I do not follow PLEX too closely in game. I neither buy it with ISK to keep my account subscribed nor sell it to raise ISK. Generally I buy some when I want a SKIN from the in-game store and leave it at that.
But PLEX has been around for most of the life of the game at this point and is very much ingrained in New Eden.
And because it has become such a part of the game, even I end up hearing about the price of it when it starts to rise. And rise it has, with running around 4.5 million ISK, putting the in-game ISK price of 30 days of game time at around 2.2 billion ISK.
That is a fairly steep jump from the 2.7 million ISK that PLEX was selling for earlier this year. So what happened?
And, on its surface, that sounds reasonable. If people are going to pay more for PLEX then maybe they want more ISK for their real world cash? I would, wouldn’t you?
The problem with this is that there is no direct linkage between the real world price of PLEX and the in-game price. Just because you want more ISK for your PLEX doesn’t mean you can get it. You can see from that historic image that old PLEX, which is 500 of the current PLEX, used to sell for ~300 million ISK, equal to about 600K per current PLEX. So the market has some say in the price.
Yes, you can list your PLEX for however much you want on the market, but buyers in New Eden won’t pay more than they have to. You have to compete with other people selling PLEX, all of whom want to cash out into ISK, and PLEX makes up a significant portion of the New Eden economy, as the velocity of ISK chart from the MER shows us ever month.
That chart says, to me at least, that 20-25% of ISK transactions involve PLEX or PLEX related items, all of which influence the price of PLEX. That is enough movement in the market, and mostly in and around Jita, to keep the price of PLEX steady. The market can find an agreed upon value of PLEX.
You don’t see a lot of volatility in the market for a lot of that chart. The price hung on between 2.5 million and 3 million per PLEX for quite a stretch there. The market had found its equilibrium.
Then, of course, there is that spike and then the ongoing rise to the current price range. What happened there?
The bare graph that makes up the bottom of that image is the daily trading volume for PLEX and, as you can see, the day that CCP announced the price increase volume spiked. People clearly expected the in-game price of PLEX to go up, so speculators and those wishing to lock in their price bought up a lot of PLEX.
As demand rose, so did the price, just like my economics professors back in college said they should. There was an initial rush, then the price peaked and dropped back down a bit, likely due to a few early birds taking their profits and the market hitting a point where people were taking a breather to see where this was going to go.
Up is where it went. After the post-frenzy pause the price continued its upward climb. The actual price increase date, May 17th, is in the middle of a very consistent upward slope, indicating that the market was already looking for its new equilibrium.
There are is an up and down bounce in the middle of that price climb… the valley for that is on June 7th, the start of Minmatar Liberation Day, so my guess would be a corresponding end of quarter PLEX sale… which also sees a spike in transactions, which in turn pushes the price back upwards.
Then, around August 20th or so, the price hits a plateau. There is another minor surge in volume, and then the price levels out and remains, a new equilibrium having been achieved.
Trade volume of PLEX remains down, having fallen off around June 15th to a new normal.
So the question remains, did the real world PLEX price increase, which saw the cost of 500 PLEX go from $20 to $25, cause the in-game price to go up?
Yes, but not because people buying PLEX wanted more ISK for it. As I noted above, the market has to go along with your price plan. That image up at the top of the post of PLEX at 300 million ISK, which is old PLEX so you can divide that price by 500 giving you the equivalent of today’s PLEX selling for a mere 600K ISK, shows that the real world price lacks the leverage on its own to set the in-game price.
Instead, what I think we are seeing is the result of people simply buying less PLEX for real world money. With fewer units of PLEX being listed on the market, the ISK competition to obtain them is more intense, raising the price on the market.
This is also interesting because we’re still in a period where ISK faucets into the game remain tight so, in theory, with less ISK coming into the game the price should be seeing some downward pressure from that in addition to the pressure the current market price is exerting.
The volume going down suggests that part of the reaction to the price increase is that some people are simply not PLEX-ing as many accounts. But, as we saw in the August MER, there are still a group of players with plenty of ISK to spend on PLEX.
As I noted when that came out, 67.7% of the active ISK held in New Eden is in the hands of 5% of the players. That means they have 1,003 trillion, while the other 95% of the game shares only 494 trillion.
Some people can afford to PLEX their alts… though those people are probably also making ISK on market speculation, including on PLEX. The lesson of the free market is almost always that the rich somehow managed to get richer no matter what is going on.
Anyway, that is my speculation, that the price increase back in May has reduced the amount of fresh PLEX coming into the game, raising its price on the market. And I know that is basically saying “the price increase caused it,” which it the one line explanation, but I don’t think simply saying that goes far enough, so you have this post.
I obviously have no direct knowledge of the actual volume of PLEX sales, but it would be interesting to know if CCP’s 25% price increase back in May ended up netting them more or less revenue. Or, to put it another way, are high in-game PLEX prices a bad sign for CCP?
I am throwing the Skill Extractor price chart in here due to a comment about how all PLEX related items have gone up, but especially because of all of those items, the slope for Skill Extractors most closely mirrors the PLEX chart.
On Friday Sept. 23, CCP announced a special deal, 1 month of Omega for 300 PLEX.
As usual, CCP is bad at communication, so people were looking in the web store for the cash price to be reduced. This is an in-game deal only.
But this deal has pushed the price of PLEX way up from what I mentioned in this post. Sell orders are closing in on 6 million ISK per and buy orders are above 5.5 million.
Now, technically, at 300 PLEX per 30 days, the price of PLEX would have to go up to about 7.5 million ISK per in order to cancel out any ISK savings, so there should be a ceiling on the PLEX price due to this sale.
On the other hand, if you were buying PLEX with ISK to do something else, you’re screwed.
We’ll have to see where the price lands after this deal runs out. It could depress the price a bit, having sated some demand, or it might stay higher. I’d add the price history graph to show the spike, but it is broken in-game at the moment.
Addendum 3: As the day has gone on, the price of PLEX has settled down. The allure of another million ISK per PLEX looks like it got some of the speculators to liquidate some of their PLEX, so the price is resolving itself to around 5 million ISK per now.