Welcome to Jester's Trek.
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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Friday, February 22, 2013

Week in the Life: PLEX

Well, more like three months in the life.  Check out the price of PLEXes over the last 90 days:

That's right, boys and girls: PLEXes are almost back down to the price they were a year ago.  What's going on?  Well, we can only speculate.(1)

We know from past behavior that PLEX volume after popular patches tends to spike at one-month intervals after a large number of resubs.  I've circled two places where we can see that happening in the volume data.  This represents people who joined or rejoined to play Retribution, which was released on December 4.  These players put down PLEXes a few days before the release, then buy them as their subscriptions run out 30 days after that and 60 days after that.  The late December PLEX buy was interrupted by a major holiday around that time, but the January PLEX buy shows a nice bell curve centered on January 23-24.  After that, you can usually see "mini-spikes" on seven day intervals centered on Saturday and Sunday when server load is the highest.

Volumes are still safely up after the increase in volume following the late autumn price spike, so we can rule out lack of demand as a reason for the falling prices.  Retribution remains popular among these fair-weather EVE players.  I'll have more to say about that in my next Snapcount post, either this weekend or early next week.

We do know that DrEyjoG has said that he would manipulate PLEX prices "if needed".  As reported on page 102 of the CSM December Summit Minutes, this has happened once:
Dr.EyjoG also provided CSM with a report on PLEX intervention(s) made by the EVE Central Bank since the last CSM Summit. The major intervention was related to a PLEX price spike triggered by a large FW payout, and PLEX prices have remained stable since that time. The CSM was satisfied that the ECB had acted appropriately and in line with the procedures previously described. Dr.EyjoG noted that he hopes to have a devblog out in January that discusses this topic in more detail.
January has come and gone.  If there was a dev-blog on this topic, I missed it.  Remember that this discussion took place on December 14, so when DrEyjoG says prices were "stable", he means "high."  The price of a PLEX on December 14 was 580 million ISK.  So we can safely assume that CCP didn't intervene in PLEX prices since that time, either.

Only they have.

One of the clever means CCP has of tweaking PLEX prices without direct manipulation is through sales on PLEXes.  And sales on PLEXes have been more or less continuous since late December right up to today, starting with the holiday season sale before the end of the year and currently with the "dueling sale" that was probably advertised when you logged into EVE today.

I've covered before why high PLEX prices are bad for CCP and they're motivated to keep them relatively low, and I'm pretty sure this is what we're seeing: CCP manipulating once after the FW button-orbiting debacle, and now using PLEX sales to increase supply and gently tug prices down that way.  It's only a guess, but it's probably a pretty good guess.  Check out the price of PLExes bottoming out briefly during the late December spike as all those holiday PLEXes got sold...

The only question is how far down is this going to go?  One thing's for sure, though.  That number won't be 380 million.  Those days are likely gone for good.  The other thing CCP is motivated to do is to keep PLEX prices inflating with the overall rate of inflation within the game's economy.  I think we'll know CCP is comfortable with the price when the PLEX sales stop.  At that point, I think it'll be time for you investors to stop selling PLEXes and start buying them again.

(1) Sorry, had to.


  1. The plex sales are only effective *because* they've nerfed FW. You may recall how laughably ineffective their sales during the whole FW fiasco were? I certainly do, and was greatly amused by it.

  2. Is it known what an "intervention by the Eve Central Bank" means? Do they print false* plexes and flood the market with them?

    * ie not player-purchased.

    1. These PLEXes were conficated from botters & RMTers. Last fanfest Dr E said he had around 10,000 of them.
      They started as player purchased to answer your question.

  3. "That number won't be 380 million."

    Actually, CCP wants to push the number even lower... somewhere around 300M-350M ISK per PLEX.

    This is inline with CCP's goal to nerf in-game income during the year, thus enticing RL deep pocket players to purchase even more PLEX to sell in-game, in order to keep financing those expensive ship losses you love so much.

    And, the lower the in-game PLEX price, the more PLEX you'll need to buy for RL cash.

    CCP is also looking for popular things to sell in game, for PLEX, which won't be considered "gold ammo"... remaps, for example. They are also toying with the idea of running their own lotteries, where you'll be able to win limited edition ships and apparel for your avatar.

    This is how you generate more revenue, when you can't seem to grow the player base significantly.

    1. Do you have a source for this information, or are you speculating based on what would happen with player numbers if PLEXes were significantly cheaper?

      I'm not faulting your speculation, if that's what it is. I'd just like to know if that's what it is.

