Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CCP's War On Illicit RMT: Buyer Behavior In September

With six weeks to go until the end of the year, I think I finally have the timing for these posts straightened out. For those new to the blog, my current research project into real money trading in MMORPGs takes a look at the behavior of the buyers of illicit ISK using data collected from Player Auctions, a large and popular site for purchasing virtual currency for many online games. Due to EVE Online's one shard design, keeping track of sales is much easier than for games like World of Warcraft. With data collection for the third quarter of 2015 finished, let's look at some of the results. Today's post will focus on September.

A big price drop in September
September really saw a big drop in the price of ISK on both the Jita and black markets. While the price on the black market no longer drops at a 1 for 1 rate, the 11.6% drop in the price of 1 billion ISK sold on Player Auctions was not far under the 13.4% price drop recorded in The Forge. But the amount of ISK actually sold showed how players felt in September. While the amount of ISK sold by the stores on PA increased a modest 5.6%, the amount of ISK traded for game time in Jita soared by 16.3%. Overall, the real world value of ISK sold on PA dropped by 8.9% in September compared to August.

Sellers in flux
The top stores selling ISK on Player Auctions started to turn over in September, with two of the three top stores falling into the "All Other" category. The one remaining seller, Store B, saw its market share drop from 28% in August down to 12% in September. Even though Store A only had $100 USD in sales in September, that store led all sellers on Player Auctions in Q3 with 977 billion ISK sold in confirmed sales totalling over $8,100 USD.

The top seller, Store E, had buyer-reviewed sales of 385 billion ISK, and then disappeared. I don't know if CCP banned the seller or if the seller was cashing out and his subscription ran out. Store F is a mid-tier seller who almost quadrupled his sales from August to September.

The little fish are beginning to stay away
One statistic I am keeping a close eye on is the percentage of buyers who only purchase 1 or 2 billion ISK in a sale. Those sales directly compete with CCP's two PLEX packages and I wonder if buyers will turn toward buying PLEX instead of black market ISK as the hazard discount narrows. September was perhaps a tipping point, as only 22.4% of sales were for 2 billion ISK or less, down from August's 29.7%. Overall, the median amount purchased in a transaction on PA rose from 5 billion ISK up to 6 billion ISK.

The whales dominate
While I look at the guppies, the whales continue to dominate the market. The increase in the amount of ISK sold to those buying more than 25 billion ISK in a single purchase is the reason for the growth in the market. One question I have is will a single supplier establish himself as a wholesaler? Wholesalers dominated the market during the third quarter, with Stores A and E selling a combined 1.4 trillion in ISK for $10,600 USD over the three months. But with both shops out of business, someone is bound to pick up the slack.

A shift over time
The final bar chart for this month's installment of the series looks at the hazard discount paid for each of the 400 reviews of sales during the third quarter. The decline in the amount buyers saved by purchasing ISK on the black market versus buying from CCP between August and September was just short of stunning. In August, 64% of transactions resulted in buyers saving $8 USD or more. In September, that figure flipped, with 65.6% of transactions only giving the buyer a discount of $7 or less. Compared to the beginning of the quarter, that September figure is shocking, as only 8.4% of transactions in July resulted in a hazard discount of under $7.

That's all for this month. What happened in October? I already disclosed last week that CCP tracked down and disrupted a major illicit RMT operation. But how did that affect the black market? I'll write about that next month.

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