Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where does the PLEX-money go?

We know that there are about 100K PLEX bought every month. So about 1/3 of the 350K accounts are not self-sustaining, they need constant ISK influx in form of selling PLEX on the market to keep on going. It also means that about 1/3 of accounts are played for free and only 1/3 of the accounts are PLEX-neutral, playing the "normal" way: the player pays to the company monthly subscription and does no RMT.

This last 1/3 can be called "casual". My girlfriend is a perfect example. Looking from "professional" way, she is bad. She spent almost whole day playing last Sunday with about 30M income as she was doing L1!!! securities with a destroyer simply because their story looked fun (the Minmatar-Gallente air show for example). Her activity wasn't really affecting anyone in the game and she had fun, so her subscription money is well spent. However you must notice something important: she earned ISK, no matter how little. Also her expenses and risks were near-zero: some small projectile ammo was used and worse case she could lose a destroyer with fittings worth 3M (half of it being the tractor beam). Compared to this, her income isn't that bad and she can clearly continue to play that way without ever buying ISK.

I gave her 400M ISK as gifts, since I received the same amount. Half of that ISK is still in her wallet, another half was spent on a Rokh battleship that she can barely fly and for that reason she doesn't like to fly. That ship is practically only used when I hire her to help me finish security storyline missions that I get after 16 distributions which I do for faction standings. Since she is months from even fitting it properly (she can't even fit large turrets) she finds it more fun to fly a destroyer. The point is that the 400M gift did not increase her game enjoyment at all, so she isn't even motivated to buy or grind ISK.

The first 1/3 is anything but casual. They - unlike the casuals - can't sustain themselves. Why? How? I doubt if they have less knowledge of the game than my girlfriend. If she doesn't need ISK, why do anyone else? Not for gaming fun, that's for sure. Shooting frigate enemies in a frigate isn't different from shooting battleship enemies in a battleship. It applies to PvP too, the success of RvB proves without doubt that frigate PvP is fun.

The "sucker 1/3" are socials who want to be respected by peers. They want "awesome ships" that make everyone say "woot". Unfortunately people rather lure their expensive shinies into traps. They also want to earn respect by having high killboard ratio (because RvB is for noobs). Of course when they go lowsec they lose their ship because "the other guy spent more on deadspace fittings" or simply "bad luck" and surely not because they are just barely better in EvE PvP than a random 1 week newbie.

So the sucker 1/3 constantly try to fly things they shouldn't and try to kill enemies definitely out of their league. They have constant losses and have to replace it by constant ISK purchases. The simple way of being PLEX-neutral as a casual player makes it crystal clear: anyone buying ISK is a moron since he is keep trying to play in a league where he does not belong. His skills destine him to run funny missions or do frigate PvP but he neither accepts it, nor learns to be better but for social reasons insists to play with the "big boys".

However the really interesting part is the remaining 1/3, the ones who play for free. I guess these accounts don't mean so many players, rather 3-4 accounts/player. I have 3 accounts. One "main", who is a trader/industrialist/freighter-pilot/wannabe logistics pilot. The other account holds two active and one learning station traders for Amarr, Rens and Dodixie. On the third account my future titan/triage carrier pilot sits on a station learning skills.

Obviously I wouldn't have these accounts if I couldn't play for free. I'd pay for one account to play a game, but would find it stupid to have a second account to increase my ISK income when my main is already having a lot, and even more stupid to pay for an account that does nothing for 8-12 months. I have the extra accounts because they are free. They cost me nothing but pixel money.

The second account helps me make more ISK. About 6B/month comes from these characters, so the 0.5B/month for PLEX is well spent. If I wouldn't have this account, I wouldn't have the income. Since I'm trading, I introduce no ISK or materials to the playerbase, every ISK I get is an ISK someone loses. So by having a second account I'm taking 6B/month from the other players. My third account also has an effect: to sustain it, I must not slack (not like I would), so I'm more motivated to make ISK, and we already established that it means taking ISK from others.

So the fun thing is that every PLEX the morons and slackers pour into the system per month means an extra pilot existing in EVE with the sole purpose of preying on them either in a PvP ship or on the marketplace. The harder they buy boost from CCP, the worse position they get into, causing them more and more losses, "forcing" them to RMT more.

