One of the biggest misconceptions I see in EVE players is the free time fallacy. This is the belief that because you acquired something yourself, it is free, rather than considering the ISK per hour of the activity. Let’s look at an example:
Johnny is mining away in his Covetor, hauling load after load of ore to a nearby station. Johnny can make about 16 million ISK per hour mining in high security space by focusing on the most valuable ore (see here). However, Johnny instead mines other ores as well. He is trying to mine the minerals he needs to build and sell another Covetor from a blueprint copy he bought.
The minerals Johnny needs to build a Covetor are worth roughly 28 million ISK, but he will sell the Covetor for 35 million ISK. It will take him about 2 hours to mine the minerals he needs to build the ship.
ISK Per Hour
Here’s where the fallacy comes into play. Johnny sees that with 2 hours of mining, he can build a Covetor and sell it for 35 million ISK. Since he mined the minerals himself, the 35 million ISK he gets from selling the Covetor is pure profit, which nets him 17.5 million ISK per hour.
Johnny may be thinking that he is doing better than Timmy, working hard in the same belt mining the most valuable ore. Johnny sees Timmy making 16 million ISK/hour, and is happy that he’s found a way to make more. In fact, it is Timmy that is getting the better end of the deal here.
In the same 2 hours that it takes Johnny to mine the minerals for his Covetor, Timmy has made 32 million ISK. Timmy can use 28 million ISK to buy the minerals to build a Covetor, leaving him with 4 million ISK. He can then build and sell that Covetor for 35 million ISK, netting a profit of 7 million ISK. Timmy now has 35 million ISK from selling a Covetor, and 4 million ISK left over after buying the minerals for a total of 39 million ISK. That means Timmy is getting 19.5 million ISK per hour, a full 11.4% more than Johnny.
Overcoming The Fallacy
In the above example, Timmy was able to recognize an opportunity to increase his ISK per hour by maximizing his time. Although the above example involves mining, the same fallacy can apply to any other set of ISK making activities. Timmy could do some AFK ratting in null security space to earn 60 million ISK per hour, and use 56 million of that ISK to build 2 Covetors. That way, he makes a return on investment of 14 million ISK, netting him 74 million ISK per hour.
Now, Timmy can look at the efficiency of his second activity to determine if he can make even more ISK per hour. Is there something else he can build that will offer a higher return on investment than the 25% that a Covetor offers? What will he do once he has too much capital for Covetor production to keep up? Maybe he can start station trading to maintain high returns.
There is no single activity in EVE Online that will provide a higher ISK per hour than a combination of activities that takes full advantage of your growing capital. In order to maximize your efficiency, keep an eye out for every opportunity to make better use of your capital, or optimize a stage in your ISK making pipeline.