And guess what: that number is only going to go up. The shield fleet channel (BTL PUB) generally has about 500 pilots in it; the armor fleet channel (The Ditanian Fleet) generally about three hundred. These numbers are increasing. There might be as many as 1500 player accounts actively involved in incursions on a daily basis, with perhaps an equal number intermittently involved in them. A constellation affected by a typical incursion currently has more sites than fleets in it; it's quite common for the HQ system alone to be empty or near empty much of the time, for instance, and an HQ system can theoretically support 200 players at a time.
So there's room for the numbers to increase.
That said, as I said yesterday, the more I think about it, the more I think that Incursion ISK is healthy for the EVE economy, for four reasons which I listed in my previous post:
- it is self-limiting;
- it is self-sinking;
- it is not without risk; and,
- it is social, merit-based ISK.
Let's talk about each in turn.
Incurison ISK is self-limiting. Unlike null-sec pirate bounty ISK or L4 mission bounty ISK, which are both functionally infinite, there is a finite, measurable maximum amount of ISK that can be made from a given incursion per month that cannot be exceeded. A constellation affected by an incursion will have 2-3 Scout systems, 3-4 Vanguard systems, 1-3 Assault systems, and a single HQ system from what I've seen. Each system will have five sites of their particular type. We can safely ignore Scout systems; the amount of ISK that can be made there is negligible. If there are 4 Vanguard, 3 Assault, and the HQ system, the absolute maximum amount of pilots running incursions in the affected constellation is 700. If there are an average of two high-sec incursions at any given time, that doubles the number to 1400.
As a result, the absolute maximum amount of ISK that can be pumped into the EVE economy from high-sec incursions is 98 billion ISK per hour, or 67.6 trillion ISK per month. This amount of ISK is both the absolute maximum -- the current total, as I mentioned, is probably 10% or less of that -- and less than the amount of ISK that was already pumped into the EVE economy per month in 4Q 2010.
And of course, that theoretical maximum will never be achieved. That number assumes 100% efficiency of running all five sites in all 16 affected systems, 23 hours per day for that month, with no delays for breaks or respawns. It'll never happen. Perhaps one day, EVE players might reach half that number, but I think even that is a stretch. So incursion ISK is self-limiting.
Second, incursion ISK is self-sinking. Though much of the reward for participating in incursions comes from the bounty ISK paid by CONCORD, much is also given in the way of CONCORD loyalty points. These points, while they seem to pump more ISK into the EVE economy, actually sink it. In order to redeem those points, vast amounts of ISK need to be spent to get the items or blueprints CONCORD has available. The most popular current items to buy with these LP/ISK are implants that give 6% skill bonuses. These implants cost 250 million ISK and 250,000 LP. Here is the amount of ISK and LP that a player can expect from a single high-sec incursion site of each type, assuming an optimal fleet:
- HQ sites: 7000 LP, 31.5M
- AS sites: 3500 LP, 18.2M
- VG sites: 1400 LP, 10.5M
Vanguard (VG) sites are the most efficient in terms of ISK. HQ sites are the most efficient in terms of LP (one gains five times as much LP from an HQ as a VG, but only three times as much ISK). It takes about 179 Vanguard sites to gather the LP for one implant. Running 179 Vanguard sites, one will make 1.87 billion ISK. Presuming one immediately spends 250 million ISK to get the implant, that immediately sinks 13% of the ISK gained, far higher than the sink achieved with L4 missions, and infinitely higher than the sink from ratting (since that has no sink at all). For HQs, the return is even worse: it only takes 35 sites to get the LP needed for the implant, but one will only make 1.13 billion ISK doing that many HQs, for a sink rate of 22%. The sink rate for Assaults is 19%.
Of course, automatically sinking between 13% and 22% isn't as high as it could be, but as I mentioned, it is far higher than the alternatives.
Third, incursions are not without risk. As a matter of fact, running incursions virtually guarantees that sooner or later, you will definitely lose a ship. Dozens of ships are lost per day through the action or inaction of other players in incursions. The images of dozens of ships being lost in a single incursion are now EVE legend. Griefing, suiciding, and looting the resulting wrecks happens many times per day.
But even if everyone involved in an incursion fleet is on the level, the chances of losing a ship are quite high. The attention of players drifts, their fits are not ideal, or they make mistakes either in terms of not requesting repairs or requesting them too late. The destruction of quite expensive ships is the result. This also happens many times per day, and it does not matter how experienced the players involved are. Paying attention to the game, making no mistakes, and having a solid fit greatly reduce the risk of losing one's ship, but the risk never drops to zero.
Incursions are one of only two types of PvE in EVE (the other being wormhole-running) where the loss of a ship is virtually guaranteed. Run enough incursions and you will lose a ship.
And of course, exploding ships are good for the EVE economy.
And finally, incursions are social and merit-based. Unlike L4 missions and ratting, which can be done solo, in order to run incursions, one must form a fleet, and that fleet must have an FC, goals, and structure. This is good not only for the players involved, but it is also good for the long-term health of the game. CCP's research has shown (as has, I'm sure, the research of any company that makes or runs an MMO) that the more social bonds players make in game, the less likely they are to unsubscribe. Incursions feeds this quite directly.
The Darwinistic approach to the view of the official channels toward fittings, and selection of the best ships and pilots is also a strong encouragement to players to improve their skills and their ships, and to act in a socially friendly manner. This is also good for the long-term health of the game.
Best of all, as the official incursion channels become more organized, they are branching out into other forms of activities. The shield channel recently celebrated its first successful attack on a low-sec incursion; up to that point, the channel had been 100% focused on high-sec incursions. It is also becoming more and more common for FCs in the channel to compensate for crowded incursions by offering to run low-sec PvP roams. Frequent incursion-runners are also talking about forming an alliance exclusive to incursion-running corps.
In my view, it is only a matter of time before the organizational structure around these activities begins to mirror and perhaps even to challenge the organization of null-sec corporations. For quite a long time now, "organized players" have been the exclusive domain of the null-sec sov-holding alliances. Incursion fleets offer the possibility that this may soon change.
So, to those who are worried or annoyed about the flood of ISK entering the game from incursions, while I understand your concerns, for the moment, I do not share them. In my opinion, the ISK coming from incursions is healthy for EVE Online.