Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go tell it on the mountain

So, in a lot of recent interviews, CCP Unifex has appeared positively giddy about the success of the Retribution expansion.  He's implied fairly frequently that it's one of EVE's most successful expansions.  Is he right?


In a word: yes!

Keep an eye on logged-in players as I do and you see something startling and encouraging: people have been logging in to play Retribution in massive numbers.  Here's the standard table that I've been producing every few months for the last couple of years on this subject:

ExpansionFeature+30D+60D+NextResult
RMR/Bloodlines  T2s, Carriers+4.6%+7.0%+11.9%Success
Revelations IInvention, rigs  +4.3%-0.1%+17.6%Major success
Revelations IISov changes+0.8%+6.4%-2.6%Failure
TrinityNew graphics+2.4%+29.0%+19.5%Major success
Empyrean AgeFaction war+0.5%+7.1%-8.5%Major failure
Quantum RiseNano nerf+18.5%  +30.5%  +24.7%  Major success
ApocryphaWormholes+11.4%+10.7%+5.7%Success
DominionSov changes+13.6%+13.5%+6.4%Success
TyrannisPI+6.1%+2.6%-0.6%Failure
IncursionIncursions+8.9%+16.8%-5.0%Mixed
IncarnaCQ+0.3%-0.2%-10.7%Major failure
CrucibleIterations+7.7%+14.6%+20.4%Major success
InfernoMissile GFX-8.3%-6.9%-10.2%Major failure
RetributionBounties+17.0%+24.6%???Major success

Just to refresh your memory, each expansion is listed with a signature feature, and +30D, +60D, and +Next percentages.  Each corresponds with the growth in logged-in players.  +30D is 30 days after the expansion's release, showing initial excitement about the expansion.  +60D sometimes shows an initially exciting expansion dying off some (Tyrannis) or growing even more because of positive word of mouth (Trinity).  +Next is where the logged-in user base is when the next expansion is released, showing the final success or failure of that expansion.

Retribution hasn't just been successful, it's been an outstanding success, the most successful EVE Online expansion through its hey-day at getting players to log in since Incursion.  In terms of improvement to the overall logged-in player count, you have to go all the way back to the Empyrean Age/Quantum Rise expansions of 2008 when many of us -- including myself! -- started playing this game for the first time.  Unifex and his team are to be congratulated, particularly since at first blush Retribution looked like it was going to be a pretty lackluster expansion in terms of CCP's ability to market it.

EDIT (18/Apr/2013): Oh!  One other thing: CCP Fozzie assures me that these numbers do not include DUST 514 players and reports that the API does not yet publicly provide DUST players logged in.

A big question remains: where did all these logged-in players come from?  Are these returning previous EVE players being brought back to the fold, or brand new up-and-coming players?  My graphs can't answer that question.  Only CCP has that data.  My guess?  A bit of both, with a strong return of past players eager to play with the work of the ship balancing team, with the bounties as a nice side bonus.  Still, whatever the source, it's encouraging to see.  On the historical graph going back to 2006, the Retribution expansion towers like a mountain:


You can view this chart with the past expansions and year markers in my previous post on this subject, and I'll update this chart for 2013 toward the end of this year as is becoming my custom.  But it's sure nice to see Retribution in its current perspective.  The comparison to the Incursion expansion is obvious, though Retribution doesn't appear to have quite the staying power that expansion did.  You can already see a bit of falling-off of logged-in player numbers in advance of Odyssey.  This is perfectly normal, and something we've seen in EVE expansion after expansion.  People log in by the thousands to play the new game, but after they've exhausted the possibilities, it's time to give them even more.

Still, if Odyssey can retain and build on Retribution's success, we'll be in a period of EVE's history with more active players than any before.  And just maybe we'll be able to put the long flat-lands behind us and look forward to some long-term growth.  Here's hoping!

38 comments:

  1. Jester,

    Does that graph take into account that Dust514 moved to the server at the same time? Dont want to pop any \o/ Whooo Hooo bubbles but my uneducated observations indicate that without Dust the numbers would have gone down.

    Sly

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    1. Oh! Good question! I asked that and was assured by Fozzie that these numbers do NOT include DUSTies. I've updated the post to reflect that.

