Eyeballing Online User Counts

We are 5 or 6 weeks into the chaos era and have just finished the Skill Point Event. The later should have seen more people log in than usual.

I thought I would do an unscientific eyeballing of the Eve-offline Tranquility – Peak Online Player Count graphs to see if there is any sort of discernible impact yet.  I thought this would just be a quick 5 minute blog post.  I didn’t really think it through.

All data from:

http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansions_of_Eve_Online

 

First some disclaimers.  I am really only eyeballing this – the statistics are rough.  I am not sure if Dust players were included in the counts or not.  I am not sure what impact various antibotting initiatives have had on the game or when.  I am also aware of a fatal flaw in using these graphs.  It is possible for the online player count to reduce while the number of active players increase.  This is because I don’t know how long on average each player session lasts for each time period. The shorter the average play session, the less players it will look like.

So, lets start some likely pointless conjecture.

 

 

The first graph covers the average peak player counts from 2003 to now, some 16 years. The daily average across these years has been 37K.

I started playing EVE back in September 2006, just before the Revelations release. That brought the earlier version of Exploration, Rigs, Invention and extra Null Sec regions.

2009-2010 were probably glory years, with the hard to pronounce Apocrypha (T3 ships and Wormholes), Dominion (Sovereignty changes), Tyrannis (Planetary Interaction) and Incursion (funny enough, Incursions plus the new character creation process) releases. These came with a steady climb in average players online.

This period also saw the start of notable variations in player counts, with quick differences of +/- 5K, usually triggered by new content that soon petered away. That makes it harder to really get a gist for what is going on with player counts without seeing many months of data.

The mid-2011 Incarna release saw the (I think we can mostly agree) poorly managed implementation of walking in stations. This cost CCP momentum, players, and a level of goodwill that I am not sure they have ever fully regained.

Activity had a resurgence however at the end of 2012 through 2013 with Retribution (new ships), Odyssey (Exploration revamp and more new ships), and Rubicon (Player Owned Customs Offices and the early steps of CCP Seagull’s roadmap for the game).

Between 2009 and 2013 the average peak online player count was 49K.

Since then the average peak online player count has been around 38K, a seeming steady decline aside a big but temporary jump with the introduction of free Alpha accounts with the Ascension release.

Looking at the averages per year, there has been an obvious pattern.

2004 – 8K
2005 – 12K
2006 – 23K
2007 – 30K
2008 – 35K
2009 – 44K
2010 – 47K
2011 – 43K
2012 – 43K
2013 – 48K
2014 – 41K
2015 – 34K
2016 – 34K
2017 – 35K
2018 – 33K
2019 – 29K

Growth from 2004-9, 5 years of stability before a big drop in 2014-15, stability in 2016-2018, before another bigger drop in 2019.

 

As we drill down, since mid-2015, we can see an average count of 35K.  There was a steady decline after the Citadel release, a temporary surge with Ascension, before a slow but steady decline since – well before Chaos entered our vocabulary.

 

Now for 2019. The dip shown on the full graph has been smoothed out. Aside a temporary increase with the May Invasion release, again we have a slow but steady decline in peak online user counts. The average is 29K for the year so far.

 

Finally, we have the graph for approximately the last month. A 23K average.

So, what have I learnt from this?

Taken year by year across the life of the game, peak online user counts in 2019 are concerning.  They are the worst they have been for a decade.

However – this sort of variation has been repeated since 2009, and we might just be at a bottom of a cycle which could see a big upturn.

The increase in users with the May Invasion Release did not seem as noteworthy or as long lasting as many earlier releases. I am not sure if that reflects part of a malaise or just that the Triglavian invasion PVE did not appeal to that many players.

While the average peak user counts did drop since June / the start of the Chaos era, it did not appear to be exceptional, but a continuation of a decline that started back in February and even earlier.

So, this has been a lot of words and graphs to say nothing definitive.  I don’t feel I can say anything about the last month or two, but I do not like the trend over the last year.

 

Based on the history above – if CCP wants an upturn in online users they need to add content.  Not just any content, but that with wide appeal, accessibility and longevity.

CCP has however recently said they felt adding new content wasn’t getting results – players were just not using it in mass.  They said they would be looking more at revising current systems and for chaotic upheavals, particularly low hanging fruit.

In my opinion much of the new content CCP has added in recent years has had a limited in game audience.  It is aimed at skilled min/max players and veterans, with the cost to step up well outside the range of what most newer players can afford.  The problem is CCP is not adding content that appeals and is available to a large enough range of players.

Alternatively they need to somehow cause a big improvement in new player retention.

Entirely anecdotally however, I’ve noticed comments on Blogs, on Discord, on the Forums, on Reddit, and in the various NPC Corporation chats from plenty of young players who have lost multiple ships to the new Roaming / Raznabord Damavik’s in Hi-Sec belts. They have expressed dismay at how unavoidable it seems – with ships zapped even if they are alert and initiate warp as soon as the Damavik’s drop into the belt.  They turn up so frequently that they can not recover from what they are losing.  None appear to have been excited by this new game play – most suggest they will quit. It seems a misstep by CCP.  It doesn’t seem like a confident start from CCP.

 

So I have come away from this without answering my initial question, more concerned for the trend than expected, and once again questioning how well CCP knows its player base and if they have the plan and capability to get more players into the game.  So far making the game hard core and deadly is their solution.  Lets return to this in a few months time.

 

*Edit – forgot to add I am talking about peak figures.

5 thoughts on “Eyeballing Online User Counts

  1. CCP has said they want to work on better new player retention, but the roving Triglavians, which expanded on the Triglavian invasion sites, do seem to be working against them. And, of course, they also want chaos, uncertainty, and a more difficult game for veteran players, all while making the game easier and more inviting for new players. I am not saying that these goals have to be in conflict, but I haven’t seen anything from CCP yet that makes me confident that they can do both simultaneously.

    • I find I am waiting with a lot of trepidation for each new Chaos change – not for how it will impact my game, but for how healthy it will be for the entire game. It is a worry.

      Inactiveseller – I have remarked before that the Belt Triglavians don’t need to be a bad idea. I can see a real benefit against AFK play and even botting. But – players need to be able to warp out if they are at least partially observant. Players also must have the option to kill them and then have a solid period of time when they won’t respawn in a system. At the moment as soon as you kill a spawn, a new one appears on D-Scan.

      • The problem of the Trigs in belts are risk/reward. No loot, too difficult for much people. I can bring a Marauder or return with dominix / ferox, but no reward. I am primary an industry guy. I love barge mining. Example, myself mine a full thanatos and a full revelation in a month each, in high sec, and build it in low sec, with a barge char. But the problem is not only the difficult risk/reward, is the paradigm of high sec / low sec / null sec. Example Two. Yesterday i can mine five loads of procurer kernite in Esescama. Today cant do ONE in an hour. My actual solution will be move the miner to a safe lowsec system i know, more safe without
        Triglavians. I dont think Lowsec safer than High is ok.

      • The salvage is worth a lot of ISK the last time I looked. But I agree – it is odd having more dangerous and difficult NPC’s in High Sec than what you find in Low Sec.

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