Renting in EVE: An Analysis

2021-02-25

Art by Cryo Huren

In a previous article, “The Wealth of Alliances,” we explored various ways alliances create ISK and how those game mechanisms affect the general health of those groups. We suggested that some activities bring resources such as ore and blueprints into the game, and therefore are the bedrock of gameplay.  Without ore, blueprints, and industry, capsuleers have no ships to fly.  We also categorized certain ISK-making endeavors, such as ratting (without salvaging) as ultimately “vampiric,” because they create ISK, which in turn inflates prices, without adding resources into the game.

Many authors have tackled this subject in the past. One of the very best analyses comes from Sebastian Hoch in his “Rental Empires in EVE.” He dissects the profitability of renting and lays out mind-boggling numbers:  renting, in 2013, was providing some alliances with close to one trillion ISK per month. Hoch notes that while renting is amazingly profitable, it may not bring actual fighting power into play, as renters tend to have no sense of loyalty to their landlords. Several years ago another Reddit writer posted a comment on renting, noting that much rental space goes completely unused. He posited that rental empires need to rethink their use of space, and that renters need to re-examine their inefficient use of that space.

In this article we’ll look at renting from a variety of vantage points to try and fully understand why this form of ISK-creation is both so prevalent and so controversial.

Renting and Resources in the EVE Economy

First, “renting” means that an alliance has surplus natural resources – space itself, rats, anomalies, moons, and so forth. The alliance controls more sov space than it can use, so instead of letting the surplus lie fallow, or letting other groups own that sov, they rent out the space and the natural resources therein to other corporations. Renting, then, has the following effects on the EVE economy:

  • It redistributes wealth, without directly adding resources, which in turn,
  • Adds power (in the form of ISK) to the alliance that rents and subtracts power (in the form of ISK) from those who pay the rent.

Everything with renting is complicated, so we must further analyze the above statements to clarify these statements.  The concept of wealth redistribution is more muli-layered than it first appears. In EVE, some corps want access to nullsec (CCP’s scarcity may put an enormous, if temporary, damper on the attraction to renting in null, which has been vastly devalued). If a corp wants to rent on space lying fallow, they are now adding resources to the game: they rent to mine, do PI, perform industry, and have easy access to markets other than Jita. Therefore, one point we want to clarify is that renting may actually add resources to the game, making it not as “vampiric” as it might first appear.

Renting and Power

In terms of power, renting will always help the owning class more than the renting class. As OurEconomy.org puts it, “One of the biggest individual problems with renting is the inherent power differences between the landlord and the renters. . . . It’s the landlord’s property – giving them the power to increase rents, kick out tenants and fix the house up as they please. All this can create a pretty insecure living situation for the tenants.”

The wealth shift goes to larger, more powerful groups from smaller, less powerful groups, meaning that over time, the more powerful groups grow even more powerful while weakening the smaller groups that spend ISK without directly getting anything for it. Over time, this “black hole” effect can lead to fewer and fewer major powers in nullsec; most of the power will be aggregated in a handful of mega-coalitions.

Unlike in real life, in which landlords may have to put some of their rent-earned money back into upkeep and property taxes, EVE space and “housing” don’t degrade (except when CCP devalues space through redistribution or devaluation of resources). Therefore, renting provides landlords with a steady stream of income at little, if any, cost.

The only “cost” for the landlord is protection. A larger corp rents out space to a smaller corp that believes they can’t protect themselves from attack, including an attack from the very corporation they rent from (in this case, rent can be seen as a kind of extortion: “If you pay us bounty each month,  we won’t attack you”). If the smaller corporation begins to get attacked by anyone other than the landlord, according to the rental agreement, the larger corporation will send ships to defend the smaller corporation’s territory. If no attack comes, renting costs landlords absolutely nothing.

Renting and Independence

Renters may have a more symbiotic relationship with their landlords than it might at first appear. Renters get autonomy, (some) safety, and ready markets close by to sell their products. There are ready buyers, the landlords, who may well be caught up in mammoth wars and who need all the ore and ships the renter can provide.

Some corporations want to be in nullsec – until recently the most lucrative area of space – without joining a mega-coalition. If such a group can make more ISK than they could in highsec and lowsec, then they have gained value for their rent money. Clearly, this is the allure of renting; otherwise no group would pay others for the privilege of being in nullsec.

