Monday, October 19, 2020

The Yo-Kai Watch Event - 2020 Edition

I finished the last patch of Stormblood, A Requiem for Heroes, last night.  Before proceeding to the Shadowbringers content, I figured I should write about the Yo-kai Watch event currently underway in Final Fantasy XIV. The Yo-kai Watch event, which is running until the release of patch 5.4 in early December, is a cross-promotional event with the game Yo-kai Watch last run in 2017. With no guarantees of the event ever returning, I knew I had to complete the event now or perhaps never have access to the rewards.

The fabulous Miss Kaiyoko Star, known for publishing the solutions to the weekly fashion reports, produced the below infographic that contains all the information needed to complete the event.


I had a couple of thoughts. First, the Yo-kai Watch event was a grindfest, especially if you needed to get all 17 minions. Just to get all the minions required 49 tokens. Then, to get all the weapons required 165 tokens. Running a minimum of 214 FATES requires a lot of running around. Trust me, the drop rate wasn't 100%. I'm going to guess I ran at least 500 FATES.

Part of the reason for the low drop rate was trying to participate in the FATEs in the first place. After awhile, regions would become flooded with players. I think the drop chance was related to damage done, but I'm not sure.

One move by Square Enix that made the grind easier was the introduction of flying in the original ARR zones in patch 5.3. Newer players were put at a disadvantage, but for veterans, moving around so fast eliminated some of the tedium of racing across the map for a newly spawned FATE. Of course, sometimes players killed the FATES so fast some waiting occurred. Either that, or players would go to another region, thus concentrating players even more.


I quite like the three mounts I received for completing the event. The first mount, Whisper-go, is obtained by acquiring 13 of the 17 Yo-kai minions. The mount is one of the smaller ones I've seen and I look like I'm in a race care if I pan in close enough. The small size also makes the mount feel like it is travelling super-fast as well. I attribute it to the small size and trying to keep up with the much larger mounts.


The second mount is the Whisper-a-go-go. Acquired by getting 13 of the 17 Yo-kai Watch weapons, the mount does indeed glow in the dark. The tiny version of Jibanyan hanging onto the left side of the cockpit also looks good when flying around during the day.


The Jibanyan Couch is acquired by acquiring all 17 Yo-kai Watch weapons. Players taking advantage of the free play up to level 60 can't get the mount as getting 2 of the weapons requires the Stormblood expansion. The Jibanyan Couch has the same fast flying feeling as the other two mounts, with the added benefits of being able to stretch out my legs. I personally love the Jibanyan Couch mount and switch between the mount and the Whipser-a-go-go exclusively now. 

Should players do the Yo-Kai Watch event? Completionists definitely should, especially with six weeks to go. People who also need to farm grand company seals should as well. I was able to purchase about a month's worth of ventures to power my retainer farm. I've probably made 1 million gil from the materials and coins earned from assigned tasks. I'll also add that parts of the level 50 relic weapon process require running FATES to get drops. Running the Yo-Kai event doesn't interfere with those drops.

Personally I enjoyed the event. Yes, spending too much time running FATES does get tedious. But the minions are cute, the weapons fit in the Armorie so don't take up long-term storage, and the mounts are my favorites in the game so far. Plus, I felt like I accomplished something. So would I do the event again, knowing now what I didn't know before. Definitely yes.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Stargate Closures Have Begun ... In Null Sec

The fireworks began a day earlier than expected as the GE-8JV/V-3YG7 gate in Catch shut down after downtime today.

We will have to see how widespread the closures are. For those wondering if CCP is including null sec in the Triglavian storyline fun, the answer is yes. Now to check high and low sec, as the gate closures for the final liminal sites in those two security bands was expected to take place tomorrow.

UPDATE 1330 UTC: The M-OEE8/Taisy gate in Tribute has shut down.


UPDATE 1345 UTC: Famed explorer Katia Sae is reporting on an Amar Navy mobilization in Sasiekko at the Raravoss gate. Sounds like Signal Cartel is mobilizing to check out the activity. Raravoss was the first system to reach final liminality.

UPDATE 1355 UTC: The D-GTMI/F9E-KX gate in Providence is down. I don't think any strategic gates have been affected yet, but I don't play in null sec.


