BB 52 – The All Time (Weekly Average) graph for concurrent accounts logged into EVE at EVE-Offline.net shows a plateau of around 30,000 for the last four and a half years. Everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about – what’s on the other side of the plateau?
My first thought is that CCP should be congratulated for being able to keep a 10 year old game fresh and interesting enough that they have maintained a stable and viable population of active players. It seems profitable and is able to pay for a suitable level of continued development. All things remaining the same, I could see this plateau continuing for years to come.
My second thought is that all things are not likely to remain the same.
So will the trend go up or down?
CCP certainly seems to have tried increasing its player base. For what is a relatively niche, small subscription based game – it seems to be disproportionally mentioned in the media. New expansions often include improvements to the new player experience, trying to increase retention rates. They also have lead-ins such as novels and the expanded EVE franchise of Dust, with Valkyrie still to come. On the surface however that does not seem to have increased the number of people actually logged into the game.
A negative trend seems more likely. I could envision this might come from better competition or a CCP made disaster (financial, such as Dust, or player burning like Incarna). It might also be impacted by something much larger and outside of CCP’s control, such as a GFC lead economic Depression, or the implementation of Government taxes on Virtual earnings or the like.
As is often the case with Blog Banters, I was actually more interested in questions which were not asked.
Why, if the subscription base has increased every year, are we not seeing a similar increase in the average number of people logged in?
One of the more common suggestions for this is that EVE’s growth is attributed to an Army of Alts that generally do not log in as much as main Accounts do.
Is it also being influenced by an aging player base that has moved out of their parent’s basement, started a career, got married and had kids? While they can afford to pay the subscription, they simply can’t log in as much anymore?
Does it relate to game mechanic changes which mean you can get things done quicker now, and don’t need to be logged in for as long.
Might it be the existence of Faction Warfare, Red verse Blue and external communication tools like Jabber which allows people to log in, find PVP relatively quickly, and then log off?
Maybe it relates to lots of Bots no longer logging in 23.5×7?
Is the statistic itself misleading? Has CCP started to include the Subscription numbers from the Chinese Server in their media releases, which won’t be reflected in who is connected to Tranquility?
Or is it influenced by a mix of the above and more things aside? It would be interesting to know.
What can CCP do to increase the numbers that are online and active in EVE?
Simplistically they need to retain more new players and keep older players for longer, while exposing them to an engaging and growing world. That is obviously far easier said than done! It is also a topic that could fill a chain of blog posts.
I will say that I was rather pleased to see the number of new players trying to come to grips with EVE when I was mucking around with my latest Alt. The start systems were very busy. It would not surprise me if those who stayed with the game, plus extra Alt accounts, were roughly covering the loss of older players who leave.
To retain more new players I think CCP need to keep on reiterating and improving the new player experience and tutorials. Mining could have its own chain of 20+ missions. It would be nice to see a check list that is ticked off as you cover various topics. It would also be nice to have additional steps or phases available for players wanting to move out of Empire, like wading pool versions of Null or Wormhole space available in exploration Deadspace pockets. Most importantly I think CCP really need to work on the perceptions that the game is too demanding and inaccessible – that is the frightfully common response I get from people when I mention that I play EVE.
At the other end of the spectrum, how do you keep older players around for even longer? Or in reality are they already doing that as well as can be expected?
There are plenty of reasons for people to leave that CCP can’t do anything about – limited free time or money, short attention spans, changed circumstances around jobs, relationships or family. Even the failure of an in game corporation can spell the end of someone’s subscription. I guess all you can do in that regard is make it easy for them to return if they want.
The area they might be able to help with is the Bitter Vet syndrome – although that could be more difficult to address than new player retention. I think – despite some derision, the continual rebalancing and fixing small issues helps. In so many ways this is a much better game than it was when I started 7 years ago.
I’m not sure however fixing specific segments of the game over an expansion or two, or throwing in new Jesus features will work to keep the average older player around for longer. It might help the 10 to 20% of people who use that part of the game, but it leaves the other 80 to 90% frustrated. With expansions coming out twice a year, and often only focusing on one subdivision of the game, it can be years between players feeling like they have got their share of the development pie. I don’t mean that people have to be generic Wormhole / Null Sec / Pirate / Industrialists to get anywhere in the game. I mean it helps CCP if older players enjoy multiple segments of the game, so that their development work has a greater chance of impacting them positively.
Fucked if I know how you do that though.
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