No one forces renters to rent. Their very existence implies that many players find this arrangement more suitable for them than joining a mega-alliance. If every renter joined the alliance they rent from, not much would change. The mega-alliances would just grow even larger, and rent less. What formerly was “rent” would afterward just be tax. The tax would likely be smaller than the price of rent, but perhaps that’s the market price for being autonomous.

Renting and Combat

Renting brings players into nullsec that would otherwise reside in lowsec or highsec.  More density in player population means the greater likelihood of PvP combat, which is the backbone of EVE for many.  Many players love combat and renters make easy marks.  However, renters can also learn combat basics in smaller engagements that don’t involve massive tidi. They can develop their own FCs, rather than becoming mere F1 monkeys in the mega-alliance battles.  Smaller renting corps may learn all aspects of the game: mining, PI, industry, combat, war strategy, and leadership, while their typical line members in a mega-alliance may become content to be less well-rounded.

Conclusion

We have intentionally avoided arguing that renting is either good, or bad, for EVE online. That renting is as prevalent in the game as it is, and has been for many years, testifies to its lasting appeal to both landlord and tenant. It has benefits. It brings additional players into nullsec, who learn the game while adding resources to the overall economy. Yes, they may become easy target practice and victims of unfair practices.

It has problems as well.  The ISK redistribution tends to make the rich even richer and the poor even poorer and more vulnerable, meaning that the stagnation in nullsec that so many find discouraging, with the same five or six mega-alliances always owning everything, will likely continue. 

We invite you to tell us what’s your take on renting in EVE? If renting is so nefarious, why has it been so prevalent and widespread, considering nobody has to rent? If renting is so beneficial, why is it often reviled and condemned?

Let your voice be heard! Submit your own article to Imperium News here!

Would you like to join the Imperium News staff? Find out how!

Comments

  • Guilford Australis

    As I understand it, renting emerged as a way for semi-nomadic alliances (such as the Pandemic Legion of old) to make some ISK without dirtying their fingers on ignoble labor such as ratting, mining, and suchlike – which they considered to be beneath them. The arrangement traditionally included a promise of protection and room to grow for the renting alliances. That worked for a brief time until the renters discovered their overlords actually had no intention to protect them. And THAT led to the discovery that it’s very effective to attack a coalition’s weak renters rather than challenge the coalition directly.

    Renting is neither good nor bad for EVE. Mouth-breathers from small alliances love to vent their spleens on Reddit about big alliances and coalitions being “bad for EVE” – a claim that is usually accepted without question despite its obvious mind-numbing stupidity and essential contradiction of the sandbox nature of EVE. In any sandbox game, players will aggregate into whatever playstyles a majority of them prefer. If a vast majority of nullsec players prefer to join large, well-organized blocs, then it’s presumptuous and absurd for the small number of players who prefer something different to say that the developers should redesign the game so that the majority should not be able to do what they want effectively.

    My judgment is that renting is simply ineffectual for the renters. They won’t be protected in a war or even a long-term SIG deployment. They are required to pay tribute and are expected to defend the overlords who can’t or won’t defend them. If they are told to move or change what they’re doing, their only options are to do as instructed or leave. Often they don’t own sov and sometimes they can’t even own their structures because that is a security problem.

    I don’t object to the practice, but I think it would be better for small groups looking to grow in nullsec to move to regions like Cloud Ring, Tribute, and even Catch where small alliances are currently thriving rather than to shackle themselves to a big coalition that will bleed them dry without providing any meaningful benefit in return.

    February 25, 2021 at 2:06 PM
    • So, the question for me remains, if “renting is simply ineffectual for the renters,” which has been observed for a long time, why are so many people still willing to rent? That’s a real question, btw, not a back-handed stab at your point.

      February 25, 2021 at 3:20 PM
      • Guilford Australis Gray Doc

        Renting is sometimes the best option for corporations and alliances with directors who are AFK or busy in real life, or in cases where the members aren’t committed or experienced enough to embrace the massive suck of defending sovereignty. It’s a lot easier to shack up with some big bloc and let them handle the Fozziesov and structures than to do all of that yourself while defending from attacks by competing groups. Even if the arrangement isn’t profitable, it might keep your people happy.

        I was in a small Provibloc alliance that got evicted by Pandemic Legion a few years ago. The alliance directors assumed we couldn’t survive without joining a major bloc, so they shopped around and picked Legacy. We ended up renting space, got evicted from our new region, settled in another one, and then were ordered to move. No one in leadership ever questioned whether it was really necessary, and I left shortly afterward. I think the directors just didn’t have the real-life time commitment to carve out a new place elsewhere, and I didn’t blame them for taking the path of least resistance.

