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I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday definition: Passive income

And now, an EVE term definition for the newer EVE players.  You vets can move on to the next post.  In particular, this post is intended for players who search for the term "passive income" using the search bar off to the right.

From time to time, older EVE players will casually inform newer EVE players that they need to find a source of "passive income" to help fund their activities in game.  Only rarely, though, is the term defined.  Most income in EVE is derived from three sources: active income sources, semi-active income sources, and passive sources.
  • An active source is defined as that which requires the player's active and on-going participation on a minute-by-minute basis.  Player action drives the income; generally, the more involved or skilled the player, the higher the income.  Active income is typically measured in ISK/hour.
  • Passive income is defined as that which requires very little player intervention, and that will proceed perpetually with only minor actions needed.  In most cases, the player action required is merely to collect the income as it is generated.  Passive income is typically measured in ISK/month.
  • Semi-active income is defined as that which falls between active and passive income: income sources that require infrequent player action.  This sort of income is typically measured in ISK/day.

Typical active income sources are mining, missions, ratting, complexes; or running incursions, scannable sites, or wormhole sites.  These are all income sources that require individual player action to be successful.  In these income sources, if the player is not present to take action, the income will not be paid out.  Often, they either require the action of multiple characters or will be more profitable if multiple characters are involved.  As of this writing, income from most forms of active income ranges from 4-8 million ISK/hour (for most forms of ice mining) to one hundred million ISK/hour or more (for certain forms of incurison- and wormhole-running).

The three most common sources of passive income are Planetary Interaction, Datacores, and moon mining.  In each case, most of the player work involves setting up the income stream through a specific set of actions that only have to be undertaken once.  In the case of moon mining, the character's skills are all but irrelevant during the set-up phase.  For PI and Datacores, specific character skills must be trained in order to set up the income stream.  Once set up, gathering the income is a process of visiting the location where the income stream has been set up, periodically collecting that source of income, then selling it at market.  Almost no effort is required.

This is sometimes disparagingly referred to by EVE players as "push button, receive bacon."

In particular, moon mining generates "moon goo," which is the colloquial term given for various Moon Materials which can be gathered from low-sec and null-sec moons.  Gathering moon materials is a passive income stream, one that is typically out of reach for the individual EVE player and is instead mostly reserved for corporations and alliances.  Still, there are many lower-value moons that can be successfully mined by individuals for a continuing passive income.

Most forms of passive income available to individual players have an income possibility of a few million ISK per day.  A technetium moon, the most valuable type of moon currently available in EVE, has an income possibility of 185 million ISK per day as of this writing.  However, "tech moons" owned by individual players are extremely rare.

Semi-active income is derived by sources that require some player action, but that action is either somewhat or very infrequent.  Common semi-active income sources are BPO copying, market trading, market speculation, moon material refinining, and industry.  Botting is another extremely common source of semi-active income that is against EVE Online's EULA.  The income possibilities from semi-active income sources are highly variable dependent on the effort expended and the investment made.

For instance, making copies of capital ship class BPOs is considered a highly lucrative semi-active income source with a low effort but a very high initial investment required.  A single capital ship class BPO costs nearly one billion ISK, and researching the BPO to desirable levels is highly time-consuming.  However, once accomplished, the BPCs generated through this activity can generate many times the initial investment.  This investment can be further enhanced by selling BPC "packs": full sets of the BPCs needed for the various parts to construct one capital ship.

Most moon materials are of little use in their raw state, and another very common lucrative source of semi-active income is refining these moon materials into products usable by industrialists.  This requires a substantial investment in POSs usually placed in some quiet low-sec system and then maintained over weeks or months.  Input products are purchased from market, transported to the POSes for refining, and then the output products are carried in the other direction and sold for a substantial profit.  This is a high-risk, high-yield income source, but requires a fair bit of player action.