UPDATE 1410 UTC: The YZ-LQL/75FA-Z gate in Fountain has shut down.



UPDATE 1420 UTC: It appears the gate shutdowns in null sec are not related to the past presence of storms.

UPDATE 1430 UTC: The P3EN-E/Obe gate in Vale of the Silent is down.


UPDATE 1500 UTC: The first high sec gate, Agil/Hishai gate in Khanid, has shut down.


UPDATE 1505 UTC: Signal Cartel is moving into the Triglavian controlled systems in order to provide their signature rescue services.
UPDATE 1515 UTC: The Republic Fleet is forming up on the Republic Fleet Mobilizing on Ansen/Krirald gate in Metropolis. Ansen & Krirald are low sec systems.


Also, Reload is reporting that the Agil/Hishai gate in Khanid is coming back online.
UPDATE 1915 UTC: It appears what is happening is that when a gate goes down, the gate gets rebooted and comes back online. This looks like gates will go down until downtime, but that is just speculation.

UPDATE 1930 UTC: This is a bit late, but we know the name of the new Triglavian region: Pochven.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Resource Redistribution And Low Sec - 2020 Edition

Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

- THE EVE ONLINE ECOSYSTEM OUTLOOK, 30 March 2020

When Dirk MacGirk poked me Friday morning alerting me to the latest dev blog, Resource Distribution Update, I had a sense of dread. Was CCP really trying to fix low sec again? I'd already left low sec due to years of low sec mining nerfs combined with the introduction of high end minerals in high sec in association with the Triglavian story line. Mining in high sec was so superior to low sec that I finally gave up on low sec and moved back to high sec. Considering I once wrote a post titled "Adapt or High Sec", moving back under the umbrella of CONCORD was a bitter pill to swallow. When the DDoS attacks at the end of January and beginning of February hit, I lost the habit of logging into EVE. I still follow the New Eden economy, RMT activity, and the metagame, but when playing games, most of my time was spent logged into Final Fantasy XIV.

I wanted to take a dispassionate look at the matter, but I had trouble getting into the proper state of mind. I spent the first day after reading the dev blog ranting and railing against the changes. Then I started to hear and read criticism from the PvP crowd from low sec. Given that many of the nerfs I'd experienced over the years were intended to placate those players, I was once again extremely irritated. Hopefully the following analysis will come across as thoughtful and not emotional.

The core of the changes in the resource distribution update was the announcement of the changes of the composition of ores and the restriction of certain ores to certain security bands of space. Furthermore, the distribution of the ores would ensure that no security band was self-sufficient in minerals. 


To implement the redistribution, CCP plans on making the following changes to asteroid belts.

High Security
  • All variations of Omber and Kernite will be removed from Hisec asteroid belts.
Low Security
  • All variations of Veldspar, Scordite and Plagioclase will be removed from Lowsec asteroid belts.
  • The quantity of all variations of Pyroxeres and Kernite will be reduced by 75%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Hemorphite and Hedbergite will be increased by 400%.
Null Security
  • All variations of Scordite, Plagioclase, Omber, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite, Gneiss, Dark Ochre, and Crokite will be removed from Nullsec asteroid belts.
  • The quantity of all variations of Kernite will be reduced by 75%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Bistot will be reduced by 70%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Arkonor will be reduced by 50%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Mercoxit will be reduced by 90%.
In addition, ore anomalies are, for the most part, receiving nerfs if not outright deletion from the game.

High Security
  • All Ore Anomalies will be removed from Hisec systems.
Low Security
  • Certain Ore Anomalies will be removed from Lowsec systems.
  • The quantity of all variations of Gneiss and Dark Ochre in all Lowsec Ore Anomalies will be increased by 300%.
  • The quantity of all variations of Crokite in all Lowsec Ore Anomalies will be increased by 9900%.
Wormholes
  • The following ores and their variations will be removed from Wormhole Anomalies:
  • Veldspar, Scordite, Plagioclase, Jaspet, Hemorphite, Hedbergite, Dark Ochre, Crokite, Mercoxit, Spodumain.

