I’m no market guru, but I’ve been noticing the price of PLEX rise in the last few weeks (currently around 900 mil). And as a person that prefers to pay for my subscription with PLEX, that’s annoying. CCP has obviously taken note, as well. I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that they put PLEX on sale at Amazon.
In fact, it seems PLEX is always on sale. And prices for PLEX have been very high for the past several months. Coincidence?
Segue: Market speculators have very deep pockets, and are willing to use them to keep the price of PLEX artificially inflated. When PLEX drops below a price they deem dangerously low, they immediately begin buying up all the PLEX they can at the lower rate to buoy it again. Over the next few months, they sell off their stock of PLEX at the higher rate as the market stabilizes, as a sort of unofficial cartel effect (though I don’t doubt that some of the major players are in communication, these decisions are largely individual). As a result, the PLEX price dips only until they can react, at which point it recovers again.
While CCP has stated that they don’t have a target PLEX price in mind, they do step in at various points to lower the price. They tend to run PLEX sales to narrow the gap between the price of PLEX and the subscription price… quite frequently recently as the price has ticked upwards. More rarely, they’ll dip into their store of confiscated PLEX from banned accounts and introduce it into the market (CCP doesn’t destroy this PLEX; to do so would be to undercut faith in the value of a PLEX transaction with CCP) to boost the supply.
While they may not want to hit a golden price target, for PLEX, it does appear as if they DO have an affordability target. When PLEX is perceived to be too high, players will choose to unsub instead of purchase a PLEX. And this is something CCP is not interested in seeing. High PLEX prices may be good for sellers, but they can crowd buyers out of playing the game. And that damages the core product: the players who are CCP’s content.
So, do 10% PLEX discounts work? Based on this reasoning, it sounds like PLEX speculators make out the best. And yet, the higher PLEX price (and my reduced time to isk-generate) saw me actually pay for my subscription this weekend, for the first time in more than two years. The PLEX price of 895 mil was too high for me (and I was looking for something for Father’s Day). Lower PLEX prices can see some players choose to either come into the game, or stock up now in anticipation of a price rise in the future. And that may be what CCP’s after.
Sure, this decision was a result of a convergence of factors, and probably doesn’t represent a larger overall trend. But while content may be at a low as all the null empires get ready for FozzieSov, lots of players are curious what will happen and whether null will be different, so I suspect subscription numbers are and will remain high despite the low PCU. PLEX prices aren’t going down any time soon. And, obviously for me, I decided to change my habits as a result of recent factors.
Then there’s the supply side. CCP can run all the sales they want, but unless players en masse feel there’s a need for a quick infusion of liquid isk, it won’t change players’ desire to spend their cash buying PLEX from CCP. Now might be a good time, though. FozzieSov will open up opportunities for players in null-sec, and I could see some of them buying new characters. Indeed, prices for characters are a bit higher now than in the past. And buying a quality character takes a lot of isk.
Now has the making of a good time for a meaningful PLEX sale. But to be successful (generating revenue) and for us to see a change in the PLEX price, CCP has to do better than the 10% discount they’re offering. In fact, I think they need to dip that PLEX price below $15 USD.
Yeah, I said it.
The purpose of this kind of a below-subscription PLEX sale is twofold. First, you win the purchase from some players who want to boost their available isk, but are a little hesitant to pay for PLEX. Offering an unusually deep discount will spur people to action, even if the cost-value isn’t quite there. Something about a limited time offer that is better than what you normally offer spurs consumers to purchase (how many of you bought that extra flash drive because it was deeply on sale, even though you didn’t have a specific need at the time?). And this can overcome the good sense of some consumers by getting them to buy even when they normally wouldn’t. They don’t want to miss this chance, after all.
But the second aim of such a sale is likely to have a bigger effect. If you make PLEX prices lower than subscription prices, every single person who pays for their subscription month-to-month would benefit from buying PLEX. In fact, they’d benefit from buying multiple PLEX, particularly if they pay for multiple accounts. And while some of those players would immediately convert that PLEX into a lot of gametime, some won’t. Some will, instead, keep it as PLEX, just in case.
And that’s when you have them. It’s a very difficult thing to resist the urge to sell your extra PLEX when you need isk. It’s just sitting there, and you’ve already loaded your game time for the next month or two. Why not sell it now, then use the assets you buy with the isk you get to generate even more. Perhaps you need a new ratting Tengu, and feel you can more than make up the cost over the next month. Regardless, a certain percentage of that extra PLEX will be sold on the market rather than injected for game time. And every one players sell on the market represents an incremental purchase that those players otherwise would not have made.
And that’s the rare campaign that benefits players and CCP by taking advantage of human behavior and our community’s propensity for a cost-value analysis.
Whether that has an effect on the price of PLEX in the short-term… that depends on how much additional liquid ISK the PLEX buyers have to absorb the extra stock. Though, I firmly believe that long-term, PLEX is only going up. Only by rolling back the connection between PLEX and dual-character training, resculpts, or ship skins-for-isk would that happen, and that’s not likely any time soon. In the short-term, though, it might get more players to resub in time to give FozzieSov a try. And that could result in a meaningful bump in subscribed accounts long-term, provided that FozzieSov succeeds in injecting meaningful engagement into null-sec.
Tl;dr: CCP, offering PLEX at a lower-than-subscription price would take advantage of human behavior and sell incremental units that will either (at best) lower the PLEX price or (at worst) result in additional cash for CCP, goodwill, and additional players giving FozzieSov a try.