    2. Let's call it speculation, if only because the source of information comes from an informal, off-the-record, business discussion. ;)

  4. There is something you did overlook in your analysis. Its RMT companies who deal in plexes. I know for a fact that one of then isnt selling direcltly plexes anymore, but instead, when you buy a plex on their website, they give you money to buy a plex instead of giving you the plex (and yea, unlike before, it makes you to get caught by ccp, i also know that for a fact). I assume that CCP has found a way to trace plexes bought to identify which toon is used by a RMT company, and now proceeds in taking all of these toons out of the game. That would mean less market pressure from buyers due to RMT companies not buying plexes online to resell them. I could be mistaken, but that could be part of the reason why plexes prices are moving.

  5. I'm curious if the new NPC AI & the Mission Tracking Disruption bug have put a significant dent in the ISK faucet & may be contributing to the lower PLEX prices?
    Where areyou CCP Diagoras we need you.

    1. Darth, I already suggested that CCP and the CSM does not want that info to get out. It wrecks the null sec zealot propaganda about how much ISK rich fat high sec is making compared to poor null, and how high sec income must be hammered. A plausible lie works in many cases when no data is available to refute the lie.

  6. Just tin foiling here, but it may not be so much an effort to manage plex prices as it is to generate more of a revenue stream in a still fairly flat subscription increase profile. Of course there are all kinds of ways to spend plex at just about everything at fanfest, always at a mark up when paying with plex, and now they're handing out NINETY days free to try to get more accounts. That being said, controlling plex prices is still a smart way to do things unless you want to move plex prices outside the affordability range of players that plex.

  7. Why are the prices falling when the spikes after a launch occur, shouldn't they rise due to increased demand?

    1. Prices fall due to increased volume, during the PLEX sale.

      Also, players who buy PLEX during PLEX sales are usually looking for a fast turnaround on selling the PLEX in-game. They tend to aggressively undercut the lowest price, in the typical market battle to be the first to sell, before the prices drop too far. The result is a rapid drop in prices, during the sale.

  8. I always believed the biggest factor causing PLEX to soar in the first place was FW orbiting.

    Since that got nerfed the price of PLEX has been going down and the price of implants, faction mods and other things the orbit abusers sold has been going up.

  9. lol this must be the worst market analysis that I've ever read. The volume spikes you marked were caused by PLEX sales.

    Also CCP can't reduce the PLEX ISK price by PLEX sales in the long run. If CCP wants to reduce the PLEX ISK price in the long run they have to reduce the normal rl-money PLEX price or they have to increase the demand for ingame assets (e.g. by implementing an overpowered expensive supercapital ship that everyone wants to have) or they have to decrease the amount of ISK/h that you can earn with the usual ingame ISK-earning activities like missions/incursions/complexes.

    1. "If CCP wants to reduce the PLEX ISK price in the long run they have to reduce the normal rl-money PLEX price"

      Er... if CCP has a PLEX sale every month (which is what they have been doing since November), then effectively they *are* reducing the "normal rl-money PLEX price". However, using a sale is smarter than permanently reducing the base price, since CCP can stop the sale, returning the price to its higher base level, when the volume sold has pushed the in-game price down to the desired level.

      Note, too, that CCP takes no RL loss on PLEX sales, since PLEX is a digital asset, for which CCP has the monopoly on manufacturing and a zero build cost.

      As for "increase the demand for ingame assets", CCP has already done so, without something obviously stupid like "implementing an overpowered expensive supercapital ship that everyone wants to have".

      Did you happen to notice that CCP Fozzie has been rebalancing ships? This has had the net effect of increasing demand for previously unused ships, across-the-board, by all players. He also tweaked up the mineral reqs on the BPOs, which has significantly increased the average per ship cost. As a result, the ISK cost per month to play has gone up quite a bit, assuming that you are losing ships at the same rate as before the rebalancing. And, the aggregate ISK spent in-game has increased much more than it would have by the introduction of a single super-expensive ship, owned by only by a small minority of the players.

      Finally, CCP *has* decreased the amount of ISK which can be earned per hour, via missions/complexes. The introduction of the Sleeper AI to all missions/complexes increased the difficulty level - which has had a direct impact on how fast you can run a mission. This, in turn, affects how much ISK you can earn, per hour, in this activity. The new AI has also increased ship losses to NPCs, and thus increased the cost of PVE. Ie. profit from mission running has indeed been reduced.

      The sum effect of all of these game changes on PLEX volumes/prices is only now becoming evident, esp. as many players burn through the last of their FW plexing wealth and now turn to buying/selling PLEX, in order to keep financing their in-game losses.

    2. The blog mentions the PLEX sales as the main reason for the PLEX price decrease. That’s wrong. PLEX sales only work as a compensation for short-term spikes in demand or short-term drops in supply. PLEX sales don’t influence the long-term price. PLEX sales cause a short-term price drop and a short-term volume increase.

