Monday, June 5, 2023

A Look Back At EVE: Uprising's Performance

The end of May marks the final full month of EVE Online's Uprising expansion on the global Tranquility shard. Instead of just looking at the activity in May, today's post will look back at the Uprising expansion using Jester's average user graph as well as Dotlan data. When Uprising launched on 8 November 2022, the game was suffering from player counts last seen during 2019's Blackout, except instead of lasting weeks, the downturn, triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a 33% increase in the monthly subscription fee, lasted months. Did EVE Online's first expansion in years staunch the bleeding, or did EVE continue to descend into a classic failure cascade?

Average player user count, June 2022 thru May 2023

At the end of October 2022, the average player count (ACU) was approximately 16,000 accounts logged onto Tranquility at any one time. The ACU had decreased steadily since the subscription price increases introduced on 17 May 2022. The launch of Uprising saw numbers jump to 20,000 accounts logged in at any one time, but that number decreased a bit over the remainder of the winter. But at the end of May, the ACU had returned to 20,000. So not only did the ACU increase approximately 20% over the course of the expansion, but was 8-10% higher year-over-year as well.

"But Nosy," someone is probably thinking, "that increase is probably just bots." In that case, the next step is to look at spaceship explosions. Dotlan provides data on three of EVE's five classifications of space. While wormholes and Triglavian space are very lucrative, wormholes a lot more so, most player activity occurs in the k-space regions of high-, low-, and null security space.

Ship explosions in high security space

First, a look at high security space. A rise in the number of player ships killed in high sec does not necessarily mean an increase in PvP activity. Some of the tutorial and profession agent missions require the loss of a player's ship to successfully complete. Also, one of the oldest holiday events, Crimson Harvest, occurs each October, possibly inflating player ship losses. Still, May 2023 witnessed a year-over-year (YoY) increase of 22.3% in the number of player ships lost compared to May 2022. Comparing the last month of Uprising to the last full month before the launch of Uprising saw a 6.5% increase in the number of ships lost.

The number of NPC ships destroyed may prove a more reliable indicator of how successful the Uprising expansion proved over time. High security space is a much safer place to make money, although at a much lesser rate outside of incursions. The number of NPCs players destroyed increased by 12.3% year-over-year. Anti-NPC activity dropped from May  to October 2022, leading to Uprising's final month recording an 18.3% increase in the death of NPCs in high security space.

When looking at the activity in high sec, May's total of 342,661 player ships destroyed was the highest one month total since March 2021. The number of NPC ships destroyed, 111,611,060, was the greatest since October 2021, a month hosting the popular Crimson Harvest event.

Ship explosions in low security space

The main feature of Uprising involved the improvement of factional warfare. What better way to judge the expansion than by looking at low sec activity?

In May, low sec saw a 38% year over year increase in players losing ships, from 161,705 in May 2022 to 223,149 last month. Compared to October 2022, last month witnessed a 25.3% increase in the number of player ships exploding. 

Comparing player ships lost in low sec by month and year

I have written about how historically low sec does best when players are losing 250,000 ships in the security band each month. While that level of destruction only occurred twice during Uprising, the number of ships lost exceeded 200,000 every month. The last time low sec experienced 7 months of that level of destruction was February through August of 2018. If raising activity rates in low sec to rates last seen 4-5 years ago, Uprising is definitely a success, at least for the main feature.

The more interesting aspect is the deaths of NPCs in low sec. The number destroyed in both May 2022 and October 2022 only differed by 7500, or 242 NPCs per day. Compare that to last month's total of 10,037,306. The YoY rise of 16.8% indicates players going into more FW complexes to try to gain control. Another indication the new design of factional warfare was a success.

Ship explosions in null security space

The one big question is whether the changes in factional warfare cannibalized null sec play. A quick look might lead one to say yes, as the number of player ships killed in May 2023 was down 3.2%. But upon closer examination, the number of player ships exploding in null sec rose 17.8% from October 2022 to the last full month of the Uprising expansion.  The YoY decrease was most likely a lingering effect of the May 2022 price increase more than any effect from the factional warfare changes.

A supporting indicator of that view was the increase in players killing NPCs in NPC space. Much like low sec, the number of NPCs killed in null sec in barely raised from May 2022 to October 2022. But in May 2023, the number of NPCs killed in null sec increased by 27.2% year-over-year and 27% over the total the month before Uprising launched.

So can we consider the Uprising expansion a success? I think so. The number of accounts in space is up, both since the beginning of the expansion and compared to a year ago. Activity is up across the board in both high and low security space. Player ship kills are down slightly year-over-year in null sec, but not enough to indicate cannibalization is occurring. 

But at the beginning of EVE Online's third decade of operation, staunching the bleeding is not enough. CCP needs to build on the success of Uprising and attempt to grow the game once again. Will EVE: Viridian improve on the popularity of EVE? Time will tell.

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