Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Look At Peak Concurrent Users After The Incarna Launch

The last two weeks have been a tumultuous time in Eve Online.  With CCP's CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson telling his company "... I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say," disgruntled Eve players took him at his word and stopped playing Eve and searched for other games.  We can assume that things were bad enough that CCP flew the Council of Stellar Management to Iceland for emergency talks.  But how bad are things really?  The CSM can't tell us because they are under an NDA.  But we do have some open source information courtesy of Chribba's fine web site Eve-Offline.  Eve Offline is a source for concurrent users on the Eve Online servers and by parsing some of the source code on the web page I can obtain the daily peak concurrent usage on the Tranquility server.

The first thing I took a look at was the overall trend of peak concurrent usage from 4 weeks before the deployment of Incarna to Monday, 4 July.

Overall, the 7-day rolling average of the daily peak concurrent users is pretty flat over the last 6 weeks, which is a bad sign considering that Incarna is a major expansion/patch.  I would wager that CCP is very disappointed at this stage of the expansion.  If I were CCP, I would have expected a 5-10% growth in activity as players flock to see all the new stuff.  Instead, the rolling 7-day average is actually down by almost 1,000 players from 6 weeks previous.

To get a better reference for what the numbers meant, I took the average PCU for each day for the proceeding 4 weeks before the launch of Incarna and compared that baseline vs. the actual daily PCU after launch day (21 June).

As expected, the PCU was between 5-10% greater on the Wednesday thru Saturday after launch compared to the average for those same days for the previous 4 weeks.  But then the hardware problems, bugs and overall player rage started to take effect.  For the next three days the PCU numbers fell back to just matching the baseline numbers and then during the rest of the second week the PCU either matched or fell below the baseline averages.  When an expansion only produces a one week bump in numbers, that is bad news for an MMO.

Looking at the Sunday PCU numbers gives a better perspective on just how big a hit CCP took with the launch of Incarna.  Sundays are historically the busiest days on Tranquility and the numbers shocked me.

Even after the emergency summit meeting with the CSM the level of activity on Sundays is going down at the same speed as before.  On 19 June, the Sunday before the deployment of Incarna, Tranquility saw a PCU of 53,626.  Two weeks later, that number had declined down to 48,888.  This 8.8% decline in activity was exceeded by the 13.8% decline back in April during the height of CCP's War on Bots™.  The only problem for CCP is that we don't know if the decline will continue or if the emergency summit plus this week's press conferences will stem the tide.

Anyway you look at these numbers, the situation is bad for CCP.  Having less players after an expansion than before it is never good.  A lot of players are concerned about the company's finances and I would wager that CCP expected to pull in a significant amount of money through increased subscription numbers.  The fact that the numbers are flat or declining does not bode well for CCP staying on schedule for all of its plans.


  1. Don't forget that this last weekend was July 4th weekend for US folks. I bet a lot of people weren't logging in to spend time with family and blow real stuff up.

  2. I don't know if July 4th falling on a Monday would be expected to affect numbers on Sunday.

    But beyond that, I'd argue that Incarna is not a major expansion in the typical sense of the word, and CCP hasn't really marketed it as one. Compared to some recent expansions, it has been a soft launch. I probably like the Captain's Quarters as much as anyone, but look, it's an open beta of a hotel room. There is no reason to think people would flock to it (and plenty of reasons to expect the vets to complain).

    Basically, I wouldn't measure the success of the rollout of Incarna the way I would, say, Apocrypha. The big release is the NEXT one.

  3. For the argument that this was not a major expansion, I would just redirect you to Hilmar's email from June 23rd. He considered this a major expansion and the culmination of years of work. The player reaction to Incarna was a shock to CCP and the numbers of the second week had to be disappointing.