BB52: The Graph is a Lie

For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But 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 that plateau? 

Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past.


Out here in the real world a significant part of my professional career is looking at huge piles of data, charts, findings, statistics and whatnot - and then pulling the truth out of them. In many cases millions of dollars are riding on my ability to find the nugget of truth, the sliver of hope, the endless opportunities buried within statistics and data. And I happen to be very, very good at it.

I've been seeing this chart bantered about for a long time now and I can tell you straight up - this chart is bullshit. It is BS of the highest order and flies fully in the face of correlation and causation. It is an island of data in an empty sea of missing, vital, and more important information that we simply do not have.

As the mere existence of this banter proves, many people look at this evil chart and draw the natural - but most likely erroneous - correlation that Eve has hit a plateau. This is not because they are stupid, but simply because data doesn't exist in a vacuum. They then draw the natural cause from this data and determine that Eve must be dying, or at the very least slowing its growth. And while there remains the possibility that this is true, there remains a vast and undetermined possibility that the opposite is actually true. In fact, the opposite is much more likely to be true.

This chart shows server usage over time. Are they the same users? Or different users? This is missing data number one and it is an extremely important piece of information. In my experience running Stay Frosty, I've seen a tremendous amount of long-term subs who haven't played Eve in a long, long time. We have several young players that have been subbed since 2007, but haven't logged in much since then. This chart doesn't account for returning players because they are buried within it. What is the rate of long-term subs returning to activity? Is it on the rise?

Eve is over a decade old, few people play any game for ten years!! And to expect them to do so is rather strange. So turn-over is another vital piece of missing information buried within this single data point. Turn-over is vital and depicts "trend" in a way that few other data points can do. What exactly is the rate of deactivated subs versus new subs? I dunno. It might very well be rather staggering.  Again, based on what I've seen in my travels, there sure are an awful lot of 2013 and 2014 pilots out in space.

I could go on and on. The point being that much like this example, it is rather easy to get caught up in single point data and jump to erroneous conclusions. We all do it. But it is dangerous to flirt with ignorance.

There can be no doubt however that Eve is in transition. As I said before, it is over a decade old now and the following year or so is going to be critical for its long-term stability or growth. [ As an aside, let us not be so quick to poo-poo the strength to be found in stability. That chart shows a tremendous power in Eve's ability to be stable over time. And that is an extremely positive thing. ]  But yes, Eve is in a transitional period. Will it continue to attract new players and retain older players? Will it continue to do so at a reasonable rate?

Eve is never going to be WoW, or draw the numbers of Candy Crush. But it also doesn't even need to do that. It has existed for over a decade already and, if anything, that evil chart shows it has the strength built in to survive and flourish for another decade at least.

Eve is better now than it has ever been. That message needs to be shouted from the rooftops. How and why and when it continues to grow, expand, and evolve remains a mystery to us all. Based on what we've seen over the past two years, the foundation has been laid for continued success. Now is the time for CCP to step up to the plate and show the world that Eve is here to stay.

Plateau? Maybe. Anything is possible. But this chart doesn't prove anything one way or the other.



For more Banters, please visit the Blog Banter #52 page.



11 comments:

  1. I agree rather well with your thinking. However, I was really hoping so your insight into (in my view) the biggest question in the BB that you did not quote at the start of your piece:

    "Also, what would EVE be like with an order of magnitude fewer or more players?"

    The back half of this question is of interest to me. A magnitude more EVE players. 100k or 300k on that graph.

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    1. That question while really interesting theoretically, Rixx in his post seems to be taking the side of cold hard data (or lack thereof).

      While I can't say for Rixx, my thinking with this question is even with more players we'd still see a similar graph with more pronounced dips and spikes.

      I'm guessing you're wondering if things would be different though if instead of 30k, they had 100k or 300k concurrent users. Just a quick thought right now, but I'd either guess if Eve had that many more users based on technology at the time. Eve would probably have separate servers and wouldn't be one large connected universe. We may have had a few more larger expansions and even better graphics, but that'd all be because of increased funding.

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    2. My interest in this part of the question was based on this thinking:

      1) graph does not have enough information to predict EVE's future, however it looks like aggregate population of EVE is stable.

      2) if the future is EVE with fewer players, we can all imagine where that leads.

      The only discussion worth having about the aggregate population of EVE, is what the impact will be on the game for a sustained increase (or continued rate of increase) in the aggregate population of EVE.

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    3. In regards to overall sustained growth, it all comes down to a question of timing and available resource allocation. As was mentioned, significant and rapid growth might very well lead to a fractured universe, but I don't believe we or CCP would like to go down that path. And while we all might want more subscribers, more subs doesn't always mean more server players. (Which is part of the issue with that graph.)

      It would be hard to imagine an Eve with 100k average server players, but I think CCP could sustain that kind of load. And be happy to do so. I have been wondering lately if this isn't, at least in part, why the drive to open new space? We don't have enough information available on this side of the fence to truly predict that however.

      Personally I think a growth path that leads to around 100k sustained users is something that wouldn't have a significant impact on the game. Other than a positive one, more players, more opportunities, etc.

      After that?

