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.
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?