Updated Mon, Feb 08, 2010 by Space Junkie
This is a step-by-step guide to buying and monetizing a drake blueprint. It contains a breakdown of the cost and returns of the blueprint, ways to improve its value, and plenty of exposition and comparison so readers can apply the profit model to other high-investment blueprints.
I have selected the drake because it is a battlecruiser hull, and thus not too expensive, and because it has universal applicability throughout EVE. No matter what area of the game a business is based in, drakes will be in demand. It can tank any damage type, more or less. It can deal with any NPC spawn, up to a point. And lastly, it can deal any kind of damage, even if it can't break every NPC tank. It is also the ship that most new players settle on as their first major money-making ship. It sees some applicability in PVP, as a bait ship, heavy tackler, or shield-based remote-repair fleet. A well-rounded ship, if ever there was one. It is a good investment no matter what happens in EVE. A low-risk investment, which is great for long-term investment plans.
Blueprints are the recipes used to make ships, modules, and many other goods in EVE Online. A character with the right skills can take a blueprint and use it to make finished goods, provided he has enough of the ingredients. There are two kinds of blueprints: blueprint originals, that never run out, and blueprint copies, that may only be used a limited number of times before running out. Blueprint copies may be copied from blueprint originals, a process that this article will explain in detail.
Blueprints also have a 'material efficiency' and 'production efficiency', each of which can be researched on blueprint originals. Material efficiency (or 'ME') affects how much material is wasted when a blueprint is used. For example, an un-researched ship blueprint might require 10,000 tritanium, but if a blueprint with high ME is used, it might only require 80,000 tritanium. Production efficiency (or 'PE') affects how long a blueprint requires to assemble. The better the PE on a blueprint, the less time it will take to make the item in question, or to make copies of that blueprint.
Note that some items do not have blueprint originals available. These items are instead seeded by NPCs, or made with blueprint copies obtained in various ways.
The in-game newbie tutorial missions cover blueprints very well, and I recommend that every player run those missions in order to get a good foundation of knowledge.
The most important consideration when investing in a blueprint is 'how long will this take to pay for itself'. Once a blueprint has paid for itself, it is a continual source of income. Until then, however, it is red ink on the balance sheet. When investing, it is best to assess how long it will take for a blueprint to pay for itself, and compare that with other investment options. If a certain blueprint will being paying out dividends much sooner, it is obviously a better investment.
In real-life economics, when something is not making as much money as another available option, it is called 'opportunity cost'. This is a critical concept to grasp for business in EVE online. Many players do not understand it. For example, some people will mine minerals over the course of many hours, and make a ship to sell out of those minerals that costs less than those materials are worth, because the cost of said minerals was nominally zero. But that same time could have been spent running missions and earning a higher amount of isk per hour than the minerals or ship is worth. This isk difference between missions and mining is the opportunity cost.
Note that this does not mean mining isn't a good choice if a pilot does not want to pay very much attention to EVE, or is not yet able to run missions for whatever reason. The example is only intended to show that time is an important consideration in EVE. This is why investing in blueprints is so great.
Once a blueprint original (abbreviated as 'BPO') is researched, it can be copied or manufactured from as much as desired. The copies themselves are valuable. Consider, rather than invest 342,000,000 isk into a drake blueprint and researching it up, a 1-run blueprint copy (or 'BPC') of drake only costs about 250,000 isk. Many producers do not bother investing in a BPO, and instead run their entire operations off of BPCs. Thus, there is a significant market for these copies.
Passive income is when player interaction is not required in order to for the income to accrue. It is the best kind of income, because it is generated whether a player is logged in, or not, and whether he is doing other things, or not. Because it is passive, it may be done concurrently with other isk-making operations, such as mining or mission-running. In general, a player should collect as many forms of passive income as possible, with the eventual goal of having each eve account pay for the timecards used to maintain their subscription.
How This Makes Bank
The basic idea is this: an entrepreneur purchases a prohibitively expensive blueprint, in this case a drake blueprint. He researches the drake blueprint until it has a reasonable high material efficiency and production efficiency. In this example, ME 20 and PE 20 ought to suffice. The blueprint is then copied in large batches, and the blueprints sold off. Once enough isk has been made and the entrepreneur wishes to move on to other things, the blueprint is sold off at a premium or, at the very worst, the same price for which it was purchased. Thus, after producing isk, the investment is recouped.
The copying takes place with very little interaction from players. Once the blueprint is in the correct station, it is not necessary to even dock to start copying or researching it, provided that the right skills have been trained. The only interaction required is queuing up the job, and clicking to finish it when that batch is done. This is repeated until a substantial stack of blueprints have been copied, that are then collected and hauled to a market hub for sale.