Friday, November 7, 2014

A Quick Look At The ACU In September/October

I am a believer in the new accelerated release cycle that CCP Seagull has instituted for EVE Online. I saw what a two week cycle did for Guild Wars 2 and knew that if CCP could implement good quality releases, then EVE would experience the same type of player retention and acquisition numbers.  I spent some time last night compiling some numbers for a post I plan on writing in early December about the subject.  But as I gathered the data, I thought a quick review of September and October might prove interesting.

As the graph above shows, the weekly average concurrent user number steadily declined in September as Hyperion didn't engage with EVE players.  But are the numbers as bad as they appear?  Taking into account the typical seasonal effects, I don't think so.

I have the full set of weekly ACU numbers from Chribba's going back to March 2006.  The data isn't as good as CCP's in-house data due to server issues and API server downtimes, but is the best available source for this type of data.  When I convert the weekly ACU numbers into monthly ACU numbers and compare the changes from August to September for the years 2007 to 2013, the average decline in ACU is 4.3%.  The decline this year from August to September was 5.1%.  While the decline was steeper than the historical average, Hyperion still outperformed the same period last year, when the Odyssey expansion witnessed a drop in monthly ACU of 7.9%.

Oceanus is the first of the small releases that actually saw a greater number of players logged in at the end of the period than at the launch.  But I don't think that had as much to do with the content of the patch as much as the news that came out in October.  The day after Oceanus launched, CCP Greyscale published his dev blog on the long-distance travel changes.  While the player base debated the proposal, CCP Seagull's keynote presentation at EVE Vegas got people talking.  Well, that and the prospect of tech 3 destroyers.  Of course, the end of October and first weekend of November saw mass movements of jump-capable ships all across New Eden as pilots raced to pre-position ships ahead of the jump drive nerf.

Was the increase in player activity as impressive as the 15.6% increase in ACU from the week of 22-28 September to the week of 27 October - 2 November appears?  Not really.  The change in the monthly ACU only increased 3.4% from September to October.  Of course, the average increase in monthly ACU between the two months from 2007-2013 was only 1.2%, so Oceanus outperformed the average.  The patch also outperformed Odyssey during the same time period, as Odyssey only saw an ACU increase between September 2013 and October 2013 of 2.9%.

I don't want to say that EVE is in great shape, because in a year-over-year comparison of October 2013 and October 2014, the monthly ACU dropped 12.7%.  But comparing the weekly ACU between the first week of September and the last week of October, the ACU has increased 4.1%.  But winter is coming and EVE historically sees an increase in player activity during this season.  Who knows?  Perhaps the ACU will even get back to June 2014 levels by the end of the year.


  1. Noizy/Nosy (I never know which to apply to you. Have you a preference?),

    I too get the warm fuzzy’s seeing Seagull's CCP get underway.
    I, however, wonder sometimes if Average Concurrent User counts don’t, perhaps, overstate the dire straits Eve might be in. In examining the ACU numbers one also has to factor in a terribly important change that rolled out not that long ago – multiple character training on a single account. In the past, multiple character training required multiple accounts and since one had multiple accounts, one just as well log them all on thereby inflating the ACU.

    Speaking anecdotally (myself only), I’ve never desired more than six characters. In the past they were spread over three accounts for training purposes but with the new multiple character training I was able to squeeze down to two accounts with and suffer no training disadvantage. CCP earns no less money from me since, when the need arises for additional character training I just plex my way to it rather than crack open an additional account. In fact CCP may be getting more of my money since a plex or two is a no big deal compared to permanently paying for a third account meaning I deploy the, “It’s only a plex” option quite often.

  2. How do you expect the ACU will keep track of all the accounts that are still active but in permanent training? I expect the ACU will plunge, but it won't have as much meaning if there are lots of accounts still being paid.

  3. Dier, if I may...
    CCP earns no less money from me since, when the need arises for
    additional character training I just plex my way to it rather than crack
    open an additional account.

    1 account paid by CC - from $8.99US per mo. if paid yearly to $14.99US if paid monthly...

    1 account PLEXED monthly - $19.99US... CCP appreciated your patronage.

  4. Unfortunately, for both CCP and us players, both the ACU and sub numbers have been steadily falling.

    The current decline has mostly been due to casual players who have been leaving the game, starting when the industry changes were first announced. Many of these players were paid up for months, some up to a year, so they didn't just immediately rage-quit - they just are letting those accounts run out. This part of the decline should flatten out around the end of the year.

    With the changes to the skill training queue, I expect the ACU to continue falling, but CCP should show better retention of those players who invest in long queues (specifically, because the usual threats to rage-quit and unsub won't work, on a six-week release cycle, if said players are no longer paying month-to-month, but have already paid up for 3-6 additional months).

  5. Unfortunately, everyone is too concerned with player retention and not with the real problem, which is attracting (and retaining) new players to the game.

    Despite the ongoing rounds of fixes, in the mini-expansions, to address long-standing woes, vet players are still slowing leaving the game, due to burnout or boredom. 5-10 years of playing one game is a long time, after all. No matter what CCP does to improve the game, there will always be this sort of attrition of old customers.

    In any case, you can't grow your business by simply keeping as many old customers as you can - you need to attract new customers. Without any Jesus-feature releases, I just don't see that happening.

  6. Oh TurAmarth I'm confident you're absolutely correct.
    CCP has handed me (and others) the ability to impulse purchase a month’s training here and there. Over the long run CCP may well be getting a little more money out of me and very probably a whole lot more money out of the entire group of players like me. The thing is I actually don’t mind. I’ve always had two “mains” who loath to surrender the queue and a bevy of minor characters with no long term training plans. How to juggle the occasional minor character training needs due to game tweaks or shifts in play was terribly annoying. Now it’s no annoyance at all. I’m happy to pay a small premium for the convenience of juicing up a minor character only when needed.

    The sad thing for us players is that ACU counts is often the only figure we really have to judge overall game health with and in many ways it can terribly inaccurate. In my particular case I now log on a full one third less (having dumped an active account) but I’m not only no less an active player but in some senses (total number of characters training) often a more active player than I used to be.

  7. Goblin puts together a pretty nice statistical graph that shows you the seasonal effects on the ACU factoring out the expansions...