Sunday, July 16, 2017

How Much Trade can LS/HS Player Hubs Capture? My Test at Owning a Market Hub (pt.2 in my Citadel/EC Series)

In my first post in this series about Citadels/ECs, I covered broad statistics about their usage, ownership, and proliferation. The findings of that post were simple: 1) There's a ton of them piling up in HS/LS, 2) even more in NS/WHs, 3) many of them are inactive, and 4) the current 3-timer system stifles most conflict and needs change.

In this post I am going to get more specific (and interesting?) and talk about player market hubs. I'm also going to cover an experiment I've done over the past few months that attempts to test just how much of a market player hubs can capture, and how profitable they (theoretically) could be for both trade and tax. The experiment is not about making isk but capturing trade away from NPC hubs and seeing if a market hub obviously  owned by 1 player will create any conflict. (More on the latter in pt.3 of this series.)

Market Hubs

This is the important part about the new structures, right? Except for low tax industry, market hubs are where all the money is made in the new structures--not just in market taxes, but in having a market hub where you and your alts get low/no tax. Before we can talk about the market hubs included in the sample we have to set out some basic metrics for comparing player hubs them to NPC systems/stations. Here's how I think about the hub tier list in EVE:

Jita is in a class of its own, to be fair, and can't really be compared to another other hub NPC or player. The next most active market hubs are "S"-tier. They mostly do not allow player hubs to be built in system and are in roughly the top-five or top-ten on the station trading rank. Many players do their primary trading at S tier hubs like Dodixie and Amarr, for instance. Just in terms of number of orders, the biggest player hubs just barely reach S-tier, if at all. By amount of isk traded the hubs in Perimeter do, but that's just in virtue of the amount of PLEX and Injectors traded there, not total ships and equipment. A few null sec player hubs reach S tier but none of them are currently public. Trading in null hubs is, of course, super profitable, but requires a character in the respective alliance.

The A-tier set of hubs represents the top 5-30 or so trading hubs in game by volume, isk totals, and number of orders. These are hubs where regional traders often thrive and see good movement on orders with decent margins. Probably only a half-dozen player hubs currently (May-July 2017) reach A to low-S tier trade levels: The hubs in Perimeter, Maurasi and other hubs 1-2 jumps from Jita, a few hubs one jump from Amarr, and a few null hubs. Most of these systems can house player markets, though, and represent a significant space in which player hubs could, if stocked, take a large portion of the isk traded. Player hubs in such systems stand to potentially capture much more by players if dedicated traders moved in.

What I would call B-tier hubs represent roughly the top 20-150 NPC hubs. They are active areas of regional trade like mission hubs, FW and LS hubs, and regional bottlenecks, and often have high margins but, depending on the goods, lower velocity. There are about 30-50 player hubs that could be included in this category based on number of orders and volume. What I would call C-tier hubs are basically everywhere else, and profit depends on a highly case by case basis.

How Much Trade can Player Hubs Capture?

What is valuable about player market hubs, of course, is that they have significantly less taxes than NPC hubs, and theoretically no taxes such as if you own the structure. Before player hubs, serious traders would grind (or pay for someone else to grind) their NPC standings up to above 8-9.0 in order to get 1-2% lower taxes. Even just 1% lower taxes adds up in the long run. If you list 100b of items in an NPC hub in a month, dropping a few percent of the taxes can save you a few billion. Moving to a player hub with, say, zero or 0.1% tax likewise ends up saving a few extra billion a month if your volumes and margins stay the same. Considering that some top traders list trillions of isk of items a month, a few percent savings ends up meaning a great deal.

I'm not really a serious trader--more of a lazy one--but I do like efficiency. Switching to player hubs with 1% tax or less saves me roughly 1-2b isk a month in taxes currently, and theoretically could save me upwards of 5b in taxes or more if I only traded out of low tax hubs during max trade months. The difficulty, though, is attracting as many buyers as the nearby NPC hubs.
Market Hub Experiment

Goal: Own a HS market hub as a solo player and capture, with other player hubs, as much of the
           system and regional trade as possible with the amount of orders I can field
Secondary Goals: Create conflict?
Time Investment: Restocking and updating orders only once a week (specifically: on Saturday or Sunday I watch DeLoneWolf's EVE talk episode on youtube, and during this hour or so I am able to update most of the orders.)
Start Date: Mid-April
End Date: Whenever it gets destroyed or whenever I get sick of updating orders

If you can capture the majority of trade in a system or region, more traders will sell at your hub, and more buyers will buy, more builders will build, and so on. There's a "snowball" effect, in that there seems to be a critical mass of orders that prompt a lot of people to switch to buying from a player hub. Because of the ability to get little to no tax, most player hubs are focused on "offshore" markets for RMT goods--PLEX, injectors, etc. However, hubs are slowly capturing more non-RMT goods trade. In June, for yet another month in a row, player hubs managed to capture around 1.0% more brokers fees compared to the previous month: 

If the trend continues, player hubs will capture 20% of brokers fees by early 2018.

