Friday, November 16, 2012

Inferno: A Look At The Numbers

With CCP ramping up the excitement for Retribution with a spate of dev blogs the time has come to look at how Inferno did at drawing people into actually logging in and playing Eve Online.  Taking the weekly averages from led to a graph that looks a bit unusual.

One item that sticks out is that despite the controversy over the Unified Inventory that the average number of players on Tranquility rose by 1,500 - 2,000 per hour until the middle of September except for a dip in the middle of June.  The big spike over 30,000 users per hour occurred right before the release of the Inferno 1.2 patch.  But then following the release of Inferno 1.2 the number of users declined by 11.5% until the ramp-up to Retribution began.

Did the traditional summer/autumn decline cause the player activity observed?  I took the seasonal data from 2007-2011 I gathered earlier this year and compared the data to this year's results.

The numbers for May stand out because Eve saw almost 10% less players on Tranquility in May compared to April when May is usually a very stable month.  Was that the outrage over the Unified Inventory?  No.  Diablo III came out on 15 May and the run-up to the launch of the Blizzard game led to a loss of players in all games.  I believe that the rises in both July and August were caused by players returning to the game from playing Diablo III.

However, I do believe that part of the rise in players at the beginning of August was due to the deployment of Inferno 1.2 and the ship changes.  But that did not last very long as logins steadily declined until the middle of October.

The last mystery is why the decline in September and October.  The 2.7% decline in September is close to the 3% average decline experienced from 2007-2011.  But what about October?  While pointing to DUST 514 as the cause is tempting, Eve-Offline shows that the concurrency numbers on Singularity did not top 200 over the past few months.  A more likely explanation is the price of PLEX.  On 1 September the price of a PLEX in The Forge averaged 498,999,998 ISK.  By 10 October the price of PLEX had risen 29.7% up to an average of 647,101,002 ISK.  While that price is good for the fight against the illicit ISK trade, I believe a lot of players who funded their subscriptions using Eve's in-game currency found themselves unable to pay for subscriptions to some if not all of their accounts.  With the prices Tuesday down 9% from the all time high we may see the concurrency numbers rise, but possibly not back to the August numbers before the launch of Retribution.

So was Inferno a strong expansion?  One could argue that in the face of the Diablo III juggernaut that Eve saw growth once Inferno launched.  But Eve saw a decline as inflation in the PLEX market took its toll on players paying for their accounts in ISK.  I think history will show Inferno as a middle-of-the-road expansion, at least in terms of player interest as the concurrency numbers likely will be higher at the launch of Retribution than they were at the launch of the spring 2012 expansion.


  1. I was very surprised that CCP allowed the PLEX price to go so high. For the first time in over 6 years, I considered quitting. The time to earn for PLEX becomes too much relative to time for fun when PLEX goes over 600m for me. I resubbed only when it went down to 588m average. I hope they work to keep the price down, but I suspect they already know they need to.

  2. I dropped two PLEX accounts. PLEX over 500M is too rich for me, especially with two accounts. My subscription account is safe, for now.

    I won't bring back my two alt accounts until PLEX drops below 400M.

  3. CCP won't admit it, but the drop is due to the combination of (a) ongoing drop in new player subs, and (b) a reduction of alt accounts owned by older players.

    The lack of new players subs is most recently due to the lack of any new content in the "expansions" since Incarna. Crucible and Inferno were nothing more than fixes & tweaks to existing game play (as is Retribution) - mostly of interest/benefit to existing players and worthless with regards to attracting new players. You might hate Incarna, but it looked cooler than "spreadsheets in space". Eve is getting old, and needs those content expansions, with exciting trailers, in order to keep competitive with newer games.

    This is a trend that has been going on for a long time, though. Despite the drop in new player subs, the overall sub numbers have remained relatively flat, thanks to older players creating more alt accounts.

    Most recently, however, alt account numbers have been also dropping. This is due in part to PLEX prices - see Knug Lidi, above - however, not entirely so. Even folks who pay for their subs with RL cash are dropping/consolidating accounts - see Jester's blog. I dropped two accounts, that I was paying for with RL cash.

    So, why are we dropping/consolidating accounts?

    In my case, most of my ISK was originally coming from stuff like manufacturing, R&D, trade - that sort of thing. So, I created a high sec alt account, to feed my PVP account with shinys. But, Incursions and FW plexing came along and proved to be much more profitable. So, the indy alt just became a waste of RL cash and RL time to maintain. With more than 50B ISK in wallet now from Incursions and FW plexing, I don't need to grind ISK anymore. Unsub.