The more I looked at CCP's plans, the more I began to believe the changes were more based on economic theory and philosophy and less on the data. The resource distribution update begins with the following observation:
A healthy economic environment where players can find opportunities by making interesting choices is the goal. One of the key pillars of EVE is that loss has meaning and a state is being reached where loss is not meaningful anymore for veteran players. It is imperative, both for EVE's success and for the well-being of its inhabitants, that the economy resides within a healthy state
I think CCP isn't thrilled with the ship replacement programs each of the major null sec blocs run and maintain. Players can go out and lose ships and not worry about replacing them as long as they fit the ship the approved way. But I don't think CCP is just referring to individual players. I believe the developers are also concerned about the economic capability of alliances and coalitions as well. The mention of the term "autarky" in the March dev blog reminds me of what The Imperium has built in Delve.

So what is autarky? The following description is taken from Investopedia.
An autarky refers to the state of self-reliance, and it typically is applied to an economic system or nation characterized by self-sufficiency and limited trade. The definition of autarky comes from the Greek—autos, meaning "self" and arkein, meaning "to be strong enough, to suffice." Fully autarkic states are those with closed economies and without any sources of external support, trade or aid.

A related term, "autarky price," refers to the cost of a good in an autarkic state. International commodity trade takes place in part as a result of differences in autarky prices between countries or areas.
I've never lived in sovereign null sec, but the concept of autarky price reminds me of the difference in the prices in Delve verses the rest of New Eden I hear about on the talk shows. The Investopedia article continues on with an explanation I believe the developers hold.
Autarky is an extreme form of economic nationalism and protectionism. Autarky was first questioned by economist Adam Smith, and then David Ricardo. Smith suggested that countries should engage in free trade and specialize in goods they have an absolute advantage in producing, in order to generate more wealth. Ricardo amended that slightly, saying that countries should also produce goods in which they have a comparative advantage. Free trade and globalization have been seen as superior economic courses of action, generally speaking, and so, autarky involving the elimination of foreign trade has proved unsuccessful, and has become more of a utopian ideal.
By granting each security band advantages in the production of certain vital minerals, CCP is encouraging trade between several points throughout the game and not just between one or two trade hubs and deep space. More activity, whether in mining or transportation, should result in more killmails. The fact that, theoretically, the macroeconomy should structurally improve as well is a nice bonus.

The idea of assigning each security band an economic niche is not new. Back in August 2011, CCP published two dev blogs concerning the future development of null sec. The second dev blog, Nullsec Development: Design Goals, contained the  idea that some minerals would be unique to null sec.
Nullsec should be the only place we're injecting (at least some of the) ices, zydrine, megacyte and morphite into the game. This ensures that nullsec mining retains a unique value proposition, and guarantees that mining time for these types is priced according the risk and effort involved in nullsec extraction.
However, the theory back in 2011 was that null sec industry should be 99% self-sufficient by volume.
People building things in nullsec should only need to travel to empire (or more than a couple of regions across nullsec) for low-volume supplies. This requires that industrialists have a ready supply of low-end minerals available nearby in nullsec, without breaking other systems or goals. (Likely means some way of mining low-ends in a massively more rapid manner compared to current tools.)
If null sec has to import all its tritanium, the days of minimizing imports is over.

What I described above is a pretty comprehensive revamp of resource harvesting EVE Online. In the interests of brevity, I didn't even include the changes to ice mining and gas harvesting. Making the change three months into a major null sec war could impact the result of the conflict. So why am I hearing so much about low sec?

The first reason is the conclusion of the dev blog. In addition to the reduction of stockpiles (and possibly the reprocessing of junk modules), CCP included the following list of expected effects of the redistribution:
  • More movement in Lowsec - and potentially more destruction
  • Increase of mining ship losses
  • More market transactions for ores/minerals
  • Mineral income from refining items to increase
  • Prices of minerals to change
The first item on the list explicitly states low sec, with the second item a logical extension of the first.

The second cause is the reaction of members of the Council of Stellar Management. One member elected in June, Phantomite, posted the following in a recent blog post.
While a number of CCP staff have expressed interest in what we have to say, we have recieved [sic] absolutely zero indication of the feelings of the people who actually set the schedules for and steer development, which makes this all the more offensive to the players of Eve. We have been offering up a full package of problems and solutions that match what the community has asked for, and CCP has thrown mass active player mining to lowsec with the implication that this is a gift to the area.

