A couple weeks ago there was drama on /r/eve about the regional import/export data being removed from the Monthly Economic Report. The exact quote was this:
Please note that this MER is the last one containing regional stats, the next MERs will be more streamlined and not showing those graphs. This was a request by the CSM.
The general assumption was that this request had come from the GSF bench, and right enough a few days later when the CSM 11 Second Summit minutes were released we learned it came from Aryth. Here's the quote in full so that it's not taken sensationally or out of context.
Aryth specifically requested that some information in the Monthly economic reports regarding individual regional statistics, especially concerning import/export numbers and mining, have changes made to it or be removed. Aryth explained that some of this information was unobtainable by any other means, and that it was providing too much free intelligence by allowing people to see when groups were ramping up and down their industrial capacities. Some members of the CSM agreed. Aryth added that providing that same information but for larger geographical areas, such as quadrants would be better as this would obfuscate the data better.
Now personally I don't agree with Aryth that it's meaningful information, but I can absolutely see where he's coming from. Right now we're currently experiencing the greatest era of supercapital proliferation the game has ever seen and it doesn't show any sign of slowing. For now I'm quite happy to see things run wild and let it play out, but my gut tells me this will be a problem in the long run for some reasons that look all too familiar.
What's driving it?
Well the knee-jerk response is pretty obvious and at least partially correct: the combination of cheap Minerals from Rorquals and easier production with Sotiyos. However it's not the whole story. It's true Rorquals have pushed mineral prices down a solid amount, but falling mineral prices have been a trend for quite some time. Mexallon has also went up since December as it's a bottleneck in supercapital production. If you were looking for definitive proof that supercap production is where all this new mineral supply is going, that Mexallon spike is all the proof you'll ever need.
To quote a friend who's been building supers for a long time, the cost of building a titan has dropped by 10B in real terms and takes significantly less time due to component build times.
Sotiyos have also streamlined the whole process. Instead of primarily sourcing from Jita and messy arrangements with local builders, with the market module it's now quite easy to just throw up local buy orders for compressed ore and expect them to fill in a reasonable period of time, only using Jita to cover shortages. Equally with them being a dockable structure, Supercap production facilities are no longer the reserve of an alt corp, but a true corporation and alliance level asset that anyone can make use of.
We've also seen a significant increase in their usage in PVP. While I'm the first to point out that not all of that increase will be "meaningful content", nothing motivates people to buy a super like watching their corp mates have fun with theirs.
Personally though, I think this is the most telling graph:
There isn't as much historical data as I'd hoped since CCP Quant only started doing the Monthly Economic Report in February last year, but my impression is that ratting is an enormous factor in this. Both as the provider and incentive.
Firstly carrier ratting - while no longer an afk activity that can be heavily multiboxed - has had conservatively a 50% buff to its ISK/hr. Previously you'd be making 90-120m/hr with the semi-afk method, now you can get real close to 200m/hr. Sure the hardcore multiboxing method is gone, but ultimately we're talking about Joe the Plumber and those kinds of people were never doing that to begin with.
Secondly, as an incentive. Ratting with a correctly fit Hel once you've got the technique down is the single best non-multiboxed ISK/hr in the game. Even with a semi-tanked Aeon I was breaking 100m ticks pretty regularly, so you can imagine the income level when it's fit right. I've heard a lot of numbers all over the place, but 400m/hr seems to be a fairly conservative figure that can be far outpaced once you've got the technique down.
If you're in an alliance like GSF where there's a realistic chance of getting saved when you have a cyno fit, why wouldn't you be doing this? It's a no brainer. Ratting has never been so good. It just adds another tier of PVE ship, especially if you're purchasing one just as a PVE boat and have a Keepstar to store it.
We can never truly know how many exist or how many are in build, but we can look at system indexes and get a pretty good idea. I really wish I'd started recording that data from the API as a timeseries so I could graph it now, but it'd be super interesting.
To draw a line under it, I'd simply say the ability to collect enough ISK, the ability to have one built, and the incentives to own one have improved enormously. That is largely the driving force behind the build up. It's all economics.
What are the implications on the wider meta?
They're pretty huge. While PL has often been derided for it's use of Supers, NC has always been the real muscle in the relationship. Without getting into anything opsec, I can tell you that at the start of WWB, NC deployed up north with at least 500 supercarriers and well over 200 titans. That's low balling it combining dscans of a few of the major move ops. PL's seen real numbers and inactivity issues in the last 18 months, so it'd be hard to say for them.
The key thing however, is that in every conflict for at least the last 4 years, they've had the unquestionable upperhand in the escalation game if needed. B-R of course showed they weren't invincible, but that was the compounded effect of several things all going badly wrong for them at once.
At some point in the next 6-12 months, that is going to change. Someone, probably GSF, will truly overtake them in active supercap numbers. It's not an if but a when. What'll be really interesting is when a third and maybe even fourth group reaches that point.
Historically other groups have always had the (often legitimate) argument that PL has too many and they can't beat them. What happens when that isn't true anymore? I doubt it was true of the CFC in Deklein judging by their actions rather than their words, but it will be soon.
I think there's two ways it can go:
1: That group gets attacked by NC/PL at some point and decides to throw down. You'll see a few weeks of fighting with supers used on both sides, until eventually one side drops the hammer on the other and a multi-trillion ISK SRP bill is inflicted on someone. It'll suck super bad for that side, but it's not going to be enough to break them while they leave to regroup.
2: They just don't get attacked. I don't just mean NC/PL, I mean by anyone because why would you? There's enough space, there's enough moons, and they're unlikely to have created a grudge on the scale of pre-WWB CFC.
I think that latter option is far more likely. For all the hate they generate, offensive focused groups provide a necessary stir that keeps thing from going stale. PL just happen to be the last one left standing in the continuing consolidation of players.
Even between sov groups, if your focus is on building a safe and stable home why would you try to unseat someone else? There's plenty space and no region is so much better than another that it would justify the cost of moving from one you're already heavily entrenched in.
The issue isn't about PL or NC, the issue what happens when everyone is PL or NC?
What does this mean in the short term?
It means the next 6-12 months are going to be really quiet. In the north you've got GOTG bearing it up, in the east you have Drone renters realising that dropping large numbers of supercaps is an extremely effective way of dealing with folks in their territory. In the South-East you've got TESTCO and friends setting up camp for the long haul to rake in the bucks and try to build the game's firstly successful shield-only supercap fleet, and in the south you have The Imperium building up their arsenal quicker than 1930's Germany.
I think we're in for another 2015. All that really happened in 2015 is Goons retreated from the South and TRI fought GemiCo in the east.
I'm not a big fan of quiet, but it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.