Note: As an editorial piece, this article reflects the opinions of the author and not TMC as a whole.
Trade hubs in null-sec have always been a fickle affair. Depending on the size, activity, and sovereignty controlled by an alliance, you often find hubs that service two or three entire regions. Hubs are centralized to provision vast swathes of space. If there is a deployment otherwise dead systems are transformed into bustling centers of commerce overnight, only to dry up again the moment a conflict is over. All this is about to change. The modifications to sovereignty laid out by CCP Fozzie will foster a revolution in both null-sec markets and power-bloc logistics.
The first step for this upcoming shift was taken last fall when CCP added in the concept of jump fatigue. Previously, members of null-sec coalitions could cross several regions in minutes using their elaborate and well-maintained bridge networks. While the changes were a boon to alliance ozone budgets (jump bridge traffic collapsed in favor of taxi-interceptors), pilots could no longer just take a ship to their regional hub for outfitting without incurring severe temporal penalties. Line members have adapted by shifting ratting habits or placing ready-to-go ships in multiple staging areas. Despite the inconvenience, the highly centralized trade hub model endures.
There is a lot of speculation and theory-crafting surrounding the impending sovereignty rework, but the stated goal of the new scheme is to force alliances to actually inhabit and live in the systems they control. Ultimately, that will probably happen. Alliances will have incentives to reorganize their space into formal provinces consisting of one to three constellations. The trend will be to put more member corporations into a smaller amount of space so that there are large enough populations to reap defense modifiers. Larger power-blocs will be strategically inclined to put well-equipped, combat proven members into their border provinces and rent out their less vulnerable inner provinces.
When pilots are forced to live in, and presumably defend, a static area then resupplying from a distant trade hub becomes more than a heinous inconvenience, it becomes a security liability. Reshipping during an ongoing fight will only be practical with nearby markets. If players are obligated to be living in space for defense purposes then they are ratting and scanning in that space as well. More organized and well-financed alliances may be able to spread out ready-to-go contract ships without moving markets, but why take on the logistical nightmare?
Let us look at the hypothetical region of “Mountain” below. Mountain is a region that has five constellations. When Alliance A first invaded Mountain they came in from the north, or Constellation 1. Ops and logistics were staged out of a single system and in time that turned into a trade hub (denoted with the $ symbol). As the rest of the region was brought under Alliance A’s sovereignty, they eventually lost control of the space to the north of Constellation 1. Mountain is also adjacent to two other hostile regions through Constellations 3 and 4. Because Alliance A constructed a jump bridge network throughout the region, it was able to stage a defense in all three constellations from one system. As a result Trade Hub $ services the entire region of Mountain.
Located next to the volatile regions Moud Ring and Melve.
After the implementation of jump fatigue, Alliance A still staged ops from Trade Hub $ out of habit. Some logistical changes were made to put ships on contract in Constellations 3 and 4, but the alliance’s jump freighters still supplied the original system. With the new sovereignty rework, Alliance A is now facing pressure from Coalition B to the south and Alliance C to the east. To cope, the alliance is forced to permanently position their most active corporations in Constellations 3 and 4. Those corporations cannot travel back to Constellation 1 quickly and so new trade hubs develop as importers see the opportunity to price at a premium in more convenient locations. This, of course, has always occurred, but now the amount of time lost is so severe that everyone pays the premium.
There was a fourth trade hub, labeled ₽, but it collapsed due to inflation.
The advent of more trade hubs in null-sec will also result in a temporary null-sec boom. PVE assets will remain static and will be merely redistributed over a larger area, but more organized alliances will have their pilots station jump clones at various key border provinces. Hardware that is PVP-centric will have to be duplicated among numerous systems for when the alliance-wide call comes to defend a stressed region. As the new hubs go through the process to stock up on redundant modules and ships, there will be a brief opportunity for profit.
Alliances that place the groundwork necessary for trade hub fragmentation will reap the most benefits. For others, the process will occur naturally as people get fed up with the commute for everyday life. It will be a race against time to see if they can adapt before they lose their space.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Anschau.