While this post is not a part of BB52, I thought I'd do something I haven't seen yet. That's right, combine the data from Chribba's chart with the MMOData.net data set. So instead of playing EVE, I geeked out and played with spreadsheets for the past few days. What follows is the result.
First, how did I get Chribba's data? I didn't need to ask him, as I wanted to create charts that others can duplicate independently. So instead I went to the source page for the chart and extracted the information. The information in the chart is the average concurrent users1 for a week. But in order to match up the data with the subscription data2, I needed to convert the weekly data into monthly data. I did that by pro-rating a partial week (like the first or last three days of a month) with the average for the entire week. If Chribba were to run the numbers he'd come up with something different, but for my purposes I think the method worked out well.
|We have 6 years of data|
Did I forget to mention that we have 6 years in which we have both concurrent users and subscription numbers? I think that's unheard of in the MMORPG industry. I'm sure the industry veterans that CCP hired following the Summer of Rage were flabbergasted to find out that CCP was so confident that they allowed the public access to that type of information.
So what does putting both the subscription numbers and the average concurrent user numbers on the same graph tell us? For one thing, the numbers were going up steadily from May 2006 to January 2011. That bump in the concurrency numbers between November 2008 and May 2009? I attribute that to Quantum Rise and Apocrypha launching 4 months apart. If not for that I think the blog banter question would ask what has happened over the past three years, not four-and-a-half.
|The available data for the blog banter period|
The second graph shows just the period Kirith asked about in his Blog Banter question. For this graph I included the data for both the number of subscriptions and my calculated average concurrent users for the month. The striking point in the graph occurs after January 2011. At that point the average concurrency and subscription numbers start to diverge.
So what happened? I am not going to credit the War on Bots for the decline as the current forever war on the mindless beings did not begin until the end of March 2011 and the decline in concurrency was evident in February. I can only think of two events that could explain the decline. The first was the defeat and breakup of the Northern Coalition. I had heard that NC participation declined greatly and perhaps the concurrency numbers took a hit. The second is the launch of the new Incarna character creator on 18 January. I remember a lot of players posting on the forums that they were going to leave the game because of the upcoming expansion. Apparently that happened immediately and the subscription numbers took some time to catch up.
But that was the story the graphs told me. I wondered if the difference in scales were misleading so I made a third graph.
|Figure for all accounts, not just those that logged in|
The average hours played per account in the above graph doesn't refer to the length of the play sessions of those who logged in. The average includes all paying accounts. So for example, in May 2006 all 120,354 accounts would have needed to log in for an average of 21.2 hours per week in order to register the 15,207 average concurrent users recorded that month. In May 2012, that figure had fallen to 12.8 hours per week to generate an average concurrent user mark of 27,764.
So what happened? Did people get older and have less time to play? Did the number of alt accounts lower the average? Did EVE just have more bots in 2006 than in 2012? Or is the answer a combination of all three plus factors I've neglected? I suspect the latter is the correct answer.
The numbers are interesting, but don't tell the whole story. In fact, because CCP stopped releasing information to MMOData.net after May 2012, we don't even have complete information for the entire period the blog banter covers. The lack of information for when the War on Bots really picked up is quite annoying. From May 2012 onwards, analyzing Chribba's graph requires examining the events in EVE as well as some of the design decisions CCP made over the past 18 months. But as this wall of text is too long already, I'll leave that explanation for another post.
1. CCP uses the term "concurrent users" when referring to the number of active accounts logged onto any of their shards. Concurrent users is not the same as concurrent number of unique players.
2. When I use the term subscriptions, I am not referring to the number of actual players. The number of subscriptions is the number of active paying accounts on the Tranquility server.