware of this whole fiasco) and CFO Niart Epar (bored of Eve and not playing any more, although there's a conspiracy theory that he was actually a deep undercover spy achieving a masterful piece of destructive meta-gaming).
This is without doubt a much better option than hanging on in a bitter unwinnable defensive war. It puts the Goons in a position where they will probably win any fights and it positions them close to their major 0,0 ally the Northern Coalition.
It radically changes the picture in Syndicate, described recently by Bozokast as being full of timid players. Syndicate will become absolutely deadly to smallish corps who are not great at pvp so expect many of them to relocate.
It's not known whether the Goons will collectively decide to hold territory again. It's perfectly possible to base yourself at a NPC station in 0,0 so you can never really be denied access to your stuff except in the very short term. Basing out of stations prevents you from securing safe private isk-farming belts and moons but makes you impossible to attack. It changes the gameplay to shooting ships (generally regarded as great fun) instead of shooting POSes (player owned stations, generally regarded as not great fun).
I think Goons will take some territory, simply because it is such a large community that many of them will want it even while a lot don't. They may wait a while before emerging however. They will be able to rat and mine in the Northern Coalition's space.
Logistically it's very hard for the alliances which have defeated them in Delve to threaten the Goons in Syndicate (unless they also relocate entirely). Travel is slow in Eve and the two regions are far apart.
It is very likely that most of the alliances in the North will band together against the Goons and the Northern Coalition. Or desperately try to blue them (set them blue, ally with them). Goons won't want to blue too many people as they will want someone for their members to shoot.
Is it the end for Goonswarm? Absolutely not. Many individuals will quit. Some Goon pet corps will leave the alliance. Some Goons who had quit Eve because it had got boring will come back to enjoy the fiasco and the less POS-based playstyle. But there's an awful lot of Goons in Eve and some of them clearly view this as a positive, something that has made a dull space warfare phase of Goons winning segue into a hilarious disaster phase of things going wrong in comical ways. Goons love forum drama and I'm sure the GF forums are highly entertaining now and will be for some time.
What it does mean is that a lot more Goons will enter Star Trek Online than would otherwise have been the case. How Cryptic cope with an army of disruptive and anarchic players looking for people to annoy will be quite interesting. They may have to go the Funcom route of wholesale bannings.
Something Awful, the Eve Online public thread, now elegantly renamed Come here to laugh at Eve Goons who can't pay things on time.
Scrapheap Challenge Delve - Querious reports
Eve official forums Sir Molle's gloat thread, filled with IT members bragging "tonight we dine in NOL".
State of the Goonion, Weds 27/1/10