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.
style="font-style: italic;">EVE Online arguably has the most realistic economy of any MMO.
The economic activity of EVE Online is diverse and based around various niches of game mechanics, so much so that new players sometimes find themselves in need of a guide to parse them. Some markets are easy to buy into, while others require skill points, time, and/or investment capital. When you take an interest in a particular market and begin trading in it, you will begin to get a feel for how aggressively its commodities are traded, how volatile the prices are, and whether or not it is a good place to make long-term investments.
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.
The most important thing new players should know about tech I production is that, though competing with the big boys in Jita or Amarr can be difficult, moving to a popular area outside of the market hubs will afford you a wealth of opportunity. Most players are willing to pay for overpriced goods rather than fly a few jumps to buy cheap ones. Capitalize on that and you will rake in the cash.
The relatively new planetary interaction portion of EVE Online allows players to harvest, refine, and combine various materials located on planets. These materials can then be used with blueprints to produce POS gear, station parts, and other important goods. The different materials are easy and safe to make in high-, low-, or null-security space, with the difference being in volume produced rather than whether a given resource is available or not.
style="font-style: italic;">Moons and planets are how most players and alliances respectively make their ends meet.
The most important thing for new players to know about the planetary materials market is that most of the money made from this is by performing only one or two steps of the production chain and focusing on the most profitable steps, rather than making top-tier advanced commodities.
Moon minerals are mined directly from moons with satellites called player-owned starbases, usually abbreviated as "POS". The minerals can range from being nearly worthless to being the most lucrative sources of income in the game. Because moons cannot be mined in high-security space and are very finite in number, these moons are the main cash resource fought over and contest by large alliances in null- and low-sec. More than anything else, the scarcity and price of moon minerals determines the cost of using tech II ships or modules, the mainstay of much of EVE Online's player base.
The most important thing for new players to realize about moon mineral prices is that, more than any other commodity, they are affected by changes CCP makes to the game. Investing heavily in one of these is very dangerous, especially since the moon minerals are frequently the target of market manipulation on the part of cartels seeking to artificially inflate their price.
Minor Basic Markets
Datacores are an essential portion of the invention process, being the ingredient that is expended along with blueprints in an attempt to invent a tech II blueprint copy. Though they are found in small amounts at certain exploration complexes, the main way datacores are obtained is through the use of research agents, who can be accessed after a fairly long mission grind. Accessing high-level research agents is one of the major goals of many mission runners. Once these agents are put to work, they will produce research points each day without any further human action being necessary aside from periodically picking the datacores up.
Though they are used in all invention jobs, datacores only make up a significant cost in the relatively cheap production of tech II modules. This means that, when the datacore market is tampered with, it would theoretically affect the cost of tech II modules. Unfortunately for players looking to capitalize on this cash cow, the total amount of EVE players using research agents is only going up over time, and it seems like this is causing almost every datacore type to slowly trend downwards.
The most important thing for a new player to realize is that datacores are often dumped to the Jita market all at once, making buy orders the way to go for most inventors. Barring a change to game mechanics, datacores are probably one of the worst long-term investment a player can make.
There are plenty of other markets to look at, check back with us later this week for the next guide in this series.
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