    I had another account for scouting, cyno's, and that sort of thing. But, null sec has become so dull and boring that my alts on that account just sit in station, except for some off-grid boosting. I don't think I've dropped a cyno in over 3 months. Now that CCP is going to eliminate OGB, I'll no longer need that account. Unsub.

    Overall, too, my in-game time has dropped. In the old days, I'd get really stoked about upcoming new content, like Incursions and WHs, and my time in game would go up dramatically for several months, while I learned all of the ins/outs of the new content. After I figured out the content, my in-game time would drop off slowly again, just to be boosted back up with the next expansion.

    Crucible and Inferno just didn't provide any of this - and neither does Retribution. On Dec 4, I'll log on to download the new patch, but that is probably about it. In the past, I'd spend the whole day (ok... the whole week) playing with the new content.

    On the plus side, however, my family is happy that I'll be spending more time in RL this holiday season.... :)

    1. Interesting. I, too, have recently dropped a paid account, which was used for manufacturing and market trade.

      Unfortunately, industry is so broken - with so much NPC drop loot cheaply available on market, margins for building T2 mods are too slim and building T1 mods is 100% worthless.

      FW plexing, with an alt on a free trial account, was much more profitable than manufacturing (and actually, still is, even after the nerf to FW plexing). I made as much ISK in a single weekend of plexing as I ever did in several months of industry.

      I don't think this all bothers CCP much, though. Most players who are currently consolidating accounts are also paying to transfer the highest SP toons from the closed accounts to their remaining accounts. So, for the short term, CCP is actually making money on the reduction of accounts.

      This is good if your company's fiscals are based on the calendar year. Ofc, next year, CCP revenues will be further down due to the loss of those accounts, but, most accountants are notoriously short-sighted. They only worry about the current financial quarter - not the next financial year.

  4. I don't think that the price of PLEX is important. Look at the number of PLEX bought/sold, instead.

    If you average out the noise, the bought/sold numbers haven't changed much over the past year, which means that just as many PLEX are being used to pay for accounts now, as before.

    Players cashing in from the FW exploit probably account for the spike in prices - after all, everyone who took serious advantage made billions of ISK and can afford PLEX, even if the price spikes up to 1,000M per PLEX.

    So, you just moved the PLEX paid accounts from one group of players (the ones who were too dumb to join the FW gold rush) to another. Thus, the PLEX price can't be blamed for the drop in overall player numbers.

    1. Not all players are equal.

      What you have to take into account is that there is a not-small minority who are not multiple account holders that had so much money on hand they bought an entire year's worth of PLEX and cashed it all in. Their one account is paid for a year, so CCP got a year's worth of revenue out of him.

      But there is also a not small minority of players who had multiple accounts for years who are dropping some of those accounts because they paid month to month in PLEX. The guy above dropped 2 accounts. That's 2 years worth of revenue vs the first type of player's 1.

      It's a short term gain for that one guy's year of subscription all at once, but they lost a solid subscriber's 2 years worth of subscriptions in the form of two of his accounts.

      The question is.. how big is that first minority and how likely are the people in it to convert to a 2nd account to make up for the one just lost?

    2. Yeah, since CCP will not release detailed numbers, it is hard to tell whether things are the same or worse.

      But, the fact that they will not release the numbers makes me guess that things are getting worse, not staying the same, and certainly not getting better. If sub rates were improving, they would probably be less reluctant about publishing the raw data.

  5. With retribution we should seek the peek of Medium/Large Fixes. Next expansion in the summer we should start seeing the beginnings of new flashy stuff.
    This last year has been a role back, clean up code, fix stuff that has been exploited, re-iterated on expansions.
    This year has been fixing the stuff causing people to leave. so the attrition has slowed down.
    So when the Flash summer and next winter stuff shows up, The new player will stay around longer.

    Currently CCP is gambling on Dust to be the item that will attract new players to eve online, as Dust players begin wishing more and more control of their battle field and orbital bombardments. So Fixing Eve now is important so that these new players don't leave quickly after arriving. Console players are a flighty bunch.

    On a Dreamy not I am so looking forward to POS upgrades that will allow you to build massive space cities, and then give you the option to move jump them slowly around space.

    I can see either PL or Goons making this massive POS planet that shoots moons at planets as an orbital bombardment.... Match over because the sector and ones surrounding are one big crater.