Monday, January 3, 2022

Looking Back At EVE Online's 2021 Concurrency Numbers

I once wrote a blog post commemorating the "Eve is dying!" meme that has existed since shortly after the launch of the game in 2003. Normally, I dismiss such talk as the normal ignorance expected from places like the EVE sub-Reddit. But last year talk from Pearl Abyss' earnings calls began shaking my confidence in the game's future. On the November call, an investment analyst for one of the big firms brought up the subject of turning EVE into a "play-to-earn" game. Don't think the C-suite folks on the call didn't take notice, if such a move was not already in the works. Pearl Abyss also told the analysts on the call that the NFTs introduced in the Alliance Tournament were just the first the Korean company intended to implement into its games.

Ripard Teg's Average Concurrent Users for 2021

While the handwriting is on the wall, the implementation of the changes will take some time. How much time may depend on continued player engagement with EVE. After peaking in late February with around 24,000 average users logged into Tranquility at any one time, activity finished the year with an ACU count of approximately 20,000 users. One can look at the situation as a glass half-full or half-empty. The optimist can look at the numbers and point out that players did come back after the bout of war-weariness during the summer and increased by 17-18%. A pessimist can note the current average concurrent user count is 10% below the numbers seen in the months before the COVID pandemic lockdowns in 2020.

I get a chuckle out of reading the occasional chicken little proclaim on r/eve that the number of players on Tranquility are the lowest since 2006. But one does not need to go back 15 years to see similar numbers to today's. The year 2016 is a much better comparison point.

Ripard Teg's Average Concurrent Users for 2016

From September through November 2016, the ACU was very similar, if not slightly below, the numbers seen today. But on 15 November 2016, CCP played its ace-in-the-hole: the Alpha and Omega freemium business model. CCP, with the introduction of the Chaos Era and Blackout in 2019, almost threw the advantage away two years early. According to the C-Suite executives on the Q1 2020 earnings call, Pearl Abyss stepped in to stabilize and improve the situation.
EVE Online is also maintaining stable performance. EVE Online -- which was known as the most difficult MMO game -- had the most important challenge, which was to motivate the interest of early users. Using Black Desert know-how and experience from EVE Online, many improvements were made. And accordingly, we saw a meaningful increase of new users. EVE Online, which is in its 17th year of launching, shows through many indexes that a well-made MMO game has a very long lifespan value.
Pearl Abyss has soured on MMORPGs, particularly due to the stumbles of Black Desert Mobile. Crimson Desert and DokeV are no longer MMORPGs. The Korean game maker also needs revenue, especially with the launch of Crimson Desert indefinitely delayed. With the player numbers now back to pre-Alpha clone levels after 5 years, I really hoped the studio in Reykjavik could produce an expansion level patch to bring some excitement back to the game. Because if the tide doesn't turn soon, I foresee a future of NFTs and other content current players won't enjoy.

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