      Jester thinks CCP wants a low PLEX price. This is actually probably also wrong. However, discussing this as well in this comment would go too far. Generally CCP wants a PLEX price which maximizes revenue / profit. Therefore the PLEX price must be neither too low nor too high. There is a golden mean for the PLEX price. I merely listed CCP’s options to decrease the PLEX price without judging if CCP is actually using those options to intentionally decrease the price of PLEX and without judging if it would actually be good or bad for CCP to use one of those options:

      One option is to decrease the rl price of PLEX. The “normal rl-money PLEX price” is the basic/minimum PLEX price. It’s currently 15 EUR. The last time this price has been decreased was when CCP introduced PLEX sales (afaik this happened at least 14 months ago). This price drop doesn’t decrease the PLEX ISK price now. It decreased the PLEX ISK price when the PLEX sales were introduced more than a year ago.

      Another option is to increase the demand for ingame assets. CCP did in fact increase mineral requirements for t1 ships. However, they haven’t considerably increased mineral requirements for any popular ships except the retriever and maybe the procurer. Overall it increased the demand for ingame assets only slightly. Supercarriers had a much larger influence on the demand for ingame assets when they were overpowered. The total value of supercarriers that were built because they were overpowered is like 60trillion ISK. The value of additional minerals that are needed to fulfill the demand for retrievers for one year is only like 4trillion ISK. All other ships which have been rebalanced so far need much less additional minerals than the retriever to fulfill the demand for one year.

      The third option that I mentioned is to decrease the ISK/h that average Joe can earn. The FW nerf did in fact decrease the demand for PLEX slightly causing a slight decrease in PLEX prices. However, compared to the massive ISK/h buffs especially during the last 2 years this nerf is only a drop in the bucket.

      Finally CCP has a fourth option. They could spawn PLEX or ISK. I haven’t thought about this option because it’s unlikely I guess. It would probably have the same effect than changing the rl-money price of PLEX.

      However, all of the above doesn’t explain the recent price drop. The truth about the price drop is mostly a bubble burst. For about 2 years the massive ISK/h buffs caused the PLEX price to rise. People believed the price will always continue rising and stockpiled too many PLEX. There were actually no dramatic stockpiles. The current PLEX stockpile divided by the total number of accounts paid with PLEX is only twice as large as it was a few years ago according to Dr.EyjoG. The reason why this small bubble bursts rather spectacular is that all players with a lot of PLEX have a reason to sell them currently: They need the ISK to build BC and BS. I guess this is the main reason combined with some other minor reasons like the FW nerf and possible many new players because of Dust and Retribution. If this is true the PLEX price should rise again after the launch of the summer expansion.

    3. "Finally CCP has a fourth option. They could spawn PLEX or ISK. I haven’t thought about this option because it’s unlikely I guess."

      You guess wrong.

      CCP has dumped "confiscated" PLEX on the market, in order to control prices. But there is actually no difference between confiscated PLEX and spawned PLEX, once the PLEX is in the game. This is because (a) PLEX costs CCP nothing to print, and (b) PLEX can never be removed from the game.

      And, ofc, CCP spawns ISK. Plenty of it, via ISK faucets, such as NPC bounties and mission rewards.

    4. There is a huge difference between using confiscated PLEX and spawning PLEX. Using confiscated PLEX implies that the amount of PLEX that they use to manipulate the market stays small compared to the market volume. Hence the effect it has on the long-term price is only marginal. Like PLEX sales this can be used mostly to compensate short-term demand spikes and short-term supply drops. Confiscated PLEX were supposed to be used anyway. CCP can only correct the ISK price up to the point where all PLEX which have been bought with real money are also consumed ingame. Spawning PLEX, on the other hand, could potentially go much further. Both, using confiscated PLEX and using spawned PLEX, causes opportunity costs. However, spawning PLEX could cause much more opportunity costs than only using confiscated PLEX. You can’t just ignore the opportunity costs. That’s completely wrong.

      Depending on the exact form of the supply and demand curve spawning PLEX would cause CCP to sell about the same amount of PLEX (less people would buy more PLEX for real money because of the increased price of ISK denominated in PLEX) while losing subscriptions (some players would switch from subscription to using PLEX to pay for their account). Hence the total profit would decrease.

      Spawning ISK to pay people for missions is also not the same as spawning ISK to directly buy PLEX from the market. To get mission rewards people have to spend a certain amount of time ingame. CCP is giving them ISK because they played the game. Spawning ISK to directly buy PLEX, on the other hand, means CCP gives ISK to people because they gave them real money. The ISK price denominated in PLEX would decrease artificially. CCP would effectively become an ISK seller and apocalypse would be near as everyone would scream “pay to win”.

      Depending on the exact form of the supply and demand curve spawning ISK to buy PLEX would cause CCP to sell about the same amount of PLEX (more people would buy less PLEX because of the decreased price of ISK denominated in PLEX) while gaining some subscriptions (some players would switch from using PLEX to pay for their account to subscription). Hence the total profit would increase. (This doesn’t consider the massive loss of accounts because people would be angry about “pay to win”.)


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