The Imperium leadership has a range of options about where it wants to go in the future. I believe, like any good management team, they prepare for a range of different possibilities and attempt to position themselves to cope with change.
Change will either be a result of policies implemented by the Imperium leadership or a result of factors beyond their control reshaping the geopolitical nature of the Eve universe.
The latest installment of #Endieleaks, posted on reddit yesterday, gives us some insight into Goon leadership (I'm using "Goon leadership" synonymously with "Imperium leadership" as I don't think what the other alliances want has any effect on policy).
[22/11/2015 22:07:58] Endie H: the imperium's membership are the recipients of broadcasts, just like a cable tv audience in a town with a monopoly
[22/11/2015 22:08:05] Endie H: the point of the imperium is to grow that audience
[22/11/2015 22:09:13] Endie H: the only way that the TMC Media business can grow and become more valuable is to increase the number of recipients of each broadcast, so that they can say to the producers of H1Z1 or War Thunder: "pay us x and we will get you eyeballs on your adverts in broadcasts to a community of y thousand"
[22/11/2015 22:09:31] Endie H: So they cannot take any real risks that might lead to the loss of significant numbers of eyeballs
[22/11/2015 22:09:45] Dave / Xander: I have to say from a purely spiteful position, what has happened with this kickstarter is fucking hysterical
[22/11/2015 22:09:52] Endie H: they don't kick underperforming corps for loooong periods, and when they do all line members are invited to join
[22/11/2015 22:10:20] Endie H: allies are not kicked, but folded into existing allies of new structures like the bastion[22/11/2015 22:10:32] Endie H: karmafleet is a successful play for reddit-sourced ad views
Clearly there are factions and for some time the "Endie faction" has been fighting and gradually losing a rearguard action against "the Sion faction."
So, allowing this to be more or less accurate, (it's always worth taking such "leaks" with a grain of salt) that gives us two of the Goon policy options:
1) collect eyeballs. The goal here is to collect as many members as possible with a secondary goal of not completely killing interest in the game.
2) What Endie calls "taking real risks" which is I believe is more or less what I described in my last blog post, the Great Reset.
3) Leaving Eve. At one point during Monoclegate 3 years ago The Mittani threatened that if CCP did not get the game back on track he would take his people and leave, going to an alternative game. I think this is an ongoing simmering possibility but even The Mittani, who seems somewhat deluded at times, must be aware that a huge amount of "his people" wouldn't go with him. In fact if the failed kickstarter is anything to go by it may be that there's a humiliatingly small number of people in the Imperium who are actually there out of personal loyalty to the leader.
4) Something else.
Clearly option 1) is the current choice of the Imperium leadership and that won't change any time soon. It would pretty much need a clearout of the current leadership who have a highly vested interest as they are - if Endie's comments in the leaked pastebin is true - currently living off venture capital cash raised on the promise of TMC and Mittani Media future business success.
Wilhelm correctly pointed out a couple of factors that are outside Imperium control that might make sticking with option 1) seem like the correct choice at the moment. Let's look at external factors:
1) CCP. Changes to the game are already hurting the Imperium and may well hurt it more in 2016. Fozziesov, Aegis sov, encourages balkanisation, the game is simply more fun if you can clling to your turf and shoot your neighbours. The Imperium has resisted this while trying to find what Endie describes as no risk fun - the Provi campaign, Cloud Ring campaign, the Viceroy thing. All of these seem to be either brief or low impact, the game is just not really designed to be entertaining for a massive superpower nullsec empire. On top of that 2016 promises a capital revamp which may cause tectonic shifts in the balance of power, a shift towards higher ship losses in battles, indestructible stations being phased out for destructible citadels, and perhaps a new type of space, some think "Jove space," accessed via the player made stargates which is likely to be a conquest game and a game to which pre-existing titan fleets can't be brought. (Otherwise how sucky would it be for CCP Seagull to have to go on stage and announce "hey guys here's the reveal for our great project, three years work, but sorry Goons already won.")
2) Voltron, or as my blogging colleague Gamerchick42 so delightfully calls it, Super Epic Cat Robots.
This is the possibility that outside enemies in Eve will band together to tear The Imperium down. It's always a possibility in such games. If people are actually trying to win a conquest-based game then it's natural for people to gang up on the strongest, this is standard gameplay in board games like Risk or Diplomacy.
While half of nullsec are in The Imperium and the other half are spread out across multiple squabbling balkanised groups there's no possibility that a Voltron could emerge capable of wiping The Imperium off the map but it is a possibility if they do the Great Reset. (Actually in my opinion Goons would win that war, a desperate backs to the wall struggle for survival against a numerically superior but poorly coordinated mega-coalition which is why I think they should do the Great Reset).
3) Line member choices. From the perspective of Goon leadership this is an externality. The danger here is that line members get really bored. This could lead to them simply leaving the game, it could lead to grass roots movements to replace leadership. I think we're a long way off from a popular revolution, not least because the type of people needed (like Talvorian) solve their problem with dull Imperium gameplay by leaving and playing with someone else. Historically revolutions have needed some leader types to kickstart them, Lenin for example was a minor member of the Russian aristocracy who lead what was a workers and peasants revolution in Russia. So a perfect storm of a disgruntled former leader like Endie or Suas plus massive popular support could eventually tear The Imperium apart but I think we're miles off that.
4) Hostile infiltration. This is a play, like the Goons own famous example where they recruited a rogue BoB director to disband their arch-enemies, where someone gets into leadership and times some game mechanics driven disruption at the perfect moment to destroy the coalition. The key to this is that it has to be performed when the target is already under the hammer which is just not going to happen while the Imperium retains its nullsec dominance. It may be fear of this which is another factor in not choosing the Great Reset route since if they did the Great Reset, and enemies formed Voltron and they were losing and then they got Hargothed they'd be in real trouble. It's likely that some Grr Goons people have sleeper agents already in place in damaging positions leading fleets and fueling towers while waiting for Order 66. However this really isn't a threat unless other factors are already in place that have put the alliance into crisis.
5) Dissent from below. Another possibility is that partner alliances in The Imperium such as Razor or SMA break off. There's an interesting dynamic here. Because the Great Reset is a possibility or a smaller reset as happened with MOA, OSS and Raging Ducks, it is really sensible for a small alliance like SMA to develop its own independent capabilities. However them building up their own FCs is a threat to Goon dominance of the coalition. So alliances can either go what seems to be the TNT route (sorry Wilhelm) of being completely dependent and if they get reset they're fucked or go the INIT route where the coalition and its SIGs are almost afterthoughts and the main gameplay is on alliance ops. Not only that but there's a similar tension between alliances and their member corps where a corp thrives if it can function independently but comes under pressure not to do so. In SMA for example outstanding FCs and leaders may be required to join the alliance executor corp rather than being allowed to stay in their original corp if they want to participate at the top level. In my opinion, except for INIT, no member of the alliance is anywhere near capable of breaking off and being a strong independent corp who don't need no coalition and of course Goons are actively seeking to perpetuate this by poaching talent.
So there you have it, a complicated and difficult position for Goon leadership. Their decision-making is not helped by the fact that they show considerable cognitive dissonance. However clinging to the perceived safety of the mega-blob is poisonous, a long slow death that will inevitably come from a position as the purveyors of monetised boredom, a stance that puts them on a collision course with CCP who have a strong interest in making the game interesting.
So I really hope that the current leadership decides to go for the Great Reset, possibly timing it to support the new kickstarter for the Fountain War book in March, because I honestly believe it's the Golden Path, the hard choice that leads to a truly great future via an epic adventure.