Monday, January 16, 2023

Why 250,000 Is A Magic Number In Low Sec

Since the launch of the Uprising expansion in November 2022, the activity in New Eden has exceeded our wildest expectations with active player counts swelling since release and - more importantly - pilots being more active in space. Particularly notable has been the sharp 75% increase in PvP kills in lowsec as well as the 11% PvP kill increase in highsec despite the additional restrictions on ganking and changes to Abyssal Deadspace following the release.

- Producer's Letter, 6 January 2023

Average concurrent users for 2022 from Jester

I think players over the years wonder about the numbers CCP uses to analyze EVE Online. I think most players will now concede Uprising, while not returning player counts to levels seen before all the talk of NFTs, blockchains, and play-to-earn mechanics, did have a positive impact on player counts. The Producer's Letter was also a good step. No talk of daily active users or monthly active users. Instead we heard talk of "PvP kills". Very appropriate for an expansion who's biggest goal was revitalizing low sec in general, and factional warfare in particular. Exploding spaceships is the language of the EVE player.

But, I think the numbers lack a little context. What really is the time period used for the figures provided? Are they historically high numbers, or just getting back to normal? While not having access to PvP kill numbers like CCP, I do have access to Dotlan maps and the statistics available on Wollari's website. Over the weekend I updated my spreadsheets and graphed out the number of ships players lost in low sec from 2010 to 2022. Looking at my graphs I came to the realization that 250,000 is a magic number where low sec is concerned. When players lose more than 250,000 ships, players are happy. When the number falls below 250,000, players grumble.

Player ships destroyed in low sec, by month, over the last 4 years

First, let's start with the number of player-owned ships that exploded in low sec in Uprising's launch month: 271,159. Was the magic number of 250,000 kills reached? Yes. November's ship death toll was a 52.3% increase over the number of ships players managed to lose the previous month. 

But more impressive is doing a comparison of ship losses in previous Novembers. From 2019 to 2021, the average November experienced 170,596 player ship losses. That's right, the Uprising launch month saw player ship losses rise 58.9% over the 3-year average. 

December was not bad either. While falling just short of 250,000, only one month, April 2020, witnessed players lose more than last month's 244,797 in the previous 4 years before the launch of Uprising

Before continuing to earlier times, I want to pause another moment to reflect on the last four years. If 250,000 ship losses in low sec means happiness, then less than 200,000 ship losses leads to grumpy players. Out of the four years, only 5 months saw over 200,000 ship losses recorded in low sec. The first period, from March-June 2020, was a result of the world-wide COVID lockdowns. The final month, March 2021, was pushed over the mark in large part thanks to a free-for-all event held by Rixx Javik in Ouelletta. If the majority of players in EVE have played for 4 years or less, as we heard at Fanfest last year, no wonder people are ecstatic over the state of low sec after the launch of the expansion. 

Low sec player ship deaths, Jan 2010 to Dec 2022

One has to go back nearly 5 years, to January 2018, to find a month in which more player-owned ships exploded in low sec. Even then, the first month of 2018 only beat November's total by 424 ships. When calculating the average number of ships exploding each day instead of total number for the month, one has to go back an additional year, January 2017, to see the launch month of Uprising beat.

But before declaring the current state of low sec the best ever, I want to point out the period from December 2012 to May 2016 that began with the launch of the Retribution expansion. During that 3 1/2 year period, players never failed to lose at least 250,000 ships in low sec in a single month. Indeed, players lost an average of 317,718 ships every month. And within that period, the 18-month period from January 2013 to June 2014 stands out as players failed to lose at least 300,000 ships in low sec in a month. If players are happy when losing 250,000 ships, imagine a time when they lost an average of over 350,000 every month. I personally do not believe we will see another period like it again.

The closest CCP has come since the launch of the Citadel expansion to the glory days of low sec, at least in raw numbers, was the launch of the freemium model that came with the Ascension expansion in November 2016. The period of November 2017 to January 2018 eclipsed the numbers of ships lost in Uprising, averaging 319,514 per month.

Does CCP have every right in the world to celebrate the reception the Uprising expansion received in low sec? Absolutely. The developers do need to iterate on the factional warfare system to keep up the momentum. A good sign is that Direct Enlistment is still due for release in the first quarter of 2023. I'm not exactly sure how the feature will work out in practice, but the ability to not have to join a FW corp to participate will make factional warfare content more accessible. The one action the developers cannot do is to rest on their laurels. As long as they pay attention, I can foresee another period where New Eden will see the magic number of players die in low sec.

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