Monday, February 8, 2016

Crowding Out and Moving Up

I have quite the history with purchasing characters on the bazaar. I started out buying and selling characters as my training appetite changed. Each time, I managed to sell for a slight profit, until I worked my way up to selling 70-80 mil sp characters. It wasn’t great isk, and I didn’t do it for the profits.

Rather, each purchase gave me access to a different kind of play style. I put some in faction warfare. I put others in low- or null-sec groups to get some different action. I found out very early that I had no appetite for awoxing, corporate theft, or scamming.

Not that I didn’t try… in fact, I once managed to fake my way into a corporation in NPC null. But I soured to the whole idea during the Teamspeak interview with the recruiter, when I realized he was a chill dude, and clearly cared about creating a positive environment for his pilots. I don’t have it in me to intentionally inflict harm on another player just trying to make the gameworld a little better. It’s one thing to shoot a player, providing content and presenting an opportunity for a lesson, but it’s quite another to enter into a corp with malice to inflict harm. The way you treat people says something about you, particularly when you think you can get away with it. I ended up leaving that corp the next day with nary a word said; I felt too bad.

But over the years, I’ve built up a number of former characters. Xinraea, Alexandra VonKarl, and War Hippy are just a couple of them. There are about a half dozen others I flew, PvPed, and then sold when I lost interest.

All the while, I continued to train Valeria, getting her into a dread and carrier, then finishing up her four-race/five-weapon training up through cruisers. Given the current meta for PvP, she’s quite capable now.

Then, it hit me… I don’t need a new PvP character; I’ve got one right here. So, I made the decision to move Valeria into a full-time PvP role. That left me with the need for a dedicated ratting character to replace her.

But as I crunched the numbers, I realized I only needed about a 16-mil sp character for that function. I’m one of those strange players who’s picky about my character names; they all have to look like real names (first name, last name) and can’t have any numbers. You may be surprised to learn how difficult it is to find a character that meets your needs with those restrictions!

Skill trading appealed to me because I could keep one character name from a book series I liked, Mikhail Hastur. I started training him a couple months ago, dropping two plex for multiple character training. Based on the dev blog that equated skill trading with the character bazaar, I assumed CCP was hoping to make comparable money from the two. I saw the eventual cost of the skill extractors as an equivalent of the two PLEX a character transfer costs, since they’re doing the same thing. The only real question in my mind was what CCP thought of as an average sp for a character. When they published that the average bazaar character sold had 50 million sp, I felt reasonably sure we’d be seeing extractors that added incremental cost over the “blood price” to the seller for the sp training.

Boy, was I wrong. Instead of equating the extractor cost with the two plex for trading a character, CCP chose to make players pay two subscriptions for that sp; one paid by the original buyer and reimbursed to him/her by the new seller, and a second for enough extractors to cover that month’s training. Nosy’s got a great analysis on his site.

I didn’t anticipate that they’d leave “micro” out of the transaction. To get that 16 million sp I’d need for my character, I was looking at about 17 plex in cost. So, I said a teary farewell to Mikhail Hastur and sent him to the dumpster; he wasn’t of any use to me anymore and was taking up a character slot I needed to be empty.

Yet the stars aligned, and my first day browsing the character bazaar netted me a nice 16 mil, focused Tengu character with no wasted sp for 8 billion. My revenue stream is secure, and I’ve already earned back 800 mil in loot from running a single site and the associated escalation. Mission accomplished. I’ll make that 8 bil back in no time.

It’s always nice when things work out well for you, and I certainly can’t complain about the outcome. But I can’t help but think about the lost opportunity. The extractors’ aurum pricing was the sole factor in me changing my strategy; had it been priced in line with the 2-plex character transfer fee (after all, in both cases, someone already paid for a subscription to initially train that sp), I’d have been in the skill buying game. It crowded me out entirely, and permanently; now that I have my character with all the sp I need – and Talvorian and Valeria are above 50 mil sp and in the “not worth it” category – I’m unlikely to be in a position to need to buy. Thirty-two trades evaporated.

I can’t imagine CCP intended to encourage players to actively avoid this new mechanic, but maybe it was. My biomassed character had 3.9 million sp on him, which is now out of the gameworld entirely, so that’s an overall sp sink. And they did get their two plex from the seller of my new character, so that’s good, I suppose. Is that enough to justify losing a player to the system? Maybe?

I'm happy with my new character, the seller is happy to have my isk. CCP gets its share, so maybe this is just the system working as intended, and players getting to make their choices according to their needs.

I can see some players wanting to quickly finish off AWU V or JDC V, but is there a scenario where it makes sense for a player to engage in mass-transactions for sp trading (say, buying 10 or more at a time)? I can't think of one, honestly.


  1. I believe skill trading makes sense for people (like myself) who have several characters with fewer than 50 million SP but a lot of unused SP they would like to reallocate. In my case, 7 PLEX purchased in game using ISK will let me buy 30 extractors I can use to extract 15 million SP and inject 12 million. The ISK were simply collecting dust in my wallet and 12 million SP will significantly advance my game. For me, this is a one time event - I have "wasted" SP to transfer and idle ISK to pay for it. It will be interesting to see if people will pay enough of a premium for instant gratification to create a viable market.

  2. When skill extraction was orignally announced a lot of people were saying RIP character bazaar, but CCP has clearly decided to make skill extraction coexist peacefully with the bazaar as serves its own niche.

    You want a fully skilled titan character? Want a new main PVP toon? you go to the bazaar

    Want to insta train a cyno alt? Your alliance switched to a new doctrine you can't fly? You are a wallet warrior who wants more skills on the character he named and designed? you turn to skill extraction

    1. The reason folks were saying "RIP character bazaar" was because of how CCP framed the conversation. And, indeed, we'd be seeing that if their goal was to collect the same amount of isk from 50 mil of transferred skills as they gained from a 50-mil sp character trade. As it is, they've decided to make this an incredibly niche feature that seems to incentivize only the rare use; fewer large transactions rather than many tiny ones.