CCP Takes Aim at Undercutters and Market Bots in New Eden

CCP has a bunch of things coming up in March, like frigates in battleships and the expansion of the mineral starvation plan and fleet yeet filaments, but yesterday’s dev blog about their planned market changes struck me with the question, “Why now?”

We’ll get to that skill in a bit

Some of the items in that post make sense.  The change to the minimum broker fees in player owned Upwell structures… it will go from 0% to 1%, and only half of the broker’s fee will go to the owner now… seems like a straightforward response to the changes they made to fees back in July.  Those seemed set to push markets to player structures, something set to enrich the owners without being much of an ISK sink in the overall economy.   Now they will take a bit of ISK.  CCP even uses the phrase “ISK sink” in describing it.

In Upwell structures, the minimum broker fee that can be configured by the structure owner increases from 0% to 1%, adding an ISK sink to these market fees by paying half of this incoming fee to an NPC.

But the other two changes… those go into a realm that CCP has previously ignored.  The summaries are:

Introducing tick size – a limit on price precision when creating/updating an order. An order’s price can only be specified with a maximum precision of 4 significant figures.

Increase the ISK fees that are charged when modifying an order. The fee includes a new additional component, the Relist Charge. This is in addition to the regular Broker Charge that covers the increase between old and new order value.

To my mind, those changes have only one target; undercutters.

People have been wailing about undercutters in various forums for any online game that has a market or auction house since there has been online games with markets or auction houses.  And these complaints often boil down to people being butt hurt that somebody comes along and lists the same item for less than the person doing the complaining.

The problem with these complaints is that the answer is always that this is how a market works.  When somebody else wants to list an item on the market and they see the same thing already lists, what do you expect them to do?  Should they list at a higher price?

Arguably, there are situations when people should.  A smart seller knows their market and won’t just undercut everybody.  If there are a couple of low ball sellers you can ignore them or buy them out depending on the situation.  But most people are lazy and just want to sell their stuff, so they will see the lowest price and list just below that and be on their way.

In EVE Online, price increments down to a tenth of an ISK, so you will often see items that cost tens or hundreds of millions of ISK on the market with pricing separated by that tenth of an ISK gap.

A sample of prices from Jita

This situation is aggravated somewhat by the fact that you cannot chose who you buy from.  You can select any listing you want at any price, but it will always buy from the lowest priced listing.  If you want to punish that person at the top of the list with the price that ends in .97 ISK by going with a higher priced listing, the higher price goes to that person anyway.

In New Eden the undercutter always wins, at least in the short term.

The first of the proposed two changes will alter the minimum price increment allowed for listings, limiting it to four significant digits of precision.  That means an item that is worth about a million ISK on the market will go from having pricing that looks like this:

  • 999,999.97
  • 999,999.98
  • 999,999.99
  • 1,000,000.00

to pricing that looks like this:

  • 999,700
  • 999,800
  • 999,900
  • 1,000,000

Rather than a tenth of an ISK increment you get one on the 100 ISK line.

I gather that the idea here is that increasing the increment size will flatten the pricing in the market and keep people from undercutting as aggressively.  With enough items on the market, or for items of a high enough price, that may come to pass.  But there will always be the incentive to be the lowest priced item on the market, and in MMOs, where a lot of players do not take pricing seriously, being content just to get some currency out of an item, it isn’t uncommon for people to undercut well below the vendor or recycle price of an item.

That is a benefit for those who spot the item, but it won’t stop people from bitching about being undercut, and it will keep happening no matter the increment.

The second item, the revised charging scheme for modifying a current order, that feels like it is being aimed at market bots.  Interestingly, as part of the dev blog, CCP says that 94% of market listings are never altered, and of the remaining orders, only 1.3% are modified eight or more times.  And a subset of that are “orders that are being modified hundreds of times, with behavioral patterns that are very likely not human.”  There are your bots, which are not nearly as pervasive as the forums would lead you to believe.  To some people every undercut must be a bot, but in places like Jita where new orders are going up all the time and the incentive is always to be .01 ISK below the price leader, you cannot tell which is a bot and which is just a new listing.

So this new change, and there is a formula detailing how it will be calculated, has been setup to make frequent price changes ruinously expensive.

In the classic CCP way of things though, they have a skill for that.  Or, rather, a skill is being repurposed for that.  The Margin Trading skill, which I gather was little cared for, will become Advanced Broker Relations and, if trained up to level V, will reduce the enhanced relisting fee by half.

If the target is “not human” behavioral patterns it seems silly to repurpose a skill in order to take away some of the sting.  But maybe they want sales of the skill to act as an ISK sink.

Either way, that should put paid to unfettered sell bots, though such a bot never made much sense to me in any case.  Patience and knowing the market has always seemed like a better path than trying to micromanage.  I’ve never had problems selling anything that was priced right even if it wasn’t the lowest price at the moment.

Buy bots, that seems like a better plan, scanning the market regularly to purchase items listed well below market pricing… though I have heard tales in dark places about people manipulating market pricing just to get such bots to buy things they ought not to.

So the best plan seems to be not botting at all.  But somebody is always going to go there if they think they can gain even a bit of an advantage.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  But I still wonder “why now?”  The relisting charge especially intrigues me.  But CCP could have done either or both of those changes at any point in the last dozen years.  People have been complaining about bots and undercutting in Jita for longer than that.  What happened that put that on CCP’s radar?

If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what this breaks and how much it hits the MER.

4 thoughts on “CCP Takes Aim at Undercutters and Market Bots in New Eden

  1. Pingback: EVE Online – Price Precision – Unidentified Signal Source

  2. Solf

    Oh, the 0.01 undercutting has been my pet peeve when I’ve been playing Eve ages ago. Particularly because I couldn’t just buy from the higher-priced listing — which by itself took me a while to figure out — so for a time I was rewarding the behavior I meant to punish :(

    “The problem with these complaints is that the answer is always that this is how a market works.”
    I disagree. This might be the way the market works when trading intangibles (currency, shares, etc.).
    When you do actually purchase physical goods, I highly doubt many people will switch from the current/trusted supplier to a new one just because of 0.01 price difference.

    So I fully support changes that make 0.01 undercutting less viable (regardless of whether in Eve or other MMO).


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