      Delete
    2. Fozzie does not work with the server and is repeating incorrect hearsay information.

      Naturally, the CCU numbers include DUST players - they *are* on the server, after all, otherwise you would not see them in local. The server devs have been instructed not to talk specifics, but they won't lie about it either. After you get elected to the CSM, try asking them for separate numbers for EVE and DUST players, over the past couple of months, and see what answer you get back.

      Note, however, that these numbers are not intended to mislead EVE players. Hilmer and Co. have been using the numbers as part of their strategy for wooing new investors and obviously it looks better if those numbers go up rather than remain flat or go down.

      A bit of vagueness and hand-waving on their part isn't an outright lie, and it is certainly valid to include both EVE and DUST players as CCP customers, esp. since CCP has categorically stated that EVE and DUST are merely parts of the *same* game.

      Delete
    3. All I can work with is what CCP tells me. And Fozzie was emphatic that the numbers do not include DUSTies and that they were "personally smugging about the numbers in the office" but that they hadn't released those numbers to the public in any way, including the EVE logged-in user count.

      That said, I doubt very very much that there are only 5000 or so DUST players logged in at any given moment. That would be a disaster.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous: DUST and EVE are separate games that talk to each other via CREST. DUST simply started talking to Tranquility instead of a test server through CREST.

      They're not the same game, and CCP has never said that they are. They're two separately hosted and concurrent games in the same universe.

      Anecdotally, my little alliance has seen a lot of older, lapsed players come back and become active again. That's worth what it's worth, but it seems to be true generally. Even some of the bittervets on FHC are eyeballing the subscribe button.

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    5. I had similar doubts when Kirith blogged about the PCU numbers (http://www.ninveah.com/2013/02/so-how-is-retribution-doing.html). Kirith recieved CCP vindication shortly after from CCP Fozzie tweet replies to Ripard (http://www.ninveah.com/search?updated-max=2013-03-11T20:45:00-04:00&max-results=20&start=20&by-date=false). I also asked in the EVE-O forums and had a kind reply from CCP Guard (https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=2668494#post2668494). I'm pleased for CCP and the game that Jester and Kirith are both right :-)

      Delete
    6. "... they were 'personally smugging about the numbers in the office' but that they hadn't released those numbers to the public in any way..."

      And, where is the logic in this statement? When your player count goes up substantially after a major release, you certainly *do* make a big public statement about it - esp. if your game is known for having flat numbers for the past several years.

      That said, Fozzie is wrong. CCP *did* make a public announcement after Retribution, touting the increase in player account numbers. Search a bit, and you'll find it. However, if you read the public statements, you will note (a) they did not say that "subscriptions" and (b) they did not differentiate between EVE and DUST players.

      "That said, I doubt very very much that there are only 5000 or so DUST players logged in at any given moment. That would be a disaster."

      The count isn't all that high - remember that the game is still technically in beta. I know many PS3 owners who have not tried the game, and won't bother until it is actually out of beta. But, you can research the active player numbers yourself - DUST players do show up in local and they are limited to a few systems. In my home system, the DUST player count in local is consistently between 100 and 150 players, peaking slightly higher during the weekends.

      As for the low numbers being a disaster, keep in mind, too, that there are no more delusions at CCP that DUST is going to make record bankable numbers, raining gold down from the heavens. At this point, the best hope is to breakeven on the monthly overhead costs, to keep it up & running and avoid another staff layoff.

      Delete
    7. Sorry, CCP was smugging about DUST 514 numbers, not EVE numbers. I should have made that clearer.

      Delete
    8. The current DUST numbers aren't bad for a beta, and feedback on DUST from non-EVE beta players has been generally positive. This is why CCP is finally moving ahead with the launch.

      In hindsight, it was a major mistake to include EVE players in the DUST beta - the expectation was unreasonably high and the public criticism was unjustly excessive. DUST should have been pushed as a separate product, and the orbital bombardment thing introduced later, as a joint DUST/EVE expansion, bringing the two products together.

      But, in any case, don't confuse good beta numbers with successful post-launch numbers. Many games have done well in beta, only to flop at launch. Even double or triple the current beta numbers won't fly to keep DUST at breakeven.

      BTW - when the CCU numbers jump up again after the DUST public launch, hopefully, you won't just automatically assume that it is because the Odyssey expansion was so utterly awesome....

