Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ISboxer: A Tale of Two Items

CCP issued a rather surprising ruling before Rhea: client-syncronization utilities such as ISboxer are an exploit that will be dealt with the same as botting.  Though slightly tongue-in-cheek, CCP Random released a handy infographic about the new ruling:

This is a pretty huge change of direction on the part of CCP.  For years, tools like ISboxer have been in a gray "not illegal, but not endorsed" space.  This has allowed people to automate large fleets of miners or ratters and stay on just the other side of the botter line.  It has also enabled some rather hilarious one-man fleets and outrageous account counts for a very small collection of players.  But automation is always a contentious issue, and especially when humans are playing against robots (or puppets) the game quickly stops being fun or fair.

Impacts on PLEX

I spend a lot of time talking and writing about PLEX.  People want to know where it is going and what the greater impact will be.  Though I think the general populace grossly overvalues PLEX, pinning extra meaning to it that is not there, it is an important metric to look at that tells us something about account activity and ISK supply indirectly.  The recent fall can be broken down into three parts: general instability, ISboxer ruling, and Black-Friday Sales.  

Price Instability

As I said on EP005 of the Prosper show, the PLEX crest to 1B was a hilariously unstable rise.  It tripped our most extreme price tracking bins and was an unprecedented spike in the history of the product.  Given no outside force, I would have expected the price of PLEX to fall down to 950 on its own.  The first few days after the spike shows that deflation back to normal.  Also, since October, PLEX has been in the "overbought" territory on the RSI chart signalling additional instability, but was not responding to those signals at all.

ISboxer ruling

This really kicked PLEX in the teeth.  Simply put: demand for PLEX will fall if people aren't going to run as many alts.  There was a lot of weirdness going on the day of the announcement, namely some "blocking orders", or large buy orders meant to soak up the downward pressure.  Though social media was ready to announce the return of 700M or less PLEX, there just wasn't a way to drive the price that far.  I put some predictions out pinning the price at 850, but I was a little disposed the day of the announcement, so I wasn't able to get in the thick of the speculation.  

The effect here is pretty simple to explain: demand fell, so the price could not be sustained in the 900s any longer.  Pair that with a panicked sell-off trying to retain value before the crash completes becoming a positive feedback loop driving the price further down.  It's interesting to look at the RSI part of the PLEX chart (bottom plot) and see that the price stopped falling just-shy of the "oversold" line.  This is what I based my predictions on, and came out wonderfully smug for the prediction.

Black-Friday Sales

When I recorded EP005 of the Prosper show, I gave two pieces of advice ahead of the Thanksgiving break.  First, that the spike was unstable, and it was a good time to sell if you were holding, and that there should be Black-Friday/Cyber-Monday sales, prompting a good opportunity to buy.  It really isn't a surprise that GMG and PLEX retailers like had 15% or better deals in this pre-Christmas season.  It's traditionally a huge recruiting time for MMOs in general, and deals should be expected.  It's hard measuring the efficacy of this latest sale when paired against the ISboxer ruling so close, but the bottoming out at 850 falls inside expectations as a floor.

Additional sales should be expected over the Christmas break through to New Years, though I don't expect these to correspond to dips as strong as seen a few weeks back.

Impacts on Tritanium 

The other side of the coin with the ISboxer ruling is that automated mining fleets aren't going to be as easy to run.  This has the biggest impact on the low-end mineral market, where HS belts could be stripped bare with little actual effort.  But the demand for low-end minerals is outstanding, and any significant disruption in their supply will move the bar quite significantly.

There are two secondary effects that are also interesting: the run in high-end minerals, and the lack of spike in the ice markets.

Other Minerals

There is a paradox in mineral markets: low-ends are usually undersupplied, and high-ends are oversupplied.  This has a lot to do with the freight weight vs value of low-ends, and the way NS/WH space export mined materials.  Especially after Crius, NS/WH miners will want to keep low-end minerals stocked locally, but will be overwhelmed by a glut of high-ends, which end up exported to Jita.

If we look at Megacyte/Zydrine, the highest tiers of normal minerals, we can see they also spiked with the ISboxer announcement, but are quickly falling back toward their original trend lines

Ice Products

You'd think that if minerals were in a tizzy because of the death of "automated mining fleets" that ice would not be far behind.  It's even more laborious to harvest, and suits itself better to set-it-and-forget-it mining.  Unfortunately, we may be waiting a while to see a constriction in these markets due to a speculative bubble pre-Phoebe.  Also, with the spike of minerals driving up ISK/hr for traditional mining, ice may never see the pop I would have expected


The ISboxer ban is good for the game in general.  Players should be fighting players, not robots.  It's interesting to see both expected and unexpected reactions to the news, and I think we will continue to see some effects bubble through all the way to Jan 1, when the bans actually take hold.  I'd expect that upward pressure on PLEX will remain anemic, and the low-end mineral markets will stay high but flat.  As we go into the new year and settle into the new normal, these markets should return to their established trends pre-announcement.

It's also interesting to see the timing of the ISboxer bans fit so nicely with the release of the CREST market feed, ending the need for cache scraping.  If I were going to put on any tinfoil about this change, it's that CCP is shoring up their positions with respect to the EULA, eliminating a lot of gray-operations.  I couldn't be happier about it, since it's always better to have everyone operating inside the rules, rather than having to do wink-and-nod exceptions that weaken enforcement options.

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