Monday, January 6, 2014

Eve is in a Coma.... - BB52

.... in regard to player numbers. Which way will it end?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 52nd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

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Go to the always useful ( and take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.

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.


How many times have we heard that on the forums? The graph shows Eve is not dying.... but then again it is not going anywhere either. It's been in a bit of a 'play number coma' for a while.

However, I'm not sure we can call Eve as being static for all of those four and a half years as was highlighted in this blog banter introduction. Its more like two and a half years of being static. I would say Eve was still growing for the first part of that "Plateau". January 2009 to June 2011 still looks like there was a generally upward trend. A lot less than previous years, but still going up. The typically expected "expansion-peak" for Incursion was the highest ever. It was still going up slowly... then we get to June 2011. Suddenly...... Incarna! You can see the dip that forced the change of direction at CCP. I was speaking to a Dev at a previous Fanfest. He said it was that the dip that almost killed CCP. I don't know how accurate that was, he no longer works for CCP, but he assured me post-Incarna was almost the end of Eve! Scary thoughts!

Since Incarna the day of the "Jesus feature" expansion has gone. Whilst we got a lot of good stuff with CCP actually taking time-out and fixing the damn game, we've not had a true "expansion". Odyssey is perhaps the best example. Yawn! Compare that to Apocrypha and that is one of the main reasons I believe for the static plateau. There is nothing to attract new players. Nothing for the gaming press to get excited about. Nothing to generate publicity and coverage that we need to attract new players. Fixing the game has retained existing players and encouraged rage-quitters to come back. But it is hardly attracting new blood is it? We are also losing players. The lack of 'interesting and engaging' expansions mean that people are getting bored more easily. I mean how can we hope to grow the player-base with:-

Coming Soon (TM).... The New Expansion from CCP... Eve Online: We Fixed Some Stuffz!

Coming Winter 2011... and Spring 2012 and Winter 2012 and Spring 2013 and Winter 2013 and.....

Great for us vets with balancing and fixes, crap at attracting new players or staving off boredom in others. This development cycle was needed. Eve is a better a game now than it was at Incarna. But how much more needs fixing? Forget balancing, that is routine maintenance and should be done anyway, balancing isn't 'expansion' material.

I also feel DUST514 hasn't helped. Too many resources have been taken off Eve and put onto DUST (imo), more-so since the launch. I mean, seriously! The most distressing example of this was the lack of the musical troop - Perma-Band and "HTFU" at Fanfest 2013 because half of them were in China working on DUST.

So what comes after the plateau? To be honest I'm not sure. It all depends on how expansions are going from now on. I felt the main feature of the last "expansion" was its name. The rest of the 'content', well, can we really call it an expansion? The "headline feature", the one that was top of the list of what Rubicon contained.... was ship balancing. Sorry, that is not a feature, that is basic maintenance! I play Defiance, they just had a big weapons balancing pass. They didn't call it an expansion! It wasn't even really a patch! How can we get the media interested and get publicity with that as the 'top' feature.

So does Rubicon mean we'll be returning to headline features or are we in for more of the same? There are three ways we could be going... Imagine.....

a) More of the Same
The plateau continues. There is nothing to attract fresh blood into the game, nothing major to persuade old players to come back, nothing to stave off boredom of existing players. It is the aforementioned "Eve Online: We Fixed Some Moar Stuffz". Of course we still get some new players and some returnees, but we also lose players who get bored of Eve in equal numbers. Eventually after a couple more years the number of players quitting though boredom is higher than those returning or new players joining. The plateau becomes a ski slope. As space becomes quieter, more and more people get bored, and quit. Eventually the decline levels out as the hard-core fans remain. Eve is not what it was. I had finished drafting this blog post when I saw this - I'm not the only one thinking this, as one of my "Must Read Blogs" shuts down citing the recent "uninteresting expansions" as one of the reasons.

b) CCP Shake it Up
Realising that two and a half years of fixing stuff has done wonders in retaining players but has done bugger all in attracting new players, CCP decide there needs to be a halfway house. There needs to be bigger expansions, there needs to be an injection of amazement, wonderment and excitement into the game universe every so often. There needs to be new things to do. Let me give you an example - Wormhole space. I wonder how many veteran WH dwellers would still be playing Eve now if WH space hadn't been opened up? How many will have got bored with what they were doing before and left the game? With new things to do and headline features that can attract new players the plateau begins an upward trend. Not a lot and certainly nowhere as steep as before, but it does move!

c) CCP Return to Incarna Type Development
Massive new headline-grabbing features designed to bring in new blood into the game with a flurry of media coverage! But too ambitious and not enough staff. Development resources spread thinly over Eve, SOD (Save our Dust) and WoD. The 20m loan that needs paying back next year is looming and with DUST not raking in the money (it cannot be can it? I mean less than 4,000 average players?) CCP need to be careful hiring extra staff. It doesn't work, we get another 'Incarna' type botch-job and the plateau drops.... and drops into free-fall.