If only they could accept that they aren't good and do what my girlfriend does, the endless income for good players would stop, diminishing our ability to devastate them. But they just can't accept being worse than the Joneses. They must look competitive. Good for us.

However this is the reason why CCP can't go for full RMT like Blizzard with Diablo 3. Imagine we could sell PLEX we earned to other players legally. The end user would still use it as game time so CCP would keep getting profits as the only creator of PLEX. Great business for everyone, right? Not really. With this scheme, my current income would be $6000/year. It's 150% the minimal wage in Hungary. If I could sell my PLEXes for money, I'd be tempted to quit my job (you know, Atlas shrugged), get 4-5 more accounts, 2 more computers and earn $30-40K/year (still top 2% of my country) playing a game. Of course it would mean that I'd spend my day taking ISK from bad players. They would be so exploited (not just by me, of course) that they simply couldn't keep up, quit the game and the whole system would collapse. In Diablo 3 you don't take value directly from worse players, you just give them loot they couldn't earn but you can easily grind. So Blizzard don't have to fear that the good players simply destroy the bad ones. Of course it means that the illegal RMT will flourish in EVE as good players try to somehow cash in the vast amount of ISK they get from the bad ones. Remember, 100K PLEX/month is $1.5M/month. Even a shard of it is good money.

PS : I had my first lowsec haul. Managed to buy 450M worth of wares in a highsec island, surrounded by lowsec. Scouted it, jumped back and forth empty and then made the haul and lived! EVE isn't that scary place, come and try out!

EVE Business report: Wednesday morning 13.0B (2 PLEX behind for second account, 0.3B spent on Titan project)
Remember that you can participate in our EVE conversations on the "goblinworks" channel (60-80 people on peak time) and your UI suggestions are welcomed.


Anonymous said...

How did you account for the people who buy PLEX for RL$ to pay for their subscription?

I use an auto recurring plan on any game I play until I cancel, but others don't have a credit card or don't want a game sub to show up on a card that parents/spouse might see. Or have security concerns about leaving a credit card in an online system. Alas, I am all too skilled at using my credit card but others get to decide the amount of credit card usage they want in their life. I assumed these people were why CCP was going to allow you to purchase PLEX via your cell/mobile.

TLDR: are not some of the PLEX were purchased for the purchaser's subscription.

Parasoja said...

It probably isn't accurate to say that 1/3 of accounts buy plex. According to plex services ( the quantity most commonly purchased is 6. I'm not much for math, but I'm pretty sure this means that the average number purchased cannot be less than 3.


If nobody bought anything but 1, 2, and 6 set packs, and if both 1 and 2 set packs were purchsed by only one fewer person than purchased 6 set packs, then the average number purchased per player buying would be about ((99*1+99*2+100*6)/3)/100, which equals 3.

So an absolute maximum of 33k players buy plex, and the real number is probably substantially less; though this does not account for multiple accounts.

Kristopher said...

Lowsec can be safer than highsec.

You send a scout alt ahead of you in lowsec, and keep an eye out for lots of traffic ( the number of jumps in the last hour map is damned useful ).

If someone is annoying you, and you are sure he is alone, you just kill his sorry ass. Otherwise, you get the hell out.

People in highsec think they are safe, and are endlessly learning about suicide ganking the hard way.

RvB is good. Eve Uni is good. A lot of Factional Warfare corps are good.

Hell, you can even get your YARRRR completely on, set up a new alt with a tackle frigate or a meta 4 equipped destroyer, head to Amamake, Tama, or Old man Star, and just start murdering for fun and profit. Many pirate corps are more than willing to take on a newb.

monkeytroubles said...

If you find yourself having to do a lowsec haul, you could bring one of your station alts in a newbie frigate to scout for you (fit said frigate with a t1 webber to improve your own align time if needed). About the only thing you'd miss are cloaked enemies camping on gate. Bring said alt in a cheap industrial to provoke even those cloaked pirates. Or make an alt on your titan account to provide the same scouting services at no implant-destruction risk.

Gevlon said...

@Parasoja: while you are right, I'm not sure how is it changes the picture besides the numbers. So instead of 100K M&S who buy a plex every month we have 30K ultra-idiots who buy several plexes because they are so bad.