        February 25, 2021 at 3:33 PM
    • Big coalitions aren’t necessarily bad unless they are sucking up all the space they can to rent it out and screw over the relatively smaller groups that now don’t have the chance to own sov and grow. Instead they are bled dry and effectively forced to join the coalition to even have a chance of surviving. The game needs a lot more small groups owning sov or else pvp dries up outside of large wars which usually isn’t fun pvp. Groups taking space they don’t even intend to use is bad for EVE and results in a blue doughnut.

      February 26, 2021 at 1:33 AM
  • George Ewing

    I’m surprised the subject of the Imperium’s novel renting program in Period Basis wasn’t mentioned. It was unlike any other rental platform in the game and by design addressed the downsides pointed out in the article – high cost, no defense. Rent was paid through use of Imperium-supplied structure taxes. There were no other rental fees. I can’t speak about the defense aspect, as I am not aware of any serious attempts to attack the renters that may have needed an Imperium response. The lack of attacks may have been incidental, or an outcome of attackers’ wariness in confronting Goons.

    February 25, 2021 at 4:01 PM
    • Gray Doc George Ewing

      This was an article about renting in general, and we didn’t want to study the rental practices of any particular group. No point in talking specifically about Imperium’s program in Period Basis, rather than say, FRT’s rental programs. Also, Goons ran a rental program as far back as 2013, so had we gotten into specific applications of renting, the subject could grow beyond all reasonable bounds. Rather, we wanted foster the opportunity for commenters to note specific instances of renting, its pros and cons as they understand them and have experienced them over time.

      February 25, 2021 at 5:25 PM
  • Alaric Faelen

    That’s a rosy view of renting. It much more leans on the ‘extortion’ side than mutually beneficial. Mostly it’s just ‘we won’t attack you in this space’ dealings rather than batphone numbers being handed out. It makes null sec more of a master/slave relationship where you are at best grinding away partially to benefit someone else’s alliance. The owning alliance might come to dunk on rando’s trying to poach renting ratters but in the face of any real opposition serious about taking the space, the renter is screwed. No alliance is going to risk itself even slightly for some renter alliance. The renters aren’t usually contributing to the war much, and renting isn’t a promise for full on military support if someone comes with gusto.

    Renters also tend to be used as a meat shield. This was a lesson GSF learned after the Fountain War where some CFC members felt like meat shields or speed bumps more than equals. Notice that Delve is a free for all– any Goon can rat, mine, refine, build etc anywhere in Delve. No ratting drama. No one is restricted to lesser space to make isk and defense is prioritized by strategic location rather than favored corps basing there. After the war ends one way or another, all the border space between the various big name players will be rental space meat shields between supercapital fleets.
    Everyone rented when the game mechanics left you with little choice. That time has passed but Vily and the northern scum are still clinging to that paradigm because it offers a huge power dynamic. Renting space is a prestige achievement in Eve Online because of what it entails to get in that position. Leading renter alliances is the ‘end game’ for big time null sec politics.
    GSF went for the ‘everygoon’ approach. Perhaps less prestigious than lording over a gaggle of care bear renters, but one where the members don’t need 3 to 1 odds and what is literally the might of a blue donut to fight to the last clone. People are Goons because it’s good to be a Goon. No cult of Mittens, no E-Peen over a kill board, no one too good to fly a Dictor nor too poor to fly a Titan.

    Mittens hit on it during last week’s Meta Show. GSF and friends are the last free people in Null Sec. The only not blue part of the dreaded Blue Donut everyone says is so bad for Eve.

    February 28, 2021 at 12:07 AM
  • J Moravia

    I find one inaccuracy in the “Renting and Power” section: “The wealth shift goes to larger, more powerful groups from smaller, less powerful groups, meaning that over time, the more powerful groups grow even more powerful while weakening the smaller groups that spend ISK without directly getting anything for it.” The problem with this analysis is that the smaller group DOES get something for it, namely the chance to earn far more ISK in null-sec than they could in other places.

    This is the inherent problem with examining wealth solely in terms of inequality: renting represents a power transfer (in wealth) from the weaker to the stronger, but both end up wealthier than they were before, so it’s inaccurate to say the smaller group is “weaker” as a result of renting. They’re stronger, richer, holding sov that they would never have had the chance to own before. Focusing on inequality misses all of that.

    Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

    February 28, 2021 at 12:57 PM