Mass mining in lowsec is not possible. Lowsec is NOT sov null.

This displays entirely the wrong attitude, and shows zero awareness of what lowsec is to it’s [sic] residents.
A discussion of what the Council of Stellar Management itself is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, I will earn my blogging license and delve into the changes.

First, the changes could help reestablish the food chain in low sec. Back in 2013, I wrote about how the upcoming changes in the Odyssey expansion could harm the type of activity we see in null sec. By trying to increase activity in the belts with miners, smaller predators would have more targets. And the small predators will attract larger predators. And so on, and so on.


I'm not sure that future high prices for isogen and nocxium will attract large numbers of players to mine in low security space. My personal opinion is we are more likely to see the null sec blocs conducting mining operations than independents in the belts. But low sec, contrary to popular opinion, is not just factional warfare. Ignoring the rest of the systems in the security band is a bad idea. The mining changes at least throw non factional warfare space a bone.

Minerals in a full Procurer Ore Hold, 100% refine rate

The next point concerns the distribution of minerals in the low sec of each empire. Here is the ore composition of the belts I found on the Singularity test cluster this weekend.

Amarr Empire
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hemorphite, Jaspet, Kernite, Pyroxeres
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Jaspet, Kernite, Pyroxeres

Caldari State
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hedbergite, Kernite, Pyroxeres
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Kernite, Pyroxeres

Gallente Federation
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hemorphite, Jaspet, Omber
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Jaspet, Omber

Minmatar Republic (and the Ammatar Mandate)
0.1 & 0.2 security systems: Hedbergite, Kernite, Omber
0.3 & 0.4 security systems: Kernite, Omber

An interesting fact, which hit me while I read the dev blog, is that miners in the Caldari and Minmatar regions will not be able to belt mine nocxium in all low sec regions. In fact, The Citadel will have no nocxium in belts while Heimatar will only have one system containing Hedbergite. The 0.3 & 0.4 security systems in Amarr and Gallente regions will contain Jaspet.

Here is the breakdown of the number of systems in each Caldari and Minmatar region that will provide nocxium in asteroid belts.

Ammatar Mandate
Derelik - 18

Caldari State
Black Rise - 14
Lonetrek - 2
The Citadel - 0
The Forge - 5

Minmatar Republic
Heimatar - 1
Metropolis - 17
Molden Heath - 8

One concern I do have about the regions with limited nocxium ore are the diamond rats. When they were introduced, their habit of immediately mining all the ore in the system forced me to move from one of those systems. I just wonder if the developers took that into consideration when calculating the amount of ore mined in low sec.

Finally, I want to revisit the concept of the food chain and small fish attracting big fish. If CCP wants to fill the low sec fish bowl with miners without the PvPers immediately devouring the miners, they need to provide some safer places to mine. I've found that belts are relatively safe if one pays attention and flies smart, but ore anomalies are death traps. They are a beacon calling out to passing gangs to investigate the site.

My idea to get people used to mining in low sec again is to reintroduce ore signatures back into the game. Removed in the Odyssey expansion in 2013, ore signatures would provide safer places to actually mine with a bit of work. I believe that if EVE can have combat signatures for exploration and PvE, then why not ore signatures too? While clever hunters can pre-probe the sites in order to surprise unwary miners, ore signatures prior to 2013 helped promote mining in low sec. Bringing the sites back would help achieve CCP's goals, if only to allow some mining to occur in a lightly trafficked system.

Now, I would like to say a few things about the plan. I absolutely hate the idea of CCP trying to remove the ability for me to mine all the materials for a ship. I had a sense of accomplishment after building a Nestor back in 2016-2017. CCP clearly thinks my having fun in that way is bad for the game. I also have a fear that the reliance on mining in low sec is going to backfire. Without changes to low sec, such as introducing ore signatures, I see the isogen and nocxium needs of the economy being met by the large null sec blocs conducting massive mining operations in low sec areas. The most obvious example is The Imperium running locus fleets throughout Aridia in order to keep its industrial engine running.