Parasoja said...


Pretty much. The net stupidity might not change, but I'm happier when it's concentrated in a smaller number of players.

Azuriel said...

[...] anyone buying ISK is a moron since he is keep trying to play in a league where he does not belong.

That does not necessarily follow.

By your own admission, players that constantly lose would not continue playing the game. The more likely scenario is that PLEX allows this time/knowledge-poor individual to maintain something approximating a 50% "win rate."

If your point is that needing PLEX to sustain a 50% win rate is indicative of said player being out of their league, that is again not necessarily the case. Willingness to pay a premium to experience content you desire is capitalism working as intended. They are no more a moron than anyone who purchases things via RMT in any game at all.

It would be equivalent of calling people who don't clip coupons morons. It trades time for money, and clearly the PLEX-buyers are satisfied with the status quo.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: this was answered million times and I hate to repeat myself. PvP is not "content" you consume but competition where you shall win. If I buy winning, I'm a cheater by definition.

They buy ships that allow them to play with the "big boys". It's no different from me paying $10M to the manager of the Heavyweight boxing champion for a match. Of course I'd be onehitted but I could make the impression in uninformed peers that I am so good at boxing that only the heavyweight champion could stop me. Of course informed people would know that I'm just an idiot who paid $10M to be knocked out.

Bobbins said...

'The second account helps me make more ISK. About 6B/month comes from these characters'
Station trading destroys removes isk from the game (Taxes).

Buying plexes does not add isk to the game it simply adds an in game item. Also note destroying ships also does not destroy isk (other than npc bought items/components).

I would recommend people watch the economic review video from fanfest as this shows that ccp is aware of the potential problem with the accumalation of isk within the game. It was pointed out taxes are very low.

Peter Petermann said...

first of all: plex traded != plex bought, quite a few plex exit in the market solely as a trade item

second: there is the Nex-Store Plex sink

third: character transfers cost plex

fourth: fanfest entrance and graphicscard for plex(ok, both seasonal)

also, buying a big ship doesn't make one a winner in pvp, if you dont know the game mechanic, or dont have the skills to fly that ship you'll lose it.

Carson 63000 said...

@Anonymous: How did you account for the people who buy PLEX for RL$ to pay for their subscription?

That's actually a fair point. I don't think the reasons you gave would be very common, but as I understand it, the current subscription cost in Euros is such that it's cheaper to buy a PLEX in $US and use that to play, than to pay a subscription fee to CCP, even though PLEX are "supposed" to be more expensive ($US35 for two, compared to $US15/month to subscribe).

Anyway, it's all a bit academic, since what Gevlon is saying doesn't really depend on there being 100,000 buying PLEX to buy ISK, rather than x,000 where x is less than 100.

Bobbins said...

'Where does Plex-money go'

Sorry misread the title. Plexes do not generate isk they simply add an in game item. No isk is created by creating plexes! Although a small amount of isk is removed from the game when selling them in the form of taxes.

Being related to a real world currency plexes could be treated like gold in the real world as a store of value. As the amount of isk (creating inflation) increases within the game the isk value of plexes should also increase.

Anti said...

"How did you account for the people who buy PLEX for RL$ to pay for their subscription?"

they are morons. PLEX costs more than paying by subscription.

60 day GTC - 34.99
1 month PLEX - $17.50 /mo

1-month-plan - $14.95 /mo
3-month-plan - $12.95 /mo
6-month-plan - $11.95 /mo
12-month-plan - $10.95 /mo

Peter Petermann said...

@Carson, not only is it cheaper, its also more conveniant if you have several accounts, so you extend 2 accounts by 1 month rather than 1 account by two month

Anonymous said...

"Not for gaming fun, that's for sure. Shooting frigate enemies in a frigate isn't different from shooting battleship enemies in a battleship. It applies to PvP too, the success of RvB proves without doubt that frigate PvP is fun. "

Except that pvp of any kind - even frigate pvp is more likely to be isk-negative than running missions.
Drops are unlikely to make up for loses.

Secondly, take a look at some of the more skilled solo/small gang pvpers in the game - you'll see plenty of wins but also plenty of loses. Those sorts of people tend to be constantly pushing themselves, so yes, they'd 'just' win, but that description doesn't accurately describe the fights they take on.

