Friday, January 10, 2014

Data Wants To Be Free

I really hate when I can't write a post because the numbers don't add up.  I had a nice theory about why the famous concurrency graph on Chribba's Eve-Offline.net appears stuck at 30,000 concurrent users.  All I had to do is convert the weekly averages displayed by Chribba into a monthy average, then compare that against the MMOData dataset of EVE Online subscription numbers, make a couple of graphs, type some words, and then look like a genius.  I did this for January 2009 to May 2012.  Sadly, my theory fell apart.

Happily, because I just didn't post my theory without doing my due diligence, I don't look like a complete idiot.  I do see a pattern emerging, but I need to convert the EVE Offline numbers into monthly averages going back to March 2006 to see the actual pattern.  While I won't go so far as to say the graph is a lie, I do think that many take the graph out of context.

Of course, putting the graph into context is harder because CCP stopped supplying hard subscription numbers to the public after May 2012.  I believe that whoever made the decision at CCP would argue that with the reopening of Serenity that mixing the Chinese figures with the subscribers on Tranquility would not really result in good numbers.  But perhaps not.  CCP did announce the EVE Online had surpassed 500,000 subscribers in February 2013, and those figures included China.

In reality, I think that most players are more interested in the number of subscriptions logging into Tranquility, as Serenity is a completely different world.  I know that I am.  The subscription numbers after May 2012 would really show the effect of the War on Bots on EVE.

Right now the only data point I have for Tranquility after May 2012 was provided by the CSM elections in March 2013.  I haven't checked the math personally, but a commenter noted that based on the turnout, the number of subscriptions was between 408,000 and 410,000, which indicated a 10th consecutive year of growth on Tranquility, not just EVE as a whole.  Why bring up the consecutive growth record?  Because I believe that CCP stopped supplying the subscription numbers to Ibe Van Geel because, for the first time, the numbers in July 2012 would not show year over year growth.

I know that Hilmar brought in people from places like Trion and EA in order to bring some professionalism and better practices into CCP following the Summer of Rage.  But one of those standards is trying to obfuscate the subscription numbers, something that CCP had traditionally, unlike most of the industry, provided transparency on.  I think that the outside professionals missed that the player base still has tools to judge the health of the game.  But until CCP decides to remove the API that give players access to the information, we are going to use it, even if the numbers by themselves are imperfect because they lack context.  If CCP would release the subscription numbers every so often, perhaps the players wouldn't keep wondering and trying to figure things out on their own.

6 comments:

  1. I'm pretty certain we won't receive election's voter turn out for the CSM going forward, because they need to release total number of votes, and (turn out value) + (total votes number) -> known number of active subscriptions. In fact, it is not out of the realm of possibility someone was fired the last time they announced turn out values.

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    1. For the release of the subs, I could guess who you're talking about. But who got fired for releasing turnout numbers for a CSM election?

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  2. Data want* to be free. The datum wants to be free. Sorry for being pedantic.

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  3. lol... if you go back to your posts on DUST vs EVE CCU numbers, you'll see how you once argued that the Chribba numbers were 100% accurate and supported your argument. Nice reversal. Let's talk reality now.

    CCP has been working hard to obfuscate the numbers, because the number of players has dropped consistently over the past several years. As older players added alt accounts and began to multi-box, the drop in player numbers was successfully masked by the subscription numbers.

    When DUST launched, CCP used the DUST sign-up numbers to boost their reported subscription numbers, and push them over 500K. Ofc, since DUST is F2P, DUST "subscriptions" never expire and remain part of the total subscriber count. This also helped to mask the drop in EVE player numbers and drops in EVE subscription numbers, at that time .

    Dual and multi-character training have pushed the subscription numbers way down, although it did increase revenue from PLEX. CCP, however, can't quantitatively justify a drop in subscription numbers by saying that PLEX revenue increased, without releasing a lot of data that they don't want to release (which would, among other things, show the bogus DUST subscription numbers).

    So, now let's look at concurrent user stats. Has the number of EVE players online each day dropped that much due to the lackluster recent expansions? No, not really. What screws up the recent graphs is the fact that the short-term interest in DUST has faded and the ADD FPS addicts have been moving on to other games. Needless to say, DUST hasn't been attracting a lot of new interest, either. And, unlike EVE, you aren't going to see veteran DUST players adding alt accounts and multi-boxing... lol. Take DUST out of the picture and you'll see a gradual decrease, just like you'd expect with an aging game.

    So, what does this all really mean? Not much, except that you should not buy into marketing BS, just because they have clever numbers to supposedly back up their claims. Technical people are the easiest to fool since they believe that numbers are absolutes, but financial people who know "creative accounting" can tell you that you can create numbers to say whatever you want to say.

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    1. I see where you are going with this. You are trying to perpetrate the myth that CCP has combined the numbers for DUST and EVE that come from the EVE API just because CCP has done so for the display in DUST. The EVE API that Chribba uses is not part of the API system that DUST uses to get its numbers. I checked with Chribba to make sure that was the case. Also, the last I heard, the numbers displayed in DUST are larger than those displayed on the EVE log in page. I recall having to tell a DUST player that no, DUST wasn't more popular than EVE, its just that DUST displays the combined number and EVE doesn't.

      Of course, with that leading off your comment, I'm not really inclined to take the rest of your rant seriously. Especially since you have no information to back up your claims. But if you'd like to send me the sources for your information, I'd be curious to check it out.

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  4. Maybe they did stop releasing subscription numbers in 2012 because there was no growth to report. But maybe not. They also stopped releasing the Quarterly Economic Newsletters but the reason for that is they (Dr. E) just didn't want to be bothered with it anymore. He has consistently said for 2 years now that they would LIKE to give the players the raw New Eden economic numbers and let the players interpret it, chart it, graph it, etc. But as is so typical these last couple of years, the reality of what they do comes nowhere close to what they say they are going to do. Maybe they just decided that since no other MMO company releases their subscription numbers that they shouldn't either.

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