I have one other concern. Logistics. When putting the plan together, did CCP think of all the additional player-hours required to move all the raw materials around under the new rules? Is expanding the transportation capacity even possible?

I'm honestly not sold on the resource redistribution plan. I hope CCP is flexible enough to make changes quickly once the existing stockpiles run out. The plan has to be part of a larger effort to remake and improve not just low sec, but all of EVE. If not, things are going to get really ugly.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The August 2020 Monthly Economic Report

Once again we get to look at the economic data CCP publishes each month. August marked the first full month of the current null sec war. Also, we get to look back at the first full month of Blackout in August 2019. With the latest dev blog on resource redistribution, a look back at August will also give some idea what the end of the Scarcity Phase looks like.

From August 2020 MER

As usual, we need to take a look at New Eden's money supply. During the course of August, the amount of ISK in the game increased by 1.4%, or 18.5 trillion. From 1 January to 31 August, the money supply increased by 70.6 trillion ISK, or 5.6%. In perhaps a sign of the effect of the current null sec war, the Active ISK Delta only decreased by 15.3 trillion ISK during a time players traditionally log off to do other things. Last year at this time, with Blackout in effect, the Active ISK Delta decreased by 43.1 trillion ISK.


To support the idea of greater activity, the value of the destruction outside of wormhole space increased to 38.5 trillion ISK. Perhaps counter-intuitively, only 25% of the increase occurred in null security space, despite the ongoing fighting between the major powers. Also, compared to a year ago, the value of destruction is down by 3% in all of known space and 3.2% in null security space.


In EVE, destruction is supposed to lead to production. Overall, the value of the items produced dropped by 13.3% from 140 trillion ISK in July down to 124.4 trillion ISK in August. The cause of the decrease was production activity returning to normal levels in null sec. The 16.5% drop in the value of production in August follows the 22.6% increase in production value in July 2020. Year-over-year, production value in known space fell by 6% in known space. On a positive note, production value in null sec increased by 5.1% over the same period.


For the second month in a row, the value of the ore mined increased in New Eden. Since June, the monthly value of the ore mined increased by 27.5% in known space (6.6 trillion ISK) and 36.8% (4.3 trillion ISK) in null sec. One of the great questions about mining, though, is the physical volume of ore mined. The monthly economic reports only provide the value of the ore mined.


One constant over the last few months is the amount of bounties collected by players. With well over 90% of bounties collected in null sec, some might figure the null sec war would result in a reduction. The truth is something different, as seen below.


The NPC bounties collected is the biggest difference between the Blackout month of August 2019 and the first full month of the null sec war of 2020. Year-over-year, the value of the bounties collected in null sec tripled, from 15.8 trillion ISK to 49 trillion ISK.


A statistic I track is the value of goods that make up the four indicies in the monthly economic report: Consumer Price Index, Primary Producer Price Index, Secondary Producer Price Index, and Mining Price Index. The value of the indices fell another 4.4% in August, from 498.3 trillion ISK in July down to 476.3 trillion ISK in August. Year-over-year, the value of the four indices has fallen by 21.4%. Economic output is at its lowest point since the post-Blackout month of October 2019.


As I've noted in the past, the New Eden economy is consumer-driven, with the value of goods in the CPI making up 78% of the indices total. The value of the CPI fell another 5% in August and is down 21.6% since August 2019. 

The 4 economic indices from the August 2020 MER

At this point, I think a look at the indices graph from the MER is in order. The Total Economy and Consumer Price Index graphs above only look at the value of the goods in the baskets for each index. They do not factor in changes in prices. So, if activity is stable, and the prices are decreasing, the value of an index should also decrease. 

In the U.S. and many other countries, the change in the Consumer Price Index is a main measurement of inflation. Until told otherwise by CCP, I'll continue to assume the same holds true in the New Eden economy. The website Investopedia defines the consumer price index as follows:
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them. Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living. The CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.
Apart from the Mineral Price Index, the indices show a long term deflationary trend. The CPI has declined every month since January 2020. The Primary Producer Price Index began its decline in May 2020. And the Secondary Producer Price Index has steadily declined since May 2019.

