A Legitimate Market
I’m pretty sure everyone knows by now that EVE players will try to sell just about anything. A brief glance at the Sell Orders subforum will reveal a veritable cornucopia of goods, services, and information for sale. It is a place that features a thriving community of buyers and sellers who are trading every hour of every day. This situation is pretty unremarkable in a game as economy-focused as EVE, but there is a type of transaction that seems to confuse a fair number of players: wormhole sales. It is not uncommon to find people objecting to the very idea of selling a wormhole system. They will express their misgivings with accusations of laziness on the buyer’s part, scamming on the seller’s part, or simply by stating that the system isn't owned and therefore cannot be sold.
Before we can move on to a discussion about why players participate in the wormhole market, it is necessary to clear up the primary misconception regarding wormhole sales. Despite appearances, wormhole sellers are not actually selling the system itself. They are selling information that will lead the buyer to the system. Wormhole systems are indeed not claimable in a game mechanic sense, and it’s true that corps and alliances only own their systems by virtue of the fact that they can defend them, but wormhole sellers don’t claim to own the system they’re advertising. They merely promise access, and access is all the buyer needs to claim the system for himself. It’s not like there is a deed or anything.
Why do buyers and sellers find the market for wormhole systems worthwhile? Mostly, it is the fact that the price of access to a system is usually more attractive than the prospect of searching for one yourself. Unoccupied systems are easy enough to locate, but finding one of the class you want with the right kind of static exit, system effect, and a decent planetary makeup can take days or weeks. Not only do buyers save themselves time, but in most cases running the anomalies and other sites in that system will allow the buyer to make their money back within a day or two and start turning a profit on their purchase. Not even crack dealers get that kind of return on investment. At the same time, all the seller has to do is place a scanning alt in the system and wait for a bite on a forum post while they go about their business on their main character. The buyer gets their preferred type of system, saves days of searching, and ends up financially ahead on the deal while the seller gets a decent, semi-passive income stream for their efforts. It all sounds pretty win-win to me.
Getting Into the Game
So how, exactly, does one go about selling wormholes? It’s pretty easy with a little patience and a willingness to work with people who may or may not know the first thing about wormhole life. The first thing you will need is a scanning character and a few hours to spend traipsing through uncharted systems. Most sellers are wormhole residents themselves and they find unoccupied systems in the course of their daily travels. This method is certainly the easiest, since this is the kind of activity they would be engaged in anyway, but there is nothing stopping an enterprising individual from going out and actively searching for systems to sell.
There are several factors to consider when evaluating a system (in rough order of importance):
- Whether or not it is occupied.
- The class of system.
- The type of static exit(s).
- The system effect, if any.
- The planetary makeup.
- What kind of customs offices the system has, if any.
Note that practically no one will pay for access to a system if it’s occupied. Buyers are looking for systems they can move into immediately, without spending a whole weekend evicting the current residents. The system class and the static exit are also pretty much non-negotiable, as these two factors are tied very closely to the size and type of group that would find the system attractive in the first place. The system effect and planetary makeup are a little less important, but most groups are hoping for no system effect or a largely beneficial one, with planets from which you can extract all the POS fuel components. A lack of customs offices on the planets is preferred because it saves the buyer time and risk in blowing them up, but this is generally considered a bonus and not essential at all.
Eveeye.com is probably the best tool to use during this stage of the game, though the interface can be a bit confusing at first. Not only will EVE Eye tell you the class of a given system, what type of static exit it has, and what system effect is present, but also details what kind of PI can be produced without needing to examine the planets and figure out the PI capabilities for yourself. That’s almost all the information you’ll need in one quick stop, and a glance at your overview, when configured properly, can tell you all you need to know about the customs offices.
Those are the very basics; if you’re interested in breaking into this market, I would recommend taking a look at this useful guide that Ivory Kantenu has put together. If you are not entirely familiar with wormhole space itself, you can also peruse these primers and the wormholes section on the EVE Wiki.