The first requirement is a drastic decline in activity. As I wrote last week, Ripard Teg documented such a decline on Reddit. Below is one of Ripard's graphs covering average concurrent users from January 2014 to June 2015.
Pretty drastic, right? One might even ask if EVE is dying. But one cannot go just by the concurrent user numbers alone. As is my habit, I dove into the real money trading numbers, both the black market figures and the sales of PLEX in the game for ISK. While my latest research on ISK buyers is still ongoing, I think the sales figures from The Forge might interest some folks.
Pretty amazing, isn't it? According to Ripard's graph, the average concurrent users logged in during March 2014 was about 35% greater than last month, yet players in both month's used PLEX to purchase 61 trillion ISK. In the year-over-year comparison I did for the first half of 2014 vs 2015, players purchased as much if not more ISK every month in The Forge, home of EVE Online's premier trade hub, Jita.
If EVE were hemorrhaging players, I would expect the amount of ISK players purchase every month to decrease. I just don't see that happening. What I believe is occurring is that players are not multi-boxing as much as they used to. CCP has made changes to the game over the past year to reduce the amount of accounts players need. Does that hurt the bottom line until the cash shop comes fully online? Definitely. I even expect CCP will take a financial hit as the company moves away from the cult of multiple accounts.
I should add that I probably have a longer time frame in mind for judging the success of CCP Seagull's efforts in guiding EVE Online into the future. The effort to redo all of the major systems in addition to altering the business model to rely less on subscriptions and try to keep the existing player base happy is similar to trying to modify a race car going 200 miles per hour. Despite the delays in instituting the null sec sovereignty changes that helped create the latest drop in activity, I like what CCP Seagull accomplished in her first year as executive producer of EVE Online.
Back in November I wrote that I wouldn't give CCP Seagull's tenure as executive producer a final grade until June 2017. I figure she needs that long to fully implement her vision. But for now, the next step in the plan lands on Tranquility tomorrow. Thank whatever deity you worship, because now the pundit class (including yours truly) can stop speculating and start observing.