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    4. It's not a question of intensifying server fire-powah, it's also a question of Ecology. Yes, EVE has one of those too. Even with the current numbers of players doing what they're doing, EVE's Ecology is showing signs of distress in certain areas and systems (belts mined dry, people flocking exploration sites).
      Missions are EVE's only "on-demand" renewable resource -- so sure, let's get everybody doing that and crank that ISK-faucet wide open.
      Not to "distract" from the conversation here, but I wrote a couple posts a long while back that're completely relevant to the "what-if" discussion if that server pop graph doubled with no changes to the game "ecology":
      http://carebearswithclaws.blogspot.com/2013/01/eve-online-ecology.html
      http://carebearswithclaws.blogspot.com/2013/02/eveisreal-sustainably-harvested.html

      When those what-if questions can be answered, and the concerns I bring up adequately addressed, _then_ we can start worrying about EVE having 75k+ logged in at primetimes.

      Reality: new players start in hisec. A lot of new players STAY in hisec.
      Reality: sticks make people quit. Carrots are alluring to _some_, but that _some_ will reject the carrot and may outright quit if they're chomped in half while munching their carrot. Ergo carrots will have limited appeal in getting people to low/null to ease the overpopulation in hisec.
      Deduction: a slight increase in low/null population will occur. A large increase in hisec population will occur. Competition for ores, production slots, exploration sites, etc, will leave hisec players bored and frustrated. They will either (more likely) quit, or (less likely) "satisfy" themselves with L4 missions, opening the ISK faucet wider and contributing to inflation.

      Of course, one possible fix is since nullsec is large swaths of "owned but unused" systems, "fallow fields" so to speak, CCP could convert some of those fallow nullsec fields to lowsec systems, and push the hisec borders of empires out into existing low. Of course, that only alleviates the problem for a time, until server population reaches saturation, n+1 style -- and then what?

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    5. There is another option: you don't need a bigger hisec when you control the spawn rates on the sites and rocks. You can add more belts, or new kinds of sites that don't replace existing spawns. This is how Ghost sites work, and how Ring Mining could work.

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  2. You make a great point with the missing data. A lot of Eve players like to crunch numbers and data, and CCP doesn't like giving out as much data. So players crunch what they have and then draw conclusions which aren't entirely accurate.

    I also talk quite a bit on how this "perceived" plateau means Eve is not dying contrary to the theories of the doomsayers.

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  3. That is an Interesting Post Rixx.

    As a new player I find that what drew me into eve was a RL friend talking about it for 4 years non-stop. I finally took the plunge and can honestly say it’s the best decision I took. The thing that put me off it was the fact that when you start you get thrown into the pool with sharks. I now know after some time in the game that this is just how EVE is and it’s a sink or swim mentality but is also the biggest thing that holds EVE back from gaining more newer players like myself.

    I think there needs to be a revamp of the new player experience. I understand that there will be a lot of people who look down upon this and love EVE just the way it is but I think those people are selfish idiots that don’t want EVE to grow as a MMO.

    What has kept me in the game and I thank them almost every day is I have a great corp behind me showing me the ropes of EVE and pvp and people like Aldap's videos on Youtube has also been a massive impact on me as a new player wanting to get into Solo fighting.

    It would be interesting to see the stats for people playing. Some people might have 2 or more accounts. Finding out how many people per say actually play the game and that make up that amount in your graph rather than accounts in total.

    10 accounts in an ice belt mining AFK is still only 1 person.

    I wonder if this figure has actually gone up or down. That would be the real figure you want to find out. Bodies behind the screen not accounts in space.

    Keep up the good work
    Eric – A new Pirate in EVE

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    1. "It would be interesting to see the stats for people playing. Some people might have 2 or more accounts. Finding out how many people per say actually play the game and that make up that amount in your graph rather than accounts in total.

      10 accounts in an ice belt mining AFK is still only 1 person."

      True. CCP has at least an idea of that "actual" number (via the annual survey, email addresses tied to accounts, CC numbers used, etc), but they aren't sharing it. If that wasn't their standard modus operandi, I'd be worried about that, but CCP Diagoras was the guy who did the data-mining trivia stuff and he's gone.

      On the other hand, there were about 350 of us at Vegas, and I understand a good turn-out showed at Down Under ... of course Fanfest draws a great crowd. It's probably safe to say that there's at least three thousand of us playing. ;-)

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  4. Well informed post. This is why I do not look at graphs. I'm horrible at digesting information presented this way!

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  5. Your base assumption lies in the fact you've accepted as true that having tenure in a MMOG is 'strange'

    how so? what about runescape? ultima online? Both games i've tried and to be honest may be still playing them, if i actually liked mining in a fantasy setting...i like mining, just not more than this game.

    What are you basing that assumption on? With other games i'd be spending $60 every month on a new single player game. here, in Eve, i theoretically spend that much on maintaining my accounts.

    personally, i think the population growth may simply be more accounts per veteran that's lasted since beta...with a slow influx of new players to replace those that actually quit playing permanently. Oh, there's always lots of n00bs entering and leaving the game never outlasting their trial period, but i doubt anything CCP can ever do will change that.

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