I have to admit, I let the upcoming mineral distribution changes color how I looked at the MER this month. Was the economy shrinking due to less activity or deflation? I think the answer is a mix of the two. I also have to bring up the changes to mark August as the final month of relative sanity for the next few months. I don't know how much the buying frenzy following the dev blog will affect the valuations in the economy in September, much less how the change will impact the October MER. I do know that keeping up to date on the information in the monthly economic reports will wind up clarifying what is happening in EVE Online.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Microsoft Picks Up ZeniMax And Bethesda For $7.5 Billion

If I were still playing Elder Scrolls Online I might react to today's news differently. Plus, I never could get into Fallout or Skyrim. So Microsoft's announcement that the company is acquiring ZeniMax Media & Bethesda Softworks left me shrugging. Well, until I saw the price tag of $7.5 billion. 

A lot of people will have profound thoughts about Microsoft vs Sony, etc. Me, I don't like consoles so most of the discussion is just academic. Interesting, but academic with little to no direct impact.



Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Look Into The EVE Online Price Increase For UK Players

Last week CCP announced a price increase for players paying in pound sterling.

On 5 October 2020, there will be an update to the pricing of all Omega and Skill Extractor products for players paying using the Pound Sterling (GBP). This is being done in order to bring GBP prices in line with other main currencies (USD/EUR). Active Omega subscriptions will also be affected, and will update automatically after 5 October.

The main reason for the price change is that changes in currency conversion over the past few years have created an imbalance between the pricing in GBP, USD and EUR.

Furthermore, the prices have not changed since 2014, so these must be updated in order to maintain relative consistency across EVE Online's many markets.

Since the announcement, one nagging question stayed in the back of my mind. Why not also update the prices of PLEX?  Then the reason hit me: low value consignment relief.

In May 2012, players in the UK could begin paying for their subscriptions and other purchases in pound sterling instead of euros. At Fanfest 2012, CCP mentioned something about new laws that would allow the company to lower the subscription price for UK players, but not the real world cost of PLEX. The law in question regarded low value consignment relief. At the time, I wrote about the subject:

Even after the pricing change CCP collects more after taxes from U.K. players than from any other country.  How can this be?  The European Union has a regulation called low value consignment relief.  While for most of Europe the amount is €10, in the U.K. any import from a non-EU country like Iceland with a value of £15 or less is exempt from the normal 20% VAT that domestic companies must pay.

By lowering the price of a subscription in the UK, CCP no longer had to collect the 20% value added tax (VAT) on a subscription. However, CCP couldn't lower the price enough to avoid paying VAT on PLEX sales. I believe that was due to the upper limit of €22 on items affected by the rule. With the strength of the pound sterling during the Eurozone debt crisis, the exchange rate could change enough for PLEX to exceed that amount.

Subscription price change for UK, starting 5 Oct 2020

The days of tax avoidance are ending. On 20 July, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs department published a paper describing how VAT from overseas sales will change in 2021
For imports of goods from outside the UK in consignments not exceeding £135 in value (which aligns with the threshold for customs duty liability), we will be moving the point at which VAT is collected from the point of importation to the point of sale. This will mean that UK supply VAT, rather than import VAT, will be due on these consignments.

The new arrangements will also involve the abolition of Low Value Consignment Relief, which relieves import VAT on consignments of goods valued at £15 or less.
Or, in other words, CCP needs to increase the price of the two items that are VAT-free for UK players, the 1-month of Omega time and the single skill extractor. The price of a month of Omega time is increasing 20%, from £9.99 to £11.99. The price of a single extractor is increasing by 25%, from £3.99 to £4.99.

The remainder of the prices for both Omega time and skill extractors were increased to levels near what is charged in US dollars. For example, using the exchange rate listed by Morningstar for 10 September, the new £99.99 price of a year's subscription in the UK is $128.02 USD, or $3 less than what those paying in US currency pay. The current rate of £89.99 equates to $115.22, or $16 less than the US price.

Price of PLEX on Amazon.co.uk, 10 September 2020

Perhaps not surprisingly, PLEX, an item which last had its price adjusted in 2017, is not seeing a price change. The price remains comparable to the US dollar amount, if a bit higher. For instance, the price of PLEX on Amazon.co.uk converts to $43.54, or $3.55 more than the price on Amazon.com.

