So, one more post on the subject of nerfing high-sec manufacturing, then I'll move on to other things. The last question that always comes up on this topic is "What would happen if the number of manufacturing slots in low- and null-sec was greatly increased, at the expense of high-sec manufacturing slots?"
The biggest problem with null-sec industry right now, and with null-sec in general, is the lack of stations. Yeah, the lack of them. And yes, I'm aware that it used to be a lot worse. I'm also aware that stations have been popping up all over null-sec as the relative cost of them comes down and the relative budgets of null-sec alliances go up. Eleven null-sec outposts were built in August alone. Let's talk about the null-sec outposts first. Then I'll get to the NPC null-sec stations and the low-sec stations.
There are two big issues with null-sec outposts. One is CCP's fault. The other is the fault of EVE players that live there. The issue that's CCP's fault is easy to fix: there are not enough manufacturing slots in any null-sec outpost to do anything useful with. I've recently gotten into a little bit of T2 ammunition manufacturing. Ironically -- I'm used to being able to produce tons of T1 ammo quickly and cheaply -- I've decided that T2 ammo manufacturing is the worst manufacturing there is. It takes a stupidly long time to do. Producing 50000 rounds of Barrage L ammo takes about two weeks. I suspect the Goons or their allies can go through that much ammunition in an hour or less on a busy day.
There was an apocryphal story last year about how there weren't enough manufacturing slots in Goon space to produce just the ammunition that they fire. Forget ships, forget mods, forget anything else they need: there aren't enough slots just for the ammo. And while I accepted that on an intellectual level, I never really got it.
I get it now.
Still, this one is an easy problem to fix. It mostly comes from the fact that the database apparently only supports one player-constructed outpost per system. That creates a lot of issues for players that live in sov null-sec and this is just one of them. But as part of a broad set of industry changes, CCP could easily greatly expand the number of manufacturing slots in null-sec. Hell, they might even get a little crazy and speed up null-sec manufacturing, too. That would be a nice little buff and might encourage more null-sec manufacturing. Sure, people can manufacture small stuff in POSes, and many people actually do. But do they want to? I doubt it.(1)
The more difficult problem to fix is that null-sec alliances don't like or even want people who primarily do manufacturing. Oh sure, there are a few mutant alliances out there that appreciate industrialists -- most of you guys in the northeast come to mind. But this story from a couple of months back is more typical. By and large, null-sec alliances try not to admit "care-bears" and try to limit or reduce the number they have when they're discovered. Industrialists are seen as a drain on the "real" members of the alliance. That's a EVE player attitude that would have to change if the majority of manufacturing slots were moved to null-sec. There's nothing CCP can do about that.
It's probably a good bet that this is going to be a major topic of EVE's expansions next year. With moon goo being potentially dropped in favor of planetary asteroid belts for those materials, null-sec mining greatly expanding, the T2 manufacturing chains being reworked, and CCP's stated intent to make null-sec "99% self-sufficient (by volume)" for manufacturing, there's going to have to be a sea-change in how null-sec alliances see their membership.(2)
This would have a massive impact on game logistics, too. Today, the vast bulk of raw materials needed to build many items in the game has to be gathered in null-sec. Those raw materials are then hauled to high-sec (usually to Jita) where they are purchased by industrialists, and hauled to stations around high-sec New Eden. The resulting finished items are then hauled back to Jita, sold, and they are then often hauled back to null-sec. Shifting this production and manufacturing to null-sec might have the unintended consequence of putting a lot of you high-sec hauler- and freighter-gankers out of business.
Today, while the high volume items are probably produced in null-sec -- the Maelstroms of a Goon fleet themselves, say -- the mods, the rigs, and the ammo is almost certainly produced in high-sec. The little stuff would be produced in the five or ten or twenty stations surrounding a null-sec alliance's home system and then brought there via jump bridge network for final assembly. Instead of Uedama and Niarja, logistics of large amounts of gankable stuff would move out to null-sec pipes. That at least is consistent with CCP Greyscale's vision of logistics becoming a weaker spot for larger null-sec alliances. These logistics would become a valid target and you'd probably see more roaming gangs (particularly cloaky gangs) trying to take advantage.
There would still be pretty substantial high-sec and low-sec markets (more on them in a second), and Jita would easily survive. It would remain a very important trade hub, I suspect. But it wouldn't be the undisputed master trade hub that it is today. I think it would shrink to about the size of the game's other large trade hubs (Amarr, Rens, Dodixie) as there was less need for null-sec residents to go there to get what they need. That equates to less demand.
That equates to higher prices.
With fewer players bringing material in and out of Jita and with the size of the market being smaller and less competitive, there would be less downward pressure on prices. As prices rose, I think the industrialists and traders that moved to null would continue to set their prices based on a "Jita price index." As the prices in Jita rise, prices everywhere else rise too. Net result: moving a large block of manufacturing to null-sec would more than likely cause the price of everything to go up, for everyone.
That doesn't mean it's a bad move. As a matter of fact, out of all the choices CCP has on this topic, moving a large block of manufacturing slots to null is probably the best move they have. But it would be a very high-impact change that would affect everyone in New Eden.
As I said, the Jita market wouldn't disappear. While large null-sec alliances would be able to supply their own needs and operate from just a few capital systems, those living in NPC 0.0 and low-sec are usually somewhat more mobile. Such alliances also sometimes struggle with finding players to fill logistical roles. Therefore, these players would continue to be Jita's biggest customers. It's just that the supply source would change from high-sec manufacturing hubs to sov-space null-sec manufacturing hubs. Instead of the logistics chain I mentioned earlier, such logistics would only flow in one direction: raw materials turned into finished materials in null then transported to high-sec markets.
Final note: what about players like myself that use manufacturing as their one of their primary income sources? Well, not much would change for us. In my experience, most players that play the game as I do live in null-sec already; it's just our manufacturing alts that live in high-sec. As Hardcore Casual wryly put it, the high-sec player does not exist... which I would amend to read "the hard-core manufacturing high-sec player does not exist." Still, if the attitude of null-sec alliances toward industrialists changed, we might see a little bit of a shuffle of experienced industry players if they suddenly found themselves in demand by these null-sec alliances. Kinda fun to think about.
Whew! Long post. To summarize, I think moving a large number of manufacturing and other industry slots out of high-sec and into null-sec is the best move that CCP can make in this area. Still, it will have to be done carefully because as an unintended consequence, such a move will cause prices in high-sec to rise which will have a negative impact on newer players and those that play EVE more casually.
(1) My recurring nightmare on this topic, though, is that CCP moves most or all manufacturing to POSes as part of a broad POS buff. Can you imagine a bigger nerf against brand new EVE players that might want to get into industry? I sure can't.
(2) Though to be fair to CCP, it might be interesting to ask CCP if this dev-blog is still their plan for null-sec. It hit at quite an awkward time and there have been a lot of personnel changes since then.