Finally, lots of people start playing even when they are time rich and cash poor, and then end up being time poor and cash rich. When a PLEX costs 1/3 of your income per hour, why spend two hours station trading to get the same amount? It's exactly the same as you trading your time (via your isk) for people running security missions for you.

Foo said...

I have region wide very cheap buy orders; sometimes this means stuff sold to me from lowsec.

For basic minerals and ore, I use region wide buy orders where I can roughly double my ISK.

I am currently hauling in a fairly bland ship - an Iteron IV with no rigs (but other slots filled); and have only L1 implants. This is due to working to a 'don't fly what you can not afford to lose'. I do not have the toon skills for a traditional blockade runner yet.

To me it is a numbers game. Can I retrieve more ISK out of my occasional lowsec filled order than I will lose out from getting ganked?

As I haven't seen a ship in my lowsec excursions let alone knowing I have been targetted, the answer so far is clearly yes.

I have a mild advantage that my peak play time (in Australia) is very much offpeak for the majority of the player base.

I also take basic care - emptying my ship of cargo and any unnecessary fittings (I am not going to be able fight my way out of lowsec in an Iteron), and paying attention during jumps.

I will be caught one day. When I get caught sufficiently often so that I lose more than I am gaining, then I may change my mind. While I do not explicitly look for lowsec purchases or sales, I am currently not stressed if I need to pick something up.

Urist said...

I find it a little surprising how your safety is inversely proportional to the security status of the system. A highsec mission runner who is worried about getting ganked is better off joining a large 0.0 alliance and carebearing in their space, where he is going to be safe and get more isk. In a large alliance he can also be anonymous for a long time ignoring CTAs or whatever and just rat, until the alliance collapses, but then you just join a new one.

Larofeticus said...

"Since I'm trading, I introduce no ISK or materials to the playerbase, every ISK I get is an ISK someone loses. So by having a second account I'm taking 6B/month from the other players."

Economic activity is not zero-sum. Yes, you're not grinding isk or producing materials but you are providing a service to others by either hauling or making a market more liquid through station trading. They paid you some isk in exchange for the time they saved not hauling an item or waiting for an order to fill.

"PvP is not 'content' you consume but competition where you shall win." These are not mutually exclusive. But you should link to previous posts on the subject instead of just complaining; I don't want to wander through hundreds of posts tagged "philosophy" looking for it.

And how would you explain players who grind nothing, finance pvp with plex, and then win their pvp encounters?

Gevlon said...

@Larofeticus: "non-existant". If he would win, he'd have loot so he wouldn't need PLEX.

PvP cost no money. Losing in PvP costs. So needing PLEX means you lost.

Anonymous said...

"PvP cost no money. Losing in PvP costs. So needing PLEX means you lost."

This is a very silly argument on a number of levels. Even the best PVPers lose fights and drops will not necessarily make up for the loss of isk.

It also depends on your attitude to risk:

16M in drops from killing ships worth 250M, and I bet it took him more than 16M to perfect that exequror fit, and once he starts reaches it's limits he will be looking for ever more unequal fights to challenge himself with.

Anonymous said...

I can easily make over 100m an hour by Jewing in my Tengu while literally reading a book. I've made billions on the market much as you do.

Neither of those activities are why I play the game though, so if I need ISK, I buy and sell some PLEX. I make around $80k annually. That's about $40 an hour. So if I take one hour of my real life money, I can make a billion ISK. At this point that typically lasts me a long time.

It's a simple matter of what's more efficient.

Femgee said...

So if your girlfriend did not have you giving her gifts, and she just "had fun", how would she carry on playing once her trial account ran out? You said she spent the whole day to get that 30m ISK. So on that logic, she would have to play almost every day all day to fund her account through ISK bought plex. The alternative is to then stop doing the fun missions or whatever it is she enjoys, and to do the less fun and boring tasks in game so she can make more ISK/h. By your own idea of how people should play, your gf is both a moron and a slacker because she chooses to do those aspects of the game over others. Correct?

A question I have been meaning to ask since you started this switch to eve is how many hours have you spent playing/reading/researching about eve? You have very impressive numbers each post about how many billions you make, but never any indication of how much time you have spent within that week/month to get such large amounts. A new player to a game does not have 3 accounts within as many months, so I am guessing you are playing/reading many many hours each week.