I also wondered why the prices in the UK were not adjusted in July at the same time CCP increased prices in Russia. I tried to think of any other reasons besides the VAT change that potentially sparked the re-evaluation of pricing in the UK. The date the change takes affect, 5 October, is the first full week of the fourth quarter, but since Pearl Abyss' fiscal year ends on 31 December, the beginning of a new fiscal year is not a reason. I also could not find any evidence of a similar price increase for UK players in Black Desert Online. The closest I could come is that the sale of CCP to Pearl Abyss became final in October 2018. 

Perhaps the simplest explanation is best. CCP was prodded to look at pricing in the UK due to the elimination of low value consignment relief. Whoever is in charge of the pricing looked, realized they could raise the prices on certain items and did so. That the company doesn't have to start paying VAT until January just gives the fourth quarter numbers a minor boost that could help make CCP's books look a little better at the end of the year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The July 2020 Monthly Economic Report

 Today is the end of August and I am finally writing about EVE Online's Monthly Economic Report (MER) for July 2020. Examining the July MER interests me for two reasons. First is the beginning of what may turn into one of the large conflicts involving tens of thousands of players that EVE is known for. The second is July is the one year anniversary of the beginning of Blackout, or as I like to call the event, Hurricane Hilmar. In today's post, I'll examine both the month over month changes wrought by the current political climate in null security space as well as comparing the year over year performance of the first month of the Blackout.

Monday, August 31, 2020

FFXIV - I Hit The Cactpot

When I'm not digging through EVE Online's monthly economic report, I like to play Final Fantasy XIV. One of the things I do every day is visit the Manderville Gold Saucer. I have to play the mini-cactpot and do either one of the "Leap of Faith" jumping puzzles or "Air Force One" on-rails shooter to start my play session.

The Manderville Gold Saucer, for those who don't play FFXIV, is a very patron friendly casino. Basically, a player would have to work really hard to lose their money. In order to make sure a player doesn't gamble away all his gil, players use a secondary currency called the MGP, or Manderville Gold Saucer Points. Think of the MGP as chips. And players cannot buy MGP if they have over 500 MGP in their possession.

The big game in the Gold Saucer is the Jumbo Cactpot. The game is simple. Players choose a number between 0000 and 9999. Players can purchase up to three tickets per week, with each ticket costing 50 MGP more than the previous. So for three tickets, the cost is 450 MGP. The ultimate prize is over 1 million MGP, with drawings held every Saturday.

Remember how I stated the Gold Saucer is very patron friendly. By buying 3 tickets, the minimum payout a player can receive is 3702 MGP. Is a game really gambling if you can't lose? So, since I can't lose, I play every every week.

And on Saturday, I did it. I hit the Jumbo Cactpot.

Winning the Cactpot, with the free company bonus included

My free company runs the Gold Saucer buff on Saturdays for just such occasions. Including the 10% buff, I received 1.2 million MGP. I already had over 1.2 million MGP from just rolling into the Gold Saucer and not spending any money. At the end of the day yesterday, I was up to 2.5 million MGP.

I now have enough money to buy anything the Gold Saucer has to offer. I already own the two most expensive mounts, so if I wanted to, I could pick up at least three more mounts. But I have a different plan. I'm certain that with the next expansion will come a new selection of goods for the Gold Saucer, including a new mount. So I intend to keep saving up my MGP for the next expansion to buy the new mount on day 1. I've never been rich enough in a game to do anything like that before. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Putting EVE Online's First Half Of 2020 Numbers In Perspective

Last week's Pearl Abyss earnings call was good news for CCP Games. The Korean game company disclosed to analysts that the EVE intellectual property brought in $16 million USD (₩18.9 billion) in the second quarter and $28 million for the first half of 2020. But the numbers themselves don't tell an interesting story unless put into some sort of context.

From Pearl Abyss Q2 2020 Earnings Call, 13 August 2020

EVE's financial performance so far in 2020 is similar to that in 2015. Five years ago, CCP reported $58.6 million in game sales, which would have included revenue from DUST 514. If the Tranquility server maintains current activity and with two full quarters of revenue from China, EVE Online could conceivably exceed $60 million in sales this year.