A source of semi-active income with a lower investment need but a still higher level of player interaction needed is the so-called "station trading" mechanic.  This is the process of placing large buy orders for commonly used materials, mods, ammunition, or ships in large markets, then reselling these stocks at higher prices and reinvesting much of the profit.  The initial investment needed for this source of income is fairly low, perhaps a few tens of millions of ISK to flip faction or tech2 ammunition, for instance.  However, the amount of time needed is fairly high: orders will have to be maintained frequently to ensure your sell and buy orders are the lowest and the highest price respectively.  It also takes a good bit of research to determine good target items to work with.

Sooner or later, each EVE player will require continuing sources of passive, active, or semi-active income.  Depending on your play style, the effort you are willing to spend, and the risks you are willing to take, you'll eventually choose those sources which are best suited to your needs.

Occasionally on Sundays, I will be defining a common EVE term for those who might not have heard it.  If you have a suggestion for such a term, please drop it into the comments.


  1. One other passive income not mentioned ( although is a subset of PI ) is ownership of a Customs Office

  2. I wouldn't count PI or moon mining pas fully passive activities. For PI, you need to update extraction every 1-3 days, plus hauling of extracted commodities. For moon mining you have to haul materials once in a while (not sure how large silos are).

    I can build capitals logging in once in 2 weeks to install new jobs and haul minerals. For capital BPO research&sale (capital BPC business is crappy tbh), I need to login once a month. How is that more active than PI?

    1. I agree with this - PI is fairly involved especially in empire space where the taxes are higher and the yield is lower. To make any form of ISK out of it, quite a bit of micromanaging is required. Jester is correct that the actual PI material generation is passive but when you put the management / marketing into the equation, PI is not really passive income anymore (unlike data cores from R&D agents). Now in WH / nullsec, its a lot less involved since the yields are so high. But then your logistics is harder (and more dangerous), so its a coin toss.

    2. I agree, although I would add even out in nul it's not very passive. If you want to make any isk off it this become quite time consuming due to the sheer number of planets you have to run to make more then a few minutes worth of ratting of it in a day. Yes you would still make more ratting over the same tiem period, even in something relitively cheap/low sp such as a faction cruiser or t3 BC, but that's not quite the point.

  3. Another caveat: Datacores are no longer truely only a passive income thnx to FW changes

    1. Wrong. Data cores are still passive outside FW. I don't know how hey work exactly with FW, but you pay a small fee for each data core as well as a certain research point cost for each type. As a passive source of income, it's still a no-effort method of making Isk after the initial rep gain and skill training is done.

    2. Data core farming may be by definition passive, once it is set up, but grinding the corp status to use a L4 agent was far, far from passive. Prior to the datacore Armageddon created by the goon Soundwave last June, I had to grind up 3 chars on one account to use the L4 agents for Core Complexion. Thing is, there were all indy alts. None had skills to run missions. So I had to fleet them up with another char on another account to get the corp status. No one can say that grinding missions for status, where only half the increase is useful,is "passive".

      Oh, and Soundwave got his way with destroying all the work by untold people doing what I just described. I will use nanite datacores as an example. Prior to the goon hammering the mechanic, they were selling for about 265-360K each. Today, 120-130K. Now tack on the fact that he halved the RP output of the agents, and the 10K tax/datacore cashed in. So where I used to get one datacore that was worth about 300K, I now get about 50K. (120/2-10). Now THAT is how you wipe out a game mechanic. Almost as good as what he did to Incursions. The payback on the 40M skillbook to use multiple RP agents is ridiculous now, so much that I doubt anyone is doing it.

  4. Nice guide for new players. You forgot to add buying PLEX tough... But thats rather borderline as its not a steady income but more like injections when needed.

    If PI is a Tech 1 Cap Recharger, PLEX is an officer Heavy Cap Booster

    1. Yeah this is a surprisingly common income source even in fairly unexpected places, I know a few guys out in nul who PVE or mine as their primary play style and still use plex as a primary income source.

  5. I'd also like to mention gas harvesting, (active) and booster production from that gas,(semi-active) One of the more lucrative income routes to follow. :D

  6. For passive income, you can try pages such as cashcrate.com which offer some extra cash for online surveys and other cash task. Such pages usually have a referral program, your referrals earn money for you then. For example on cashcrate.com you earn up to 20% of what they make, and up to 10% of what their referrals make.