While looking up EVE Online on Steam there is feature bullet that reads:

Play for FREE – You can buy game time with in-game money you earn while playing.

Does anyone have experience playing under this gaming model? If I play the game casually (a couple hours a week) will I be able to earn enough money in-game to pay for my addiction game time?

  • 9
    One of the most important concepts in EVE Online is opportunity cost. Fail to understand it, and you will be taken advantage of. A subscription costs $15 per month, a few hours even at a minimum wage job. Or you can grind for hours and hours and hours in game to play for "free"! Even worse, you could have used that ISK to do things in game even faster making better use of your limited play time. Unless you get other enjoyment out of it, paying ISK for game time is a sucker bet.
    – Schwern
    Sep 29, 2012 at 0:55
  • New player? New account? New characters? No. Sorry, it's just not realistic. It will take a few months to get into the swing of things.
    – Preston
    Jun 6, 2014 at 10:32

10 Answers 10


Yes, it can definitely be done.

You can buy a 30-day PLEX from the in-game market. PLEX are purchased by other players and listed on the market, which means it's affected by the normal supply and demand that affects nearly every marketable item in EVE. So, the price can go up or down over time. You can check the price of items on the market out of game using online tools, such as Eve Central. Eve Central has the market listing for 30 day PLEX here. If you know what you're doing and have the time, you should be able to fund the PLEX you need with in-game currency.

The only difficulty is in that "know what you're doing" part. Instead of actively playing (which can easily take more than a couple hours a week) you need to utilize all the methods of generating income while offline. Research Agents, Planetary Infrastructure, and The Market are the three biggies. You'll need a while to set all that up, and now that EVE Online has Alpha clones, which are free to play, you have the ability to set up most of the skills you need without subscribing. And you'll have to play a bit more than a couple hours a week to get it up and running, too.

Warning: Some mission grinding to increase faction standing will likely be required. Some necessary skills are not accessible as an Alpha clone and will require subscribing.

On the whole though, I'd say that if your "addiction" only means a couple hours a week, then you haven't got any addiction to speak of. 8)

This does bring up the valid question of how to use those three methods to generate ISK.

How to make ISK while online

  • Kill NPCs (preferably in 0.0 space with low true-sec) - you'll be able to make between 20M and 30M a "tick" (20 minutes of flying anomalies)
  • Do high-sec missions

How to make ISK while offline

  1. Use the market to generate income
    1. Use the market to buy things you need and sell things you don't need. This will teach you the basics of how it works: buy orders and sell orders. Also explore the 'details' section where you can see the volume traded per day and the low and high prices that day. Notice the systems that the majority of buy and sell orders are based in, this is the 'regional market hub'.
    2. Find items that have a high trade volume in your region and that you can post a low buy order for. Post a buy order.
    3. Collect your purchases, transport them to the market hub (or anywhere that you can get a good price for them) and post a sell order for them. People will pay a good price if you're selling the item they want at the station they want.
  2. Develop Planetary Infrastructure (will require some skills that are accessible only by buying game time)
    1. Use the market to find a planetary resource that sells well in your area.
    2. Find a planet that you can produce that item on, drop a Command Center on it, build extractors (and factories if necessary) to produce that item.
    3. Keep those extractors running constantly. Set them to run for as long as it will be till you can set them again.
    4. Post low buy orders for all the planetary resources you're producing on your planet as detailed in 1-2. This is a good alternate source of resources if you can't produce enough raw material to satisfy your factories (and really, who can?)
    5. Transport resources you've purchased cheaply to the planet, take away resources you've created on the planet. Sell those resources as detailed in 1-3.
  3. Get Research Agents (will require some skills that are accessible only by buying game time)
    1. Find corporations in your area that have R&D agents. Get the best R&D agents you can. Research the Datacore items they can produce for you, look on the market for which one is the most profitable in your area, start the research. Drop a pile of Tritanium in the station where the agent is.
    2. Run missions for those corporations to raise your standings with them. Note: The missions that Research Agents give once a day count towards the 16 you need to get a storyline mission. Try to get the storyline mission from an agent in the R&D corp.
    3. Once the higher standings you've achieved give you access to higher quality R&D agents, stop the research with the old and inferior agent and start up a new research project with the new and improved agent.
    4. Collect datacores every now and then, sell them as detailed in 1-3.

