Updated Mon, Jul 11, 2011 by Space Junkie
This is the first part of a series describing EVE Online's niche markets. This portion deals with basic markets surrounding the most rudimentary commodities in EVE Online.
EVE Online has one of the most sophisticated economies of any MMO, with complexities and behavior that mirror real world economies. Because money can be more important than skill points, players are constantly thinking of new ways to earn and spend money. This ingenuity has resulted in a lot of great player-run projects, including stock markets, IPOs, and Ponzi schemes.
EVE Online arguably has the most realistic economy of any MMO.
Note that because the crafting mechanics of EVE Online vary from dead simple to astoundingly complex, there is much crossover between the markets. Price changes in one market can very easily precipitate others due to the interconnectedness of EVE's economy. Please note also that this guide is not intended to be all-encompassing; there are a thousand dusty corners of EVE's game mechanics, and each one has its own market economy surrounding it. It is better to focus purely on the most important markets.
Major Basic Markets
For our purposes, basic markets are those markets dealing with raw materials or the most rudimentary industrial processes.
The most basic market in all of EVE Online is minerals, which are raw materials obtained by mining asteroids or reprocessing already-existing gear into its constituent minerals. The majority of goods in EVE are either made from minerals or by converting something that is made out of minerals. This includes basic ships, modules, and ammunition. Until recently, the mineral market has been very stable, fluctuating upwards and downwards over time in a sort of cyclical rhythm that could take years to occur.
This changed when the Dominion expansion was released, because of changes to NPC drops and insurance. Nowadays, the mineral market depends much more on supply and demand; if a lot of people are mining zydrine-rich asteroids, the price of zydrine will trend down over time, while if relatively few people are aiming their mining lasers at nocxium-laden rocks, that price will go up. These trends tend to be exacerbated by some of the richer players buying up stock and manipulating the market.
The most valuable thing a new player should know about minerals is that they are relatively easy to obtain via buy orders, rather than sell orders. Unless you are in a hurry, it is a good idea to put up a buy order and wait a day or two, or even to keep standing buy orders in your area to provide for future projects.
The most basic blueprints can be purchased from NPC sellers located at stations found scattered throughout New Eden. These blueprints are then researched to be more efficient and used to turn minerals (or whatever) into a usable item. Because using blueprints that have not been researched loses so much money, there exists a massive market for already researched blueprints. Blueprint originals with research, blueprint copies, and nearly unique tech II blueprints are all available via contracts.
The most important thing a new player should know about blueprints is that most of them are generally more heavily traded in the 'blueprints' chat channel than they are via contracts. Another important factor is that it is very difficult to research blueprints within high-security space, necessitating either wasteful waiting periods or the use of a POS, requiring investment funds and expertise generally beyond the reach of new players.
Tech I Production
Most of the ships, modules, and ammunition in EVE Online are made out of minerals through the use of blueprints. It is the simplest form of production, involving only a single step. This encompasses a huge range of scales, from the guy just makes his own ammunition to mega-tycoons that buys absurd quantities of minerals for sale several years down the line.
The tech one production market is linked very closely with the mineral market. If minerals rise in prices, ships and modules follow with great rapidity. In competitive markets like Jita or the other trade hubs, the market price of small ships, modules, and ammunition will tend to be 10-15% more expensive than the minerals used to make them. For items that are less common, involve the use of large amounts of minerals, or that have blueprints that are expensive and slow to research, things can get a bit skewed. For example, if relatively few people have blueprint needed to build a Hyperion battleship, the market is much more susceptible to attempts to manipulate the price upwards through buy-outs and other market games.