My experiment in high-sec industry is about to come to a satisfactory end, one year after I began it in earnest. When the Crius update was introduced last July, the entire system for research and manufacturing in EVE Online changed dramatically. I wanted to know if it was possible for independent, casual manufacturers in high-sec to make a profitable living after the Crius changes. And so, I have devoted most of my time over the last year playing with industrial mechanics in the game.
Though there were some predictions of disaster for high-sec industrialists in advance of Crius, my results have been generally positive. It has proven to be a fun experience, although also one that has grown very routine. I am certain that I could have earned higher profits if I was extremely fastidious about tracking my expenses to the tenth decimal place, as many serious industrialists do, but I deliberately kept my involvement at a casual level. I simply bought raw materials at the cheapest available price in the major trade hubs - Jita, mostly - and glanced at market prices for produced items to ensure that I wasn't making things that couldn't be sold at a profit. I never kept a spreadsheet to track individual item margins, on purpose. I only made sure that my expenses and income were all kept in the same wallet, and watched the level of my ISK balance rise and fall over time.
After starting with a medium player-owned starbase (POS) tower, a few assembly arrays, about 600 million in ISK and nine months of stockpiled fuel blocks, I now end after a year with more than 5 billion in cash, five PLEX (after giving a couple away to the PLEX for Good campaign), and another 11 billion in inventory of Tech II modules and ammo ready to sell in the market.
I've been hoarding my inventory in anticipation of an increase in demand after FozzieSov kicks in fully. I may be wrong about that, but I can be patient and wait the market out before liquidating my stockpiles at a decent profit. There's no rush - I now have plenty of cash to cover whatever other expenses I may incur in New Eden for quite a while.
So, is it worth being a casual, solo, high-sec industrialist in New Eden these days? I would say that my results indicate it does. However, I do have some advice for those who are eager to try replicating my success.
Proper preparation produces positive profits.
Don't jump into high-sec industry expecting to make oodles of money immediately - you will be disappointed. Tech I manufacturing is generally a no-profit game, or very nearly so, depending on what you make and sell. The margins on these items are razor-thin, and there is so much competition that a neophyte won't earn enough to make it worthwhile.
To make serious profits as a high-sec manufacturer, you must become a proficient Tech II inventor, and research the efficiencies of your blueprint originals (BPOs) to the maximum, generally. You should become very familiar with industrial planning tools, such as those from Fuzzwork Enterprises (especially the super-handy Blueprint Calculator).
You will also need to be aware of production costs, and be able to operate a POS in order to reap the bonuses they provide. You should also stockpile all the resources you will need to make a solid start on your production operation - minerals, fuel, datacores, blueprint copies (BPCs), and whatever items you need to make the stuff you want to sell. Also, scout around for a nice, quiet system to base your operations in - one with little activity, so that your job costs will be kept low.
You will obviously need to build up some cash reserves, in order to buy your initial materials stockpiles. I did this by doing a lot of Level 4 mission running.
If your character isn't skilled up to do all of this yet, spend the time training first. While you are whittling down the required skill queue, you should be doing anything you can do to reduce the cash outflows of your pending industrial empire. This includes establishing R&D agents to make datacores for you, mining your own minerals and ice, and researching your BPOs. This all takes time.
In the southern United States, where I live, we call this "fixin' to get ready". You can easily spend many months - even a year - in this stage, before you are really prepared to set up shop as a serious Tech II manufacturer in high-sec. It takes patience. Do the math, and make your plans. Otherwise, you'll have less than good results.
This does not mean you have to become super anal-retentive and keep elaborate spreadsheets of everything you do - though if that is your natural orientation, you will find much in industry to keep you joyfully occupied. Quite frankly, I am a very lazy manufacturer, and I have little patience for trying to squeeze out every penny of profits. I simply made items that had good profit margins, and was prudent about where I bought and sold things. As a result, I ended up with decent returns for my efforts, though I admit that I could have made more money if I had scrutinized every transaction with extreme precision.
Turn the crank quickly and frequently.
With the current mechanics, it pays to use your production facilities as much and as often as you can. Candidly, I think it is difficult to make decent money as a high-sec industrialist unless you have multiple characters with very high manufacturing and research skills.
I have three characters, all trained to run the maximum number of industry and research jobs. Most of the time, I ran more than thirty manufacturing jobs and more than thirty invention jobs concurrently. This enabled me to produce a large inventory and increase my profits.
Yes, you can make a profit as an individual character, but you will always be limited to 11 manufacturing and research jobs each, at maximum skills. If you can run more jobs in your POS assembly arrays with multiple characters, you can spread the cost of fuel over a larger number of items produced, and thereby increase your margins. It's simply more efficient.
If you can't afford to use multiple characters in your high-sec industry operations, then going solo makes little sense, in my opinion. Find some friends, form a corp, and leverage your production resources more efficiently - you'll all come out the better for it.
So, what's next?
Hopefully, I haven't scared you off, if you were thinking about becoming rich as a solo, high-sec manufacturer. It's possible to do it, but it's not a trivial investment in time and effort. Just be aware of what you're getting into before you jump in.
As for me, I will run out of POS fuel in the next month, and I'm going to close up my industry operation at that time. It's been an interesting year, and I'm pleased with the results. But it's time to try something new.
I contributed to a recent article on the EVE Online news site, Crossing Zebras, entitled "Stones Left Unturned", about aspects of the game that I have yet to try. As I mentioned there, I have yet to participate fully in a null-sec sovereignty-holding alliance. I've also only briefly flirted with Factional Warfare, and as a by-product, I have limited experience in low-sec space. I have dipped occasionally into wormhole space, and enjoyed it, but I've never tried to actually live there for any extended period. All of these options have their appeal, but I'm not yet certain which I will choose to follow.
I've been reading on Noizygamer's blog about his good experiences with the Signal Cartel, which is based in Thera and focuses on exploration, and that sounds like a fun alternative. I like their style - especially how they deploy "hug fleets", which sound like a blast.
I'm not yet certain which route I will pursue. One thing I do know: EVE Online never lacks a variety of new things to try.
It's time to start a new chapter in my career in New Eden.
Fly safe! o7