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.
Step One: Purchase And Research The Blueprint
First the blueprint must be purchased. The drake blueprint is available for 342mil (as millions are commonly abbreviated by English speaking players). It should be carried in a small, fast ship that warps directly from gate to gate. If a ship with a valuable blueprint tarries on gates or travels via autopilot, there is a decent chance that it will be blown up by suicide gankers, regardless of the security class of the system. Thus, the destination should be known in advance, the blueprint should be brought there directly, and care should be taken not to unduly expose the ship to risk.
Researchers in high security space suffer a dilemma: either cope with long wait times on material research, or seek alternative researching venues. Alternatives include setting up a research starbase (aka POS, short for 'player owned starbase'), something that new players would find extremely difficult to the point of not being worthwhile at all, or taking the blueprint into low security space, where it is even more at risk. If it were me, I would take the blueprint into a quiet section of 'lowsec' late at night, research it, and then bring it back to 'highsec' under the same conditions. More risk-averse, patient players can probably find a station with about twenty days of wait for material research.
Production efficiency research is not nearly as backed up, and can usually be found without much difficulty, as long as the location is not too close to Jita or Amarr.
Once the blueprint has been researched to ME 20 and PE 20, it is time to begin copying. This research will likely take a month or two. Do not be afraid of the long times involved. If you are going to be playing for the next year, there is no reason not to invest your isk and make it start working for you.
Copy slots often have wait times of less than a week, which is not too bad for our purposes. Alternatives include basing in lowsec, which puts the copies at risk when moving them out, or setting up a research POS, which is contra-indicated for newbies. Thus, week-long waits are actually quite palatable.
Set up the copying job. Five-run BPCs are recommended as a good compromise between bulk and sell-ability. Single-run BPCs will likely sell better, but require more contracts (and thus, more interaction, making this income source less passive).
Most copy slots have a maximum limit of 30 days on any given job, thus you must check in every month or so in order to install a new job. If you have the Scientific Networking skill trained, you do not actually need to be in the station where the blueprint is located. With this skill, you can copy from several systems away, so long as you are located in the same region.
Step Three: Move and Sell Blueprint Copies
The best way to move blueprints in a small, fast moving ship that warps directly from gate to gate. If you must autopilot in high security space, do it in something with a lot of hit points, or keep the value of your total cargo below "gankable" value thresholds. When moving goods, I try not to have more than 10mil in a frigate, below 80mil in an industrial and below 1bil in a freighter. The cost and hassle of suicide ganking makes hitting targets with less than these amounts undesirable.
Once the BPCs are set up in a market hub such as Jita, Amarr, or Rens, deposit them into the main market station of that system and put them up for sale via the Contract system. If you are unsure how to use contracts, click on the Help menu on the sidebar, select the Tutorials tab, open the Business section, and click Contracts. This will explain the contract system far better than a text-based guide. Sell the BPCs for what seems like a competitive price, and sit back and wait for the isk to roll in.
The Algebra of Profit
Here is the math involved in copying and selling the drake blueprint. Depending on your skills, you can make a copy of a researched drake blueprint every three hours or so. Each blueprint copy run can be sold for somewhere between 150,000 isk and 250,000 isk. Assuming the lower figure, that's 50,000 isk per hour being produced, whether you are logged in or not. That's 1.2mil a day, and 36mil every thirty days of active copy time. Without doing anything except clicking "copy" and setting up "want to sell" contracts every now and then. There will be slight copying fees, copy slot delays, weeks where you forget to log in, and so forth, but the basic profitability is constant.
Assuming even a constant copy and sale rate, unrealistic though these may be, the drake blueprint will pay for itself after nine months of sales. This is after a month or so of research. Thus, we see that it takes nearly a year for a drake blueprint to pay for itself. Although this seems like a long term, remember that it requires very little time investment from the player, and that the drake blueprint original may be resold at any time for at least its original cost, and very likely more. In effect, you will have doubled your money or better, with minimal tending. Selling the blueprints via contracts requires a little more attention, but it is still only brief moments,
There are many ways to improve the returns of this income scheme. Charging more is the most obvious, but less obvious is that it may be advantageous to have several competitively priced copies for sale, and several at a somewhat higher price, in case demand spikes. A tiered pricing system, if you will.
Another way to improve profits is to move the blueprint to a well-chosen location in low security space or even nullsec, and churn out the blueprints there, with a hefty markup for your trouble. Also good is joining a corporation and marketing the blueprints to them. Access to private markets is always good for sales.
Outside of copying, if you have decent production skills you may also produce and sell drakes on the market, possibly using your blueprints so as not to interrupt the lengthy copy jobs.
If you have access to a POS, or a corporation that has one, you will be able to churn out blueprint copies twice as quickly, less the cost of the POS fuel. There is also the unpleasant risk of corp-mates stealing your blueprint, which cannot be eliminated so long as there are other players with starbase roles in your corporation.
I hope that this article has provided some insight into how to invest in blueprints, and assessing whether it is worth it. The general principles outlined may be easily extrapolated to other blueprints, for ships or otherwise. The concept can be scaled down to a frigate blueprint, or up to a battleship blueprint. To me, battlecruisers seem like a good compromise between investment and profitability, and the price tag is much less than a resold timecard. But if you have a surfeit of cash, perhaps a raven or dominix blueprint would suit you better. Or if you know that a certain ship is in demand in your area, invest in that blueprint. The sky is the limit. Go forth, and profit!