While on the subject of CCP's financial history, perhaps a look at 2016, the last year we have a financial report before Pearl Abyss acquired the Icelandic company, is in order. In 2016, CCP received $81 million in game revenue as the company released two virtual reality games for the PC and PS4, EVE: Valkyrie and EVE: Gunjack. The EVE IP will probably not make that much this year, as EVE: Echoes was only released last week and still does not have a license to operate in China. But 2021 looks like the year the Icelandic studio could reach new financial highs.

But a historical context often isn't sexy. So let's compare CCP's income to a competitor that also made news last week. That's right, the fundraising giant Cloud Imperium Games and Star Citizen.

Star Citizen Funding Page As Seen On 18 August 2020 at 2330 UTC

On the same day Pearl Abyss held its earnings call for the second quarter of 2020, MassivelyOP published an article noting that Cloud Imperial Games had surpassed its fundraising total from 2019 of $47.7 million. As of the time of publication of this post, CIG has raised over $49 million this year, not including other sources of income like subscriptions. So unless EVE: Echoes does incredibly well over the next 4 1/2 months, Cloud Imperial Games with two games in alpha will exceed the revenue of the games under the EVE IP in 2020.

Okay, comparing EVE and Star Citizen is a bit of fun. The serious analysis involves how well CCP's games perform compared to what Pearl Abyss thought it was buying in 2018. CCP and EVE started off slow due to licensing issues for the Serenity cluster in China. But the intellectual property is growing now that EVE Online has access to China again. If CCP can continue revenue growth, then I think a lot of people, including players, will wind up rejoicing. We just need to know what positive revenue growth looks like.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pearl Abyss Q2 2020 Earnings Call

Pearl Abyss held its Q2 2020 earnings presentation for investors yesterday. The main item that struck me was the declining financial numbers the Korean game company posted during a quarter expected to produce higher numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, PA experienced a 1.1% quarter over quarter and 8.4% year over year declines in the second quarter.



Operating profits grew 9.5% from the previous quarter, but still fell 2.3% from Q2 2019. The big decline was in Pearl Abyss' net profits, which declined ₩24.7 billion, or 51.5%, from the first quarter. Pearl Abyss did not explain the reason for the drop in net profits, although a tax hit is not out of the question. We do know that increased operating costs were not the reason for the decline in net profits. Labor costs fell 3.6% as the COVID-19 pandemic inhibited the hiring of new employees.

Eagle eyed individuals may have noticed that the totals for 2019 changed from that disclosed in the Q1 2020 call. Pearl Abyss explained this was due to the accounting changes explained in the Q4 2019 call. The change was required to fall in line with the industry's standard practices.

The source of the revenue drop was Black Desert, specifically Black Desert Mobile. While Pearl Abyss does not break out individual games, the Black Desert IP experienced a ₩7.1 billion ($6 million USD) drop in revenues in the second quarter. The BDM decrease also showed up in the percentage of revenue by platform, with mobile games making up only 43% of PA's sales in Q2 compared to 54% in the first quarter. But all was not bad news for Black Desert. On 24 April, PA began self-publishing the game in Japan, achieving the highest peak concurrent user mark in BDO's 5-year history in the country.

Partially making up for the drop was EVE Online. The game experienced a 31.9% increase in revenue QoQ and a 26.8% increase compared to Q2 2019. The $3.9 million increase brought the total EVE IP revenue up to $16 million for the quarter. While Pearl Abyss credited efforts to shore up the player base as a leading cause of the increase, I would credit both the lockdowns associated with the CONVID-19 pandemic as well as the relaunch of EVE in China on 27 April as larger factors.

Concurrency on Serenity (China), August 5-12, 2020

The EVE IP could provide a bright spot in Q3 as well. EVE Echoes launches globally today, except for China. In response to analysts' questions, Pearl Abyss revealed that the company does not have a launch date for the game in China as CCP/Netease is still trying to get a license.

Overall, Pearl Abyss came out of the call looking good, with the company's stock price jumping 5.8% in morning trading. The market consensus of a ₩37.3 billion operating profit was smashed by the ₩50.1 revealed on the call.