I chose an odd region to set up a hub--Verge Vendor, and the system of Jufvitte. I've only ever traded a few select items in this region, but I thought it would be an interesting place for a hub because 1) there is no central market hub, 2) there's already some player hubs which capture a lot of trade, 3) EVE UNI and some other active groups live nearby, 4) I roam the LS part of VV and often roam north to Horde space from this area. However, VV is not a great place to trade if your goal is to make isk. Market activity in the region is overall very low, but my goal in setting up a hub is to capture trade and see if it creates conflict, not really to make great isk. The other important factor is that I cannot update orders more than once per week, so a slower trade region works better for my goal.  

In regional hubs, the ability for players to hit "buy all" and shop at one location matters sometimes more than the prices. More players will buy a 10-20% higher isk Rail/Blaster Comet fit in FW LS if they can hit "buy all" at a station, as opposed to saving a few million isk at most by having to fly all over for the items. The same can be said for mining ships, haulers, and so on.

As a result, I use one character's 300 total orders to sell essential ships and equipment at basically Jita prices in my player hub, along with another set of 100 orders or so that actually make me isk. The idea is that in order for players to buy my one item 20% over Jita prices, I need to incentivize shopping at a player hub by selling all the other modules they need in the same place and at low prices.

For the market hub, I used an Azbel and also set up manufacturing and research at basically no tax--and partly to have a more vulnerable hub to, again, try to create conflict. EVE UNI has a campus one jump away and the region has rookie/career agent system, so I partly wanted the industry available to them or people building for them in mind. I set up the market hub at .2% tax consistent with other hubs in the region, then later lowered it just .1%. Other market hub owners were not supportive of the tax rate getting lowered even more. I don't make much isk off the taxes (maybe 50m a month?) and the fuel comes out to something like 1b a month--but, again, I am saving around 1b in taxes that I would be paying if I traded out of an NPC hub.

You can see the exact day I put up the hub. I do research BPOs there, but I usually forget about them for days or weeks, so it is interesting to see the industry side actually getting used.

There's another reason I chose this system/region to set up a solo market hub--there was already a market hub in system which has had a stable 1500 sell orders for most of 2017. While I could afford to inject a bunch of SP into alts to get to that many orders myself, my bottleneck is time to play EVE.

In total, then, the other player hub has 1500 orders and my hub ("Market and Industry" below) has around 500 out of the total (sell) 3000 orders in system. That puts player hubs at around 2/3rds of the sell order numbers in system. So I am kind of cheating in my experiment, given that another player hub is capturing far more of the trade in the system/region than I am can.

Profits / Times orders were updated:
April: 7.3b / 4 updates
May: 6.42b / 4 updates
June: 5.53b / 3 updates

So with around 500 orders updating only once a week (and missing a week in June) the hub made on average 6.4b a month. Profit has been declining largely due to the drop in activity in game. In terms of time spent, that's around 700m per hour, but I was also multitasking (hauling goods on a second account and listening to EVE Talk). The other player hub in system updated orders much more frequently than I did, so I would estimate that they made at least (if not decently more) 3x the amount of isk given they had around 3x the orders. If that player hub was just one person trading on many accounts, that's a good 15-18b isk a month at least (granted with considerably more time invested each month). How much more profitable would player hubs be in regions that are not terrible for trade?

My market hub was just a small solo experiment in a region bad for trade but convenient for me at the time in game. Ratting in a super, multiboxing 50 rorquals in Delve, or aggressively station trading in Jita are more profitable--insanely more. But those activities just don't fit my super casual playstyle.

Last up in this series--and really the entire point of it--covers Citadels/ECs as conflict generators. Market hubs owned by solo or small groups are all over. They generate isk, but what about any conflict? And if not, why?