      Delete
    9. Dersen wrote: "DUST simply started talking to Tranquility instead of a test server through CREST."

      Yes, and for every player - DUST or EVE - to talk in local, they are required to have an unique player id on the Tranquility server. The CCU number includes the count of all active player ids, not just some player ids.

      This is also why it was not as easy as you'd expect for CCP devs to just add a button to identify & filter DUST players from EVE players in local.

      Delete
  2. Can you put vertical year-lines on the long-term graph? It will help comparing the same time each year.

    I wonder if there's a need to deseasonalise subscriber numbers.

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  3. I've been playing for about two years, since Spring 2011. I'm in a small corp that recruits from a private message board. This year is the first time since I've been playing that our corp is actually holding onto enough new people to not only replace those quitting, but grow the corp. We also have a few old players who recently came back. So to answer your question: I suspect it comes from both ends, new players and returning players.

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  4. But but but EvE is dying?!

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    1. Yea... EvE is dying... and the sky is falling and you are a very smart person.

      Delete
    2. Eve isn't dead yet, but it is on the way out.
      Just consider how many people will still play EvE once a competitor comes out.
      CCP has been very fortunate that they have had this niche all to themselves, but that is about to change.
      As for player numbers, does anyone actually trust CCP to not fudge their numbers in some fashion?

      Delete
    3. "Just consider how many people will still play EvE once a competitor comes out."

      Not very likely. CCP has spent a lot of money on this particular genre, created a pretty damn good game, and still can't get the subscriber numbers up past 500K, after 10 years of improvements.

      It is not cheap to build a high-quality MMO game, even using overseas labor. Replicating everything in EVE Online from scratch would cost several hundreds of millions of dollars, and you are unlikely to find an investor willing to put up that sort of money, given that CCP has pretty much proven that it is a fairly small niche market, with a poor short-term ROI.

      We'll probably see a few more attempts at building a competing spaceship game, like Black Prophecy, but they are unlikely to be as polished or as full featured as players have come to expect from EVE Online - and thus won't last very long.

      So, CCP is likely to keep its niche, at least until it can no longer afford to keep the servers running.

      However, if it ever goes F2P, expect that CCP will be closing its doors within a year....

      Delete
  5. If I'm reading that right, +Next is measured at the moment that the following expansion is released. I wonder, how does that compare to the player count at the moment the following expansion is *announced*?

    I'm wondering if some of the +Next numbers are not actually reflecting sustained interest in the previous expansion, but rather the anticipation of the newly-released one. If the announced features are exciting, player count might go up in the weeks approaching the release date, as people re-sub and get their things in order to be ready to go on launch day. For example, Revelations I has fairly lackluster scores for +30 and +60, but its +Next is huge; do you think it's more likely that people suddenly got excited about Invention and Rigs over 60 days after their release, or is it more likely that people had high hopes for the sov changes in Revelations II, but were ultimately disappointed (as shown by Rev2's poor scores as well).

    Measuring from when the signature feature of the next expansion is first announced might give a clearer indication of the previous expansion's sustained impact, without being tainted by any of its successor's influence.

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    1. This I believe is very true & the +NEXT value is a horrible metric for the overall success/failure... Incurions I'm willing to bet would have been a success if it wasn't followed by the absolutely shitty Incarna!

      Delete
  6. I wasn't around for Revelations II, so I definitely can't say. That said, the numbers don't support the idea that there's much if any of a pre-release "bounce". Hell, they support the opposite idea: that people go buy a PLEX literally the day the expansion is released. You see PLEX sales spike on 30 day intervals after the release of a new expansion.

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  7. Hello jes,

    Maybe my case is little enough to be discarted, but i'm came back (this is the third time i do that) simply because i like this game, but i like others games too, and a friend talked to me in gtalk asking why not come back...well here i am and now i know you and the blog.

    To put it simple, in portuguese i will say "eu senti saudades do jogo", in english you don't have this word (saudade), but to translate will be i "missed the game" and my life in this momment, permits me to play again, so i diddnt come back by any of this new implementations, but i help this numbers to grow....

    Thanks for all.

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  8. I think it's lots of all of the above, but it may be skewed by a bunch of guys running multiple characters on multiple accounts. Dual and triple monitor setups are very popular in my corp.