So there are my three predictions on how we could move on from the plateau. Three possible paths. I don't see the plateau continuing forever. Its got to go one way or the other and as I see it, and it is the expansions that are the key to tipping it one way or the other. The last option I see as very unlikely, CCP are not that dumb. The middle option... I don't know. The first option, I'm afraid that is the most likely and I foresee it leading to an unhappy outcome.


  1. Ah Drackarn, my old mucker, the BV syndrome is strong in you. ;)

    It's interesting that you and I have looked at the same data, cited the same development events and even looked at the topic from a clinical medical perspective, but despite the many similarities, we came up with different prognoses.

    I'm not saying you're wrong, just very cynical - if your ski-slope effect were to come into effect, of course CCP would have to tighten their belts accordingly - but I think it'll be a long time before Singularity is ever switched off. Things seem comparatively healthy to me.

    That said, you are in a far more 'boots on the ground' position compared to my 'professional EVE spectator' status, so I entirely understand and respect your viewpoint.

    On a side note: It did not occur to me that the reason that Permaband didn't play at FF2013 was due to CCP exiling some of them to Shanghai. I even lamented their absence to CCP Guard whilst I was there and he gave no hint that was the reason. You'd have thought CCP would have flown them in for the 10th anniversary. It's their anthem, after all.

  2. I don't ever really see CCP going back to option C, the backlash from that from what I understand was quite substantial.

    I am guessing it'll be options "ab" (yes combined) because I'm sure they'll announce a little "big" feature here and there but I see the hand waving and promises to be nothing more than that.

    Of course I'm not expecting any "Jesus Features" because I started playing right before they went to this new model of small things. When I first read what was being offered as an expansion I gave the good'ol 'really?'. I've come to the game with hand waves and promises but have yet to see any of it.

    I now don't expect anything from an "expansion" after the let down of Odyssey. I got quite excited with Odyssey and did quite a bit of promotion and review on it. Even got the test server up and running so I could prove all the naysayers were wrong. (I tend to come off quite bitter in my articles btw.)

    So I suggest if a feature you see may excite you, to suppress your enthusiasm and continue to enjoy what you're currently doing. You never know if you'll still be playing after the next release. I know I'll be playing at least for another year because I darn well paid for it, and come hell or high water I'm going to enjoy something.

    Good point on Dust though. As much as I like the idea (love it actually), I still see no need to interact with dust players (I've even changed or turned down areas of operation because local was full of Dust Bunnies). If CCP needs to force interaction with Dust they need to reevaluate their thought process.

  3. Many of the things you say make a lot of sense & I think you may well be closer to the facts than you realise.

    EVE has been a good game for the last 9 years for myself & unfortunately myself & many others are now in the stages of running any remaining game time out & moving on to games that are better supported & that actually have something different to do in them.

    I personally think that the last few expansions have been nothing short of a waste of effort & although they have brought a couple of things to the game overall the expansions have sucked hard as far as giving players anything to keep them wanting to login.
    Just have a look at the quality of things they have given the player base for example. (The yule Lads. 12 days of complete rubbish finishing with a shuttle that warps at 30AU but really does nothing much else)

    No in a way I wish CCP would either properly support the game or sell it to a developer that will. 10 years is a very long time in MMO age & I no longer think CCP has the drive or ability to properly support EVE Online, DUST514 & World of Darkness. I think that it is only going to take one of the other 2 to hiccup & EVE will suffer & if DUST514 should eventually fail or WoD fail then I will guess that will more or less be the end for CCP & EVE.

    Players are leaving the game in big numbers & the amount of active accounts logging in has dropped by thousands in just the last 12 months. It wasn't uncommon to see 32+k of active accounts online, now that sits at around 24-25k on average each day at the time I login.

    With that said I would say that within the next 12 months we are going to see EVE & CCP begin to shrink & we will also see DUST514 do what it's name says & turn into Dust. I have no idea what CCP can do to save things at this stage either as I think they may have waited too long & pushed away too many old players.....

  4. I would point another option: CCP tries b) but it only caters to nullsec, and the other 80% of the game gets three years of a).

    Welcome to CCP Seagull's plan for the future, with the stargates to moar nulsec as starring feature...