Note that market ability is the key skill here, all other methods are merely ways of cheaply generating things that you can then sell on the market for a nice profit. Market ability only takes a couple hours to train on your character, but your personal skills at it will develop for years and years.

  • 3
    You're going to have to tell me how that's done. I have had a non-consecutive subscription for about 6 months and I haven't made 300M.
    – user56
    Aug 3, 2010 at 18:18
  • 11
    Which of the parts that I've mentioned are giving you difficulty? I don't think I can create a step-by-step EVE walkthrough (make a billion ISK in 587 easy steps!), but I can definitely add more details until my answer is a massive wall-o-text. You know, if there's interest.
    – Task
    Aug 3, 2010 at 19:52
  • 3
    True enough, I was a bit sparse on details. Okay, details added!
    – Task
    Aug 20, 2010 at 19:00
  • 1
    This is a great guide, but be warned it's pretty challenging. It takes time to develop research agents and planets. Most casual players make about 20M ISK / hour via mining or hunting NPC pirates.
    – Nelson
    Sep 6, 2010 at 14:55
  • 2
    All good suggestions on how to earn ISK in game - unfortunately, all of them require a hefty grind (mostly the R&D agents), and time investment. I would not try to play the game for free, unless I had tonnes of free time. Just pay for the monthly subscription, and play normally - eventually, you'll get a plex or two from the spare cash to fund an alt account.
    – Chii
    Apr 20, 2011 at 12:35

A bit after the fact, but keep in mind that "playing casually" and "playing for PLEX" are often mutually exclusive. If you're playing because you have to make ISK, are you still going to gain enjoyment from it?

For me, the answer turned out to be 'no' - the things I found most enjoyable were not the things that earned me ISK. You might get lucky, but EVE should be a game, not your second job.

  • I wonder about this. I realise I'm a tad late, but, if you can earn it passively, you can earn more money actively and use that to advance in the game, no? Keep things interesting.
    – user56
    May 28, 2011 at 18:47

With the recent Ascension expansion, Eve now has Alpha clones that are essentially the old trial characters with an unlimited duration. Thus, Eve is now partially free-to-play if you so desire and are willing to play within the Alpha clone limitations.

These limitations include only a 24-hour training queue, ships are limited to the race of the character, slower training time, and a limited subset of skills are unlocked:

The most important thing to know about Alpha clones is that they may only use a specific set of skills and skill levels. To begin with, we are planning that the Alpha skill set will be focused on using tech one Frigates, Destroyers and Cruisers. Alpha clones will only be able to use ship and weapon skills native to their faction. If you have skills trained on a character in Alpha State, which are not part of the Alpha skill set, those skills will be locked and unusable until Omega state is reactivated. Characters will start the game with the same 400,000 skill points as they do now and will be able to train freely within the Alpha list. A fully trained Alpha will have roughly 5 million skill points. You can find the full Alpha list in the Q&A below the blog.


  • Can you expand on what the limitations are?
    – Ellesedil
    Nov 23, 2016 at 1:33
  • @Ellesedil Added. The biggest difference between Alphas and the old trial account are the race restrictions, tho some of the older limitations of the client were added back as well (such as the 24-hour queue).
    – Ketura
    Nov 23, 2016 at 20:10

I successfully ran 4 Eve Online accounts for free (roughly 1.2 bil ISK per month), but it took a good deal of effort to do so, and I payed for the first 2 months of my first account with cash.

For me, one of the keys to making good ISK fast on the game was being in a null sec corp.

