'Eve Online' recently landed 15,000 new users. Courtesy/CCP Games

An epic battle in MMO “EVE Online” on Jan. 27 has motivated 15,000 curious gamers to sign up for the RPG’s free trial.

Today, CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson presented a chart that displayed the number of user accounts in the popular title’s history. A recent spike in user registration is due to an epic battle that raged in the virtual world at the end of January, causing $300,000 worth of damages in real-world dollars.

Of course, only time will tell if the users will continue to play “EVE Online.”

The battle began over an unpaid bill.

Costa Mesa, Calif., resident James Carl was asleep when he received an attack on his virtual in-game space fleet. What ensued became the most expensive and detrimental battle in “EVE Online” during the last decade. Carl was awoken by an app alert on his phone utilized by alliance members to alert him of the attack. Luckily, the 29 year-old had the day off, so he spent the entire day fighting a virtual space assault. "Supposedly, it was set up for auto-pay, just like any other bill in real life, but either that didn't happen or the money wasn't in the wallet, and then everything just escalated out of control from there," Carl said. "The dust is still settling on that issue. Everyone is just focused right now on fighting to try to regain control of the system."

More than 4,000 players took part in the virtual battle, forcing CCP Games to slow down time on its servers to allow individual commands to process in the allotted order. The battle was streamed on gaming service Twitch, where thousands of spectators witnessed the fight.

"I'd be lying if I said our servers weren't sweating a bit," said CCP Games spokesman Ned Coker. Founded in 1997, CCP Games is the Reykjavik, Iceland-based video game developer behind “EVE Online.” “Allowing players free movement wherever they want in a game with over half a million players means for some pretty tricky technological requirements,” Coker added.

“EVE Online” is a player-driven, persistent-world game set in a science fiction outer space backdrop. In the game, characters pilot customizable space ships through a vast galaxy of more than 7,500 star systems, which contain any number of moons, stations, wormholes, asteroid belts and planets. A majority of the star systems are connected by stargates, or portals that allow players to traverse the universe seamlessly.

The MMO features a fully functioning economy, with frequent trade of in-game money and real cash. These rare features lead to an uncommon game universe that sets itself apart from other popular MMO titles like “World of Warcraft.” “In many ways it’s a quintessential sci-fi experience, where thousands of people from all around the globe are waging a huge conflict that will have real repercussions on the politics, economy and social structures of a virtual universe,” said Coker.

Unfortunately, utilizing real cash can lead to actual financial losses. When the battle broke out, the amount of real financial losses was immense. Estimates of the total losses experienced by gamers during the battle’s peak range from $300,000 to $500,000, with a majority of that coming from the wreckage of large “Titan” ships, which are priced between $3,000 to $3,500 each -- in real money. Approximately 100 Titans have been obliterated at this point, along with innumerable other spacecraft.

Despite the current losses, Carl remains optimistic about his progress. "Whatever happens, we'll keep going. 'EVE' is a universe full of grudges and constantly changing politics. If we were to lose, we'll rebuild. Then, we'll go back and start another war,” he said.

“EVE Online” launched in North America and Europe in 2003. It currently has more than 500,000 players.

Do you play “EVE Online”? Were you one of the 15,000 to sign up after learning about the epic battle? Leave a comment below or Tweet me!