Last Tuesday afternoon, just after I got home from work, I brought up the launcher for EVE Online. I did so by accident, as I meant to bring up the Blizzard launched to play WoW Classic. But I let it patch and run up just to keep it current.
Then I looked at the online player count and was a bit surprised to find it below the 15K mark, and you know what came to my mind right away.
I realize that a weekday afternoon, and one after a three day weekend in the US, isn’t necessarily a peak time, but 15K seemed pretty low.
For the past year or so I have come home in the afternoon to find the count between 20-22K most weekdays and, as I have written in the past, I generally consider low ebb later in the evenings, when the Euros have gone to bed and it is safer to move things around, to be about 18K players online.
I had heard The Mittani talking about diminishing peak numbers on consecutive Sundays since the start of the Chaos Era, but that seemed premature to me. That was two weeks ago. You could chart small declines, but I thought you really needed to get past the login bonuses and free SP event before the numbers would start to really be telling.
Well, here we are, Chaos Era in full swing, more nerfs on the way with the September update, and no promotions or events in progress. So Goons are working on gloomy charts (with some add on charts in the comments), Nosy Gamer is having a look at NPC and player destruction that doesn’t bode well, the MER has NPC commodities as the new biggest ISK faucet, and my own anecdotal evidence all seem to add up to something being amiss, manifested in the concurrent player count numbers, which you can see over at EVE Offline.
I realize that CCP doesn’t mention concurrent player count anymore, preferring the trend towards daily and monthly active users, the darling metrics of the mobile domain where ads are often part of the revenue stream. (Have you seen Candy Crush Saga lately? There has been a pretty big swing towards “watch an ad video, get a booster!” in their model.) But the concurrent player count feels more like the reality we play in, so a dip is not good news.
This has, naturally enough, led to a cottage industry over on /r/eve and in the forums and wherever else about what CCP needs to do to fix this.
What I find interesting is how many people can move straight from the stance that CCP is both slow and incompetent to a grand master plan for fixing EVE Online that pretty much demands that the company be both quick and excellent at their craft.
My poster child right now is this post, which is a master class in glossing over reality. The premise is that CCP should add back walking in stations, shove whatever Project: Nova is right now into the mix, and try to turn the game into what Star Citizen aspires to be some day.
Leaving aside my myriad objections to avatar play in EVE Online (summed up as: You have to build a whole different game to support it), the very easy jokes to be made at the expense of Chris Roberts, and the completely half-assed, evidence free, changing horses mid-stream vision being espoused, what in the last sixteen years could lead anybody to believe that CCP has the capability of doing this in any time frame that doesn’t include the heat death of the universe as a benchmark measurement?
I remain convinced that people outside software development think that just because it is easy to describe something it must therefore be easy to develop.
That is not the way of the world.
Just last week I suggested that CCP wasn’t going to be able to fix the new player experience in any meaningful way that would have even the slightest impact on new player retention. I mean, I wrote “point and laugh” as my possible response to whatever they come up with, but that was what I meant. And I say that because of CCP’s history.
It is like when people say that CCP should make things like level 4 missions more fun… something else I have seen come up as part of this… and I again wonder what people think has been going on since 2003. Do you think that CCP has not tried? Also, your idea on how to do this is badly considered garbage that won’t work. Just accept it.
The game is what it is, having grown and developed almost spasmodically over the last decade and a half. It hangs together on social bonds, vengeance fantasies, pretty screen shots, angry memes, and the sunk cost fallacy, and anything that CCP could do to “fix” the game has a pretty good chance of upsetting that balance. I swear the corporate motto ought to be, “We did not see that coming!”
Which isn’t to say that I don’t think CCP can do things to help the game along, and even make the NPE better. There are lots of ways the game could be made better. But what CCP needs to do is way down in the fundamentals, blocking and tackling level stuff. There is no room for Jesus features any more as there are too many balls for CCP to keep in the air as it is. That one labelled “faction warfare” rolled under the couch a couple of years ago.
But what you don’t do is mask things with uncertainty. Chaos is not a viable business strategy unless you’re selling safety from it. Rational people, when faced with chaos, tend to try and find a safe place to weather the storm.
Anyway, we’ll see what comes to pass. I fear that the Chaos Era may have officially pushed me into the bitter vet status, so i’ll probably just go play some more WoW Classic.
Others on the Chaos Era: