Early Sol’s corporate terrain was built exclusively by MarsCo. There’s no way around this. All Terran corporations that managed to survive in some form on the red planet did so as subsidiaries of MarsCo. The earliest of the Post-Terran megacorps–ASR, Pulse, Genotype–were founded as MarsCo spinoffs.
At some point, the landscape began to change, in a hazy period after 100 AE. In part, this was because of the Ledger, which took power out of Big M and spread it around to anyone who could gather enough corpcitizens under their umbrella. Perhaps spurred on by the promise of a bigger Mars and a wider solar system without the constant presence of “Big M,” smaller corporations began to take action. Genotype engaged in the creation of a new Vector race, likely without MarsCo’s approval. A Felidae-owned corporation felt emboldened to attack Genotype. Big M began to consolidate the regulations for Hot Zone actions, which Pierce Fraser suggested in a Radio Free Deimos interview (“E20, Hot Zones”) helped MarsCo maintain its dominance in a rapidly changing environment. And, lastly, Spyglass, Progenitus, and the earlier version of TTI emerged in a tight 50-year period.
Spyglass, of course, is the ultimate whistleblower corporation, undermining its rivals and spreading their secrets to Sol (or not, if they’ve got the cash.) Progenitus may have been founded to rebuild the medical sector. And TTI was the first corporation to claim its own world, outside of Mars. And it may be significant that no new megacorp was built since (Lumen broke into the ranks through sheer power, but at two years, its status is shakey. IRPF is descended from MarsCo’s military branch.)
With the strength the Ledger and Credit give to established corporations, particularly MarsCo and its subsidiaries, the consolidation of the Hot Zone rules, and the tight network of unseen handshake deals and military strikes that make up the Shadow side of Sol’s corporate ecosystem, it may not be possible for new corporations to expand to rival the Big Seven, and the promise of free-market potential seems to have run its course by 400 AE or so.
What killed the “Corporate Boom” phase?
- With Spyglass in the picture, hiding anything from MarsCo becomes a practical impossibility. Any growing corporation could only hide its secrets to the degree to which a larger corporation can afford to buy them…and MarsCo controls the very concept of currrency in Sol.
- The Hot Zone rules give larger corporations a huge advantage over weaker rivals, as the larger corporation largely sets the terms of engagement for the destruction of the smaller, and these corp skirmishes can only take place between groups of more or less equivilent size…as adjudicated by IRPF, a mercenary group who is also funded in large part by the corporations entangled in the hot zone.
- Resources were finite. During this period, land was in shorter supply than now. TTI, Stellarum, and possibly ASR were busy dividing up the Jovian system between themselves. Simple land scarcity may have slowed the development of larger corporations, or created a glass ceiling they couldn’t move beyond.
- The free market system led to some of the most crippling health costs in Sol, darkening people’s view of a benevolent corporatocracy.
- The Ledger strongly favors the established corporations. As far as we know, the personal stockbroker/social security program coded for each vector prioritizes purchases of stock from the corporations a vector works for, is a corp citizen of, and purchases from. All of these aspects favor corporations that hold land, and have layers of subsidiaries that can provide a range of services and living accomodations…in short, the Ledger system favors megacorps over smaller companies. It’s probably trivial that the secret formulae that drive the ledger and can never be seen by living vectors were devoloped by MarsCo and in all probablility are the tools MarsCo’s AI “Sentry” uses to sheperd Sol’s economic growth (S&Sp.32)
- IRPF starts to find its legs toward the beginning of the 400s and begins to regulate interplanetary trade and shipping. The Inner Ring Police Force begin to establish a consistent rule of law across Sol, and enforce it to the general applause of Vectorkind. Initially IRPF fought against pirates…but what is a pirate except a privateer who works without the backing of a government? Again, MarsCo would have been able to set the terms of a major aspect of business in Sol: shipping and interplanetary commerce.
- The importance of this is in dispute, but at some point toward the end of the Corporate Boom period, MarsCo’s CEO anoints himself god-emperor of Sol. This perhaps shows the pinnacle of corporate hubris, and he was quickly shut down by other powers. But this may have underscored the importance of the shadow presidency and added substantially to their power base. The Shadow Presidency system for the most part is an internal check against megacorp abuse, but it also represents a system of individuals able to move massive corporate resources against a perceived threat, working in concert between megacorps. This would likely have prevented many rival organizations from expansion into the megacorp ranks.
- Lastly, the terraforming of Venus is described as “the biggest PR stunt in history.” The shock and awe of what MarsCo and its associated corporations can do shook all of Sol, and likely was the final mike-drop in any conversation of megacorp ascendency. Ironically, it is likely that the terraforming of Venus also marks the end of MarsCo’s “activist” period, and the sphinx went to sleep then…possibly snuggling with the security blanket of a future without rivals.
This hazy period of a hundred or so years marks the gradual growth of corporatocracy as a form of government, and shows that the round table of Sol only seats seven or eight, tops. As a historical epoch, it ends as Venus, Europa, and Ganymede grow, establishing a new era: a truly interplanetary Vector society.
Note, this isn’t canon, but it is suggested by interviews with Pierce Fraser and the general shape of modern Vector society.