In your way of thinking and apparent ability to completely forget opportunity cost in the real world and not just in a computer game, assuming that someone had an on demand paid per hour with no office hour time restraints that paid $10 per hour after tax, would that person still be an M&S if he buys plex which would work out to about 250m ISK/hour with real money? And if your answer is that he is correct for doing so (hint, he is***), why do you assume that every person that buys plex/GTC/subscription is an M&S?

***Ofc this does not include the ability to learn about the game from playing it or the fun element of grinding ISK over doing a job IRL.***

Andrei said...

"So about 1/3 of the 350K accounts are not self-sustaining, they need constant ISK influx in form of selling PLEX on the market to keep on going. It also means that about 1/3 of accounts are played for free..."

One may say that 1/3 of accounts that are played for free are subsidized by the PLEX buying accounts.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever consider that CCP adds some plex to the market artificially to maintain higher subscription numbers and activity?

Pim said...

"PvP cost no money. Losing in PvP costs. So needing PLEX means you lost."

It is more accurate to say that playing PvP means winning 50%, losing 50%. Otherwise you are playing with the wrong people.

Slaughtering noobs is not fun except for goons. Losing all the time is not fun but morons do it anyway. A good player, playing PvP means 50% win / loss rate. (This is also determined by the player's ability to create / join a matchmaking system.)

...and 50% win/loss rate in PvP means losing ISK, unless CCP changes things.

RvB is a good example. Everyone in RvB knows that their time spent pvp'ing is ISK negative, and they must pay for it by doing something else which is ISK positive.

Kristopher said...

Anon 12:27:

I am currently supporting an alt for factional warfare with my WH farming main.

Ship losses for FW PvP are chump change.

I'm just having fun. I might someday be good enough in PvP to make it less of an ISK sink.

Azuriel said...

@Gevlon this was answered million times and I hate to repeat myself. PvP is not "content" you consume but competition where you shall win. If I buy winning, I'm a cheater by definition.

Repeating it does not make it any more true.

Cheating, by definition, requires rules to be broken. Buying ISK via PLEX violates no rules, and there is no implicit deception going on. If others assume you earned the Titan by trading or mining or whatever, that is their mistake to make. Your boxing scenario is a false analogy because briberly is illegal both within the game rules and probably also with the government. Conversely, CCP would recognize your Titan ownership as legitimate whether you grinding/traded the ISK or bought it via PLEX.

Your arbitrary moral position on the matter is no different than the "morons" who want "fair fights," e.g. those unwilling to perform "cheap" moves or otherwise win at all costs.

You are free to disparage those individuals whose inability to earn PLEX "for free" subsidizes your game time. I would even agree that you are doing much better than them. But paying for social status is not inherently moronic, nor is there no tangible benefit being derived. "Flying with the big boys" is content to them, even if they lose those fights, in the same way ring-side seats are better than Pay-Per-View. And considering how difficult it is to be revenue-positive by PvP anyway, it's entirely possible they win most fights but the 1-2 losses set them back far enough that simple attrition requires farming or simply buying PLEX.

We can imagine an all-PvP EVE game that has no mining, trading, etc, that costs $35/month or higher. Some would be more than happy to play that game at that price; people willingly purchase roguelikes and play games in arcades, after all. Adding the ability to reduce that price by spending X time and mental bandwidth on things 100% unrelated to PvP and not "taking advantage" of the chance, does not make someone a moron.

Unless, of course, you posit that anyone who has ever paid a premium for anything is a moron.

Anonymous said...

Gevlon that is your definition of PvP; it is not everyone's. In particular, the fact that a goon loses 100% of their hi-sec gank battles does not mean they did not enjoy it.

What about time convenience? I.e. someone says I can get 2m ISK from mining with G or I can spend eight cents and obviate the need for mining for an hour? I do not see how spending pennies to avoid mining is either cheating or much worse of a waste of entertainment money than an EVE subscription. has a link to Dr Bartle's pdf.

Anonymous said...

Winning in PvP costs money, that faction ammo does not come cheap.

When I was flying frigs and cruisers in pvp, the most expensive thing on my ship was often the faction ammo in the hold of my rifter.