The reality is that it takes a lot of game time at first, but the further along you get, and the smarter you get about ISK, then the easier it gets to make ISK fast!

Short answer: Yes, you can do it.


Yes, you can do it.

However, I wouldn't recommend it for new characters (specifically, new players). The newer you are, the more limited you options. Furthermore, at this stage, you'll want to explore and try out several things that are not very efficient, using an ISK/h metric. Things such as highsec exploration sites.

Keep in mind that you will also want to have surplus ISK to enjoy the game and PLEXes can be a big ISK sink.

My recommendation is: close the client, figure out what you can do, sort by ISK/h and then calculate how much you'd need to play to cover the subscription costs. Then decide if that's acceptable, or even fun.

After all, instead of grinding for hours each day, it is likely that you could use that time to earn money on the side and then pay the accounts and possibly even trade for ISK.

Remember that PLEX prices fluctuate by market supply and demand. Currently they are approaching 500M.


It is possible. I'm not sure it can be done in a couple hours a week, but it can be done. It probably depends on how high-"level" you are, and what you're doing for money. The real question is can you earn the money fast enough. And that's very variable based on play time.

  • 2
    and economic know-how. EVE has a very unique economy. Aug 3, 2010 at 17:52

Multiboxing is one way to earn more ISK for PLEX. Wether it's mining, missioning, or trading none of the EVE gameplay in those areas is particularly intense so it's relatively easy to have several EVE instances open at once and switch betweeen them. Even average players should be able to manage four miners at once, I know I can and I'm pretty average.

Even so it still takes several to many months of setup time and quite a lot of up front ISK invested in characters, ships, etc before you can start earning it back.

Playing for free is really only an option for veteran players.


Eve is now free to play. There are limits on skills that can be trained, but it is free to play. https://secure.eveonline.com/signup/

  • Can you expand on what the limitations are?
    – Ellesedil
    Nov 23, 2016 at 1:33

you can play dust 514, which is linked to your account. You can get ISK that way without paying because it's Free-to-Play. Then you have your ISK for your month.

  • The amount of isk you generate playing Dust514 and the fact that is is currently not trade-able to eve characters does not make this a viable option.
    – S_BatMan
    May 23, 2013 at 11:45

The idea is this with method 2 on this thread:

  1. find resource with demand
  2. create source of said resource
  3. buy out market of that resource, so as to increase demand
  4. when you've raised the price floor enough, sell what you have stockpiled.

I don't play EVE, but this is how the economy works. Establish a monopoly = Win.

  • Could work, unless someone else watching the market sells before you do.
    – Zan Lynx
    Feb 23, 2012 at 1:53
  • 2
    You'll have a problem doing that with anything the players can produce themselves, production will just increase significantly if you drive up the price like that. You also need to be rich to even attempt something like that, you need enough money to buy off most of the stock of the item you chose. Market manipulation is certainly happening in the game, but you can't easily create a monopoly as nearly every good can be produced or farmed by players. Feb 23, 2012 at 13:08
  • Another problem with trying to get a monopoly - there are also industrialists in the game, who can manufacture most of the useful items. If the price goes up, they can just make more of them. For items that only drop from NPCs, they can be farmed - or people have them in the bank, and when prices rise, they bring them out, and you have to keep buying them to maintain a monopoly. Trying to buy out an entire market can be expensive. I won't say it's impossible, but it's difficult and risky. Plus, you don't even need a monopoly to make money - just sell items for more than you paid. :)
    – Cyclops
    Feb 23, 2012 at 13:13
  • Dang, @Fabian, you hit <return> before I did. :)
    – Cyclops
    Feb 23, 2012 at 13:14
  • This is called "cornering the market". A successful corner is hugely profitable. A failed corner is the fastest way I know of to go bankrupt. Most attempts at cornering the market fail.
    – Mark
    Nov 23, 2016 at 1:59

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