One of my favorite things about Crusader Kings 2 is the ability to form merchant republics, and have them as vassals in a wider empire. Its also neat to see plutocratic trading cities in strategic but ahistorical places like Gdansk, the Isle of Man, Socotra, Azov, etc. Well placed and with a little luck that the AI does semi-competent things its a huge boon for an empire, even ignoring the taxes generated, since it's trade zones pump up Cities taxes just by existing, and they supercharge the Silk Road. They do have some downsides though, since they absolutely hate being ruled by a feudal suzerain, so it introduces some instablility to the realm, as they can plot and scheme against you.
So why shouldn't Stellaris have a similar mechanic. Once a civilization is well established in space, let them declare a "free trade zone" or "free enterprise zone" that gives autonomy to a Megacorporation and makes them a vassal. Clearly there are risks and rewards here. Let the Corp get too powerful, and it could declare independence, or flip who rules who, but you'd also have a Megacorp investing into your state. Also they'd have a semi-autonomous foreign policy, extending their branch offices to xeno worlds, and if they get into trouble, they could pull you into a war you don't want to fight if they piss of the wrong empire.
This could also work with Crime Syndicates and MegaChurches. A Spiritualist Empire could create combination Teutonic Knights/Televangelists and try to influence the galaxy that way. Or if a planet has 100% crime for like 5 years or something, they could declare independence and become a New Crime Syndicate.
This could be a way to more consistently interact with Megacorp mechanics, and introduce more actors and more concerns for more interesting gameplay.
© Post "Let us Release Megacorporations" for game Stellaris.
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