Given the recent discussion in the main EVE thread, my interest in the topic and the complexity of the markets in EVE, I think a new topic is appropriate.
First off, I am very impressed with the economy in EVE. I'm sure some graduate student somewhere has developed a dissertation on the economics of EVE that will go into much greater detail than I have ever considered. On the surface, however, I think it has a number of advantages over all other MMO's. First and foremost, the server is a single shard so you have a significant economies of scale. Instead of at most a few thousand active players at once, you have 30-40 thousand and I guess around 400,000 total subscribers. That is a substantial base to build an economy around. Second, the economy is almost completely players driven. Players generate the raw materials, consume them to manufacture products and sell them on an open market. Sure, there are significant outside factors (isk farmers, selling isk for game time, etc.) that you would never experience in a real world economy but it is probably as close a representation as any virtual economy out there (I don't know, is there any other virtual economy that is as complex as this?).
When I first played EVE three years ago, I got bored with missions and the combat mechanism after a month or so of play. The sheer size of the universe and the nature of the economic system intrigued me, so I decided to dedicate my game time to trading and I began to level up my Gallente Industrial Ship skills. I was perhaps just not smart enough to grasp the full scope of the economy and so I decided to concentrate on something that was easy – trading NPC goods. I started out small, trading holoreels and oxygen and other cheap commodities in high sec space. A trade netting a few hundred thousand ISK was crazy good and certainly better than the missions I could run at the time. As I qualified to run bigger and better industrial ships, I began to haul more expensive goods and dabble in low sec space. Electronic parts, Planetary vehicles, Livestock and other goods with higher margins were my bread and butter. Soon I was clearing $1 million or more ISK per trade run and would do a few runs a day.
The only trouble I ever ran into was getting my Iteron Mark IV ganked at a gate. Unfortunately, warp to 0 was not an option at this time. Fortunately, I was on a return trip and didn't have any goods in my bay. After posting a bounty on the pirate that ganked me, I took the time to bookmark the warpgates for all the trade runs I was working. What a waste of time, but it prevented more such incidents.
Eventually, I found a real nice niche working the low sec markets around Arwa in the Metropolis region. If I took the time, I could do three or four runs in an hour or two and make $10 million ISK. The fact that the NPC markets reset every morning (US Central time) forced me to log on first thing in the morning to buy goods or lose the deals. This got old real fast. The NPC markets are fairly static and, once you understand them, it becomes nothing more than an exercise in procedure. Predictably, this eventually got boring and I stopped playing.
I knew the game had gone through a significant number of improvements over the past three years and was interested in checking out the new graphics and content so I signed back up a week or two back. Fortunately, the missions are a lot more fun and rewarding than they used to be. Still, the draw of splashing around in the economy is there and I've decided to try a different tact this time around.
I know with this background information I've painted myself as a noob. I'm sure many of you eclipse my earning power in the time it takes you to pick your nose. I've got about 4.5 million skill points and maybe $150 million ISK to my name. Chump change but its a start.
So here is what I have been up to. I decided I would play the minerals market. I needed to find something that I could readily follow and understand. There are, I guess, thousands of goods that you can produce, buy and sell in EVE. I know from reading what some of you have said that there can be a very lucrative market in buying and selling ships, fittings, ammo, etc. My problem is that understanding the intricacies of moving these goods in bulk and in an efficient manner is beyond me right now.
So, I spend a few days following the prices of the lower-end minerals in the two regions I have been spending most of my time running missions … Essence and Sinq Laison. I decided to focus on Mexallon and Tritanium. My first order was just to get my feet wet and see that I could turn a profit, however small. It was for 25,000 Mex @ about 32 in a small system a few hops from Oursulaert, a fairly large Gallente trading hub. That got filled in about 12 hours. Great! I was on my way. I picked it up, trucked it to Oursulaert and sold it overnight for about 40. Lets do the math: 8 isk profit x 25,000 units = 200,000 isk profit. Of course you take out broker and market fees and I've made even less. Just a pittance really but for me it was proof of concept. I could make this work!
I've got some larger orders outstanding for both Mex and Trit that are slowly getting filled. We'll see if I can start turning enough of a profit to beat mission running.