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  9. I think that Retribution finally brought some balance into the high sec "PVP" play style -it was just too easy and too risk free before retribution. I'd be curious to know if there has been a decrease in griefing -I'm sure it still exists, but to what extent?...

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  10. Not specific to this post, but I just wanted to say Hi Jester, and Thanks for blogging, and I voted for you.

    Im active duty army stationed in Afghanistan right now, and while I read TMDC, other blogs, and (rarely) EN24 from my room, your blog has the distinction of being one of the only Eve sites Ive found that is NOT blocked from access on the government network! So Jesters Trek helps gets me through the hours sitting at the office.

    Keep up the good works, and please dont change any of your search terms or topic listings or whatever the hell it is that makes you special (and available on NIPR).

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    1. LOL, awesome! And thank you for your service. You keep up the good work and I'll do the same. o7

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    2. Try a number of the 'Must Read Blogs' Jester has and Eve Uni. On CONUS NIPR they load so it isn't DISA. Not that that doesn't prevent CENTCOM from blacklisting additional domains.

      Delete
  11. Be interesting to put other major titles that have launched into the graph and see where they line up with the peaks and valleys. Being no really good MMO has launched in past 6months to year people could be coming back to EVE and bring new friends with them.

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    1. There were definite dips at around the time of the SWO, MWO, and (especially) GW2 launches. I talked about them at the time. You're right, though: no competing launches during this time period.

      Delete
  12. I am at a loss why Apocrypha is only a success and not a major success (I know, I know, you're measuring success in pilot number). I can't remember an expansion that increased the options for gameplay, advanced the meta, and provided such a sense of wonder and excitement more than Apocrypha did.

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    1. It took w-space a while to build up its audience and residents. Initially, I think a lot of people didn't see the potential.

      In terms of logged-in users, that count also suffered a little bit from Unholy Rage, which happened at that same time.

      Delete
  13. One thing you may want to consider is CCP's anti-botting efforts. I know it was a contributing factor in the decline that began in March 2011. Also, we saw an 8% decline in the first half of March this year when CCP started scanning its memory space looking for bots/hacks and permanently banning people.

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  14. Food for thought: All the major successes can be linked to winter expansions. Summer expansions are either failures or successes. This could be accounted for by the drop in college students over summer.

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  15. You might want to take note of their new Starter Pack sales efforts. Their standard price is $20 for a Prototype Cerebral Accelerator, a frigate with basic fittings, 15 skillbooks, and 30 days game time. However, they've had a rolling series of sales through various outlets that prices it at $5. Anyone interested in EVE and doing the math can conceivably get 4 for the price of one. This has been going on for a while as well. At least 2 months.

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  16. Totally off topic....

    I placed my 4 votes for you last night. I will be soo pissed if you make the CSM and stop blogging. Your blog is read right after the morning news.

    I hope you get blown up in a very expensive ship if you get on the CSM. (otherwise, fly safe and smart :) )

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  17. Dinsdale PirannhaApril 19, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    The largest issue is still unanswered, and may remain so for quite some time: Is CCP expanding the breadth of their user base, or are there just more people running more alt accounts.

    With the explosion of wealth accumulation in null sec, pretty much EVERYONE is getting a supercap. (What is PL at now, 80% of all players in their alliance now have at least one supercap?) How many accounts are required to service all these supercaps? Further, I am reasonably certain that with the cessation of major hostilities in null, many null players have added an Incursion or FW, or both, char to their stable, just to stay engaged.

    Bottom line, how many humans are playing the game on TQ compared to 12 months, or 24 months ago?

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    1. Those numbers are concurrently logged-in users, not subscribers, i.e. while using several accounts still influences that number, creating your x-th alt probably doesn't.

      Delete
    2. The alliance where people with SC's go is full of people with SC's? You dont say.

      Delete
    3. The Anonymous who continuously posts doom and gloom about Dust/EVE being a failure should probably either start using a username or citing his claims if he wants to be taking seriously.

      Delete
    4. "The Anonymous who continuously posts doom and gloom about Dust/EVE being a failure should probably either start using a username or citing his claims..."

      I'm sorry, but that would be a violation of my employment contract.

      Delete

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