Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The EVE Online Blackout: PLEX Trading In The Forge

So far, I've looked at ratting activity in regions held by the game's major powers and overall kill numbers to evaluate how the implementation of delayed local in null sec has affected EVE Online. At the end of the day, CCP is a business and needs to make money. While players do not have access to financial information concerning the game outside the quarterly Pearl Abyss investor calls, we do have access to player-to-player trading information concerning CCP's main real money trading currency: the PLEX.

The PLEX, or 30 Day CONCORD License Extension, is a virtual currency sold by CCP and authorized third-party PLEX resellers that is redeemable for items such as Omega game time, multiple character training, and items such as SKINs and skill extractors from the in-game New Eden Store. Players may also choose to trade the item on the in-game markets for EVE's main currency, the Interstellar Kredit. Since a lot of players choose to purchase ISK with their real life wallets instead of playing the game to obtain ISK, we can get a sense of direction of PLEX sales. Are they going up? Or are they going down?

A look at the amount of ISK players are using to purchase PLEX from other players might lend the idea that CCP is making a lot more money from PLEX sales in 2019 vs 2018. Apart from January, players have visited The Forge, the location of New Eden's main trade hub, and traded more ISK for PLEX every month.

But looking at the amount of ISK traded is deceiving. Looking at the amount of PLEX traded, one sees large drop-offs in the daily amount of PLEX traded for ISK. Since players are handing over real world currency to CCP for PLEX, one can infer, but not conclusively state, CCP is not making as much money from microtransactions like PLEX sales in 2019 as it did in 2018.

One of the problems facing CCP is the devaluation of the ISK against both the U.S. dollar and the euro. In the chart above, while the units are labeled in USD, the exact same figures apply to the euro.
Theoretically, as players become older, they want to buy bigger toys to play with. Or, in the case of EVE, bigger ships with fancier fittings. But if the price of ISK, after converting from PLEX, is a lot less, CCP doesn't make as much money, even if the player is purchasing more ISK on the in-game markets than before. In May, we saw the ISK fall in value 32.8% compared to May 2018.

Following the launch of the Invasion expansion and follow-up changes to EVE, the ISK in July had rebounded 13% in value against both the dollar and euro. However, in the same time, the daily amount of PLEX traded in The Forge dropped by 5.9%. From May to July 2018, the PLEX amount traded stayed flat.

Of course, CCP conducted a large amount of sales in 2018 leading up to the sale of CCP to Pearl Abyss in September 2018. The sales stopped shortly thereafter. So we may need to wait until September to see the true effects of the Invasion expansion and the null sec communications blackout. Assuming, of course, CCP doesn't rescind the blackout in the next major software release.

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