So let's talk a bit about ice mining.
For quite a while now, there's been a persistent rumor that CCP Soundwave has wanted to move all ice mining out of high-sec. Now, there was a certain amount of factual basis in this rumor; he's mentioned it in passing from time to time in public arenas such as video and audio interviews. In one video I saw, he stated that he wanted ice to "be the oil of New Eden"... something that was in and of itself a conflict driver. But he also made it clear enough that this wasn't his decision... just something that he felt would be a good balance point for the game. And there was a second persistent rumor associated with this: that Soundwave had brought this proposal before EVE's game designers including CCP Unifex... and he'd been shot down. Unifex, went this rumor, didn't want to break the cycle of ice-mining in high-sec, he just wanted it to be less bottable.
In the days leading up to Fanfest, the rumor took on a third aspect -- almost certainly started and fueled by the Goons -- that Soundwave had gotten his wish and that one of the announcements that would be made at Fanfest was that ice mining would be banned from high-sec forever more! Now of course we now know this isn't the case. But the rumor was believable and viable enough that leading up to Fanfest, ice product prices took a big spike upward to 750 ISK per unit for most of the isotopes. This lasted for a little less than a single day before the strategic reserves of a lot of Jita alts came out to dump some supply and steady the prices back down to normal. And by the time Fanfest started, ice prices had settled down to their pre-rumor levels of about 450 ISK per unit.
At this point, of course, we know what happened at Fanfest. Ice will continue to be available in high-sec, low-sec, and null-sec, but will be contained in anomalies instead of static positions. These anomalies will contain a finite (rather than near-infinite) amount of ice. In particular, CCP Fozzie specifies that were all available high-sec ice collected on a daily basis, it would provide about 80% of the current needs of the game, therefore "at least some of the ice mining must be undertaken in lower security space."
But that assumes that the amount of ice in use in the game stays constant. Anyone want to take bets on how likely that is? Lots of players have contacted me to let me know that they will be un-anchoring long-held towers. Ice harvesters will cycle twice as fast in the new system, but that does nothing for the overall supply, which will be falling. With supply falling, the market reacted predictably: most isotopes are currently in the 600 to 700 ISK per unit range, about a 50% increase over pre-Fanfest prices. Mining Dark Glitter in low-sec might turn out to be the most lucrative type of mining there is. At today's prices, it's an activity that will be worth more than 60M ISK/hour once Odyssey drops.
So, Soundwave got part of his wish, not all of it. Sooner or later, presumably at least some null- and low-sec ice mining will have to take place.
I keep flashing back to the first Goonswarm Gallente ice interdiction that drove the prices of Oxygen isotopes past 1000 ISK per unit. At the time -- that interdiction was almost two years ago now -- I was living in high-sec and spending most of my time running incursions while I decided what I wanted to do next in EVE. Funnily enough, when the interdiction started, I had to explain what it meant to a lot of incursion bears. They had, you see, almost no idea what isotopes were or what they were used for. As I wrote at the time, one of them finally pointed out...
"So, it's a bunch of null-sec guys scamming a bunch of other null-sec guys for something only null-sec guys need."And yeah, that's essentially what the interdiction was. There aren't a lot of Gallente towers in high-sec, after all.
And that's been the context that I've been thinking about this change in.
I might annoy some players by saying this, but I'm coming increasingly to the opinion... that Soundwave might have a point. Why not move ice mining to low- and null-sec? Yes, it would double or maybe even triple the price of isotopes. But unless I miss my guess, this is one of the few cases where the bulk of that expense would fall firmly on those most able to afford it. High-sec players don't need a lot of isotopes. Yes, it would drive up the cost of T2 manufacturing right across New Eden, but as I've covered before, high-sec players don't use a lot of the output of T2 manufacturing. While high-sec players buy the occasional T2 ship or module, they don't lose very many of them. It's mostly null-sec players actually consuming T2 ships and modules so the increase in prices would mostly fall on them.
The rest of the is going into fueling towers and capital ships of the largest alliances in New Eden. The small alliances don't need a lot of towers, and don't need to move thousands of capital ships. And if the cost of ice doubled or tripled, suddenly low- and null-sec ice mining wouldn't be worth 60M ISK/hour... it'd be worth double that. You'd see a lot more mining ops of various sizes going after the goods. It would certainly change the dynamics of the industry!
EDIT (8/May/2013): Derp, referred to a Venture mining ice when I was looking at a Skiff on the market at the time...
On that scale, the Odyssey change to ice mining is very small beer indeed. Strategic reserves will draw down as people keep critical towers fueled, and then prices will edge up a bit more, perhaps to the 750 ISK per unit price we saw on one day before Fanfest. After that, it will come down to demand. If demand remains steady, this change will impact players, sure, but it's a pretty small scale impact in the grand scheme of things. But will demand remain steady? Will a lot of the towers that are up today stay up? Will the current almost casual movement of hundreds of caps and super-caps around the game continue? The big question -- and it's going to be one I ask come the winter summit at the end of the year -- will be "How much did this change affect the number of isotopes actually consumed?"
And the really big question: once POSes do get rebuilt, if POSes are eventually going to be something that "everyone wants", how will the increased cost of keeping them fueled change that? Making those POSes more expensive to operate could put a damper on that feature before CCP even gets around to writing it...
All in all, interesting times ahead!