Feature of the Week: Virtual Realities, Real Success


Feature of the Week: Virtual Realities, Real Success

John Boyce delves into the success story of CCP, the creator of the labyrinth computer game EVE Online.

Published in the 2009 winter issue of Iceland Review – IR 47.04. By John Boyce, photos by Páll Stefánsson and courtesy of CCP.

Part of the CCP team on the roof of their Reykjavík harbor headquarters.

Ambling down along the quayside towards the sea en route to my next assignment, the potent symbols of Iceland’s rapid fall from economic grace are all around me. Half constructed office blocks, abandoned building sites and a skyline bereft of the industrial cranes that once, just as potently, symbolized the boom. Amid the infrastructural debris, one chrome and glass commercial block protrudes from the wreckage, housing the international headquarters of CCP, among other still going concerns.

Founded in 1997 by its creative director, Reynir Hardarson, chief financial officer, Ívar Kristjánsson, and Thórólfur Beck, CCP is what is described in the virtual gaming industry as a massively multilayer game company designing state-of-the-art virtual entertainment worlds. Since the release of their flagship product, EVE Online in 2003, CCP has become a world leader in virtual gaming, winning numerous awards and garnering critical acclaim around the world.

While countless Icelandic companies from every conceivable sector have been losing their shirts in the face of national economic disaster, CCP appears to be upgrading to Armani. It is, of course, a well established fact that virtual entertainment formats such as the ones that CCP creates become increasingly popular in times of recession. However, the extraordinary success of this Johnny-come-lately company in a notoriously competitive industry can hardly be attributed to this fact alone, and so to get the full inside track, I decided to go have a look for myself.

Entering their spacious offices a stone’s throw from Reykjavík harbor, I’m immediately struck by a sense of youthful enthusiasm, bustling activity and optimism: in short, the smell of success.

Over a cup of tea in the canteen I meet Production Manager Torfi Frans Ólafsson, Senior Producer of Eve Online, and Chief Economist Eyjólfur Gudmundsson. I begin by asking Ólafsson about the genesis of CCP.

“Well to put it simply, it all began with three Icelandic gaming guys in an attic back in 1996 with an ambition to create a cutting-edge virtual gaming world.”

I put it to Gudmundsson that three computer nerds with a dream is all very well, but it’s a huge leap from there to an international company employing hundreds of people.

“It evolved much like any other business I suppose. It began with a product idea, allied to a business plan. Once this was achieved it was pitched to interested investors and enough start-up capital was raised to get the company off the ground.”

You can read the remainder of this article in the 2009 winter issue of Iceland Review – IR 47.04. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country's majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.