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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is Interest in EVE Online Declining?

This is going to be short and sweet because #work and #RL are in my face and giving me attitude. Too bad you can't alpha that, eh?

So, every time I log into EVE Online I always take note of how many players are online. This is for two reasons primarily. One is to gauge the general chance of running into hostiles. The fewer people online, the lower the chance. The second is to gauge of the general subscriber level for our beloved game.

This works because I log into EVE about the same time every day. I keep a fairly regular schedule. Lately I've noticed the online player total declining. That always makes me wonder if EVE is losing it's appeal. That is especially worrisome to me right now, as I know of no big game releases that could be competing with EVE. That doesn't mean there isn't one, just not one I know about.

Anecdotally, it seems to me that blog posts have declined in general as well. There just doesn't seem to be as many of them as there used to be. A few blogs have gone dark even. That always makes me sad.

To get a better insight into this perceived decline in numbers, I need to know what the past online numbers are. However, I'm not nearly squared away enough to write down the total every night. That's where EVE-Offline comes in. This web site will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about player counts from the very first days of EVE Online (March 16, 2006 to be exact) to today.

The Tranquility page holds the answer to my question. Indeed, online user totals seem to have declined a bit over the past 3 months. The numbers have not recovered from the yearly summer slump - in fact they have gotten slightly worse. I wonder what everyone's doing?

Fly Careful


  1. I'm sure it's to some extent seasonal (college, lull between expansions etc) but I also think Eve isn't doing enough to encourage new players.

    i get that they've reworked the new player experience and done a good job. But after the first week it's a relentlessly hostile universe with too many borderline exploits or unintuitive mechanics that allow veterans to abuse newbies in rather cruel way. (can flipping is an example, there are hundreds of others).

    For example some new guy gets robbed, then when he retaliates gets concorded. He's lost his ship and from his perspective to some bullshit mechanics that don't make sense. It's completely reasonable for him to just cancel and never come back.

    I hope the crime elements of Retribution help this.

  2. I think the three main reasons for the decline are:

    1. The summer slump usually extends through October. From 2007 - 2011 the median average players in the months of July - October dropped compared to the previous month.

    2. The high price of PLEX means that some players are dropping accounts because their ISK isn't going as far as it used to.

    3. DUST 514. CCP made DUST 514 a console game because they didn't want to cannibalize Eve but some players are diverting time to play the beta anyway. It was bound to happen.

    1. The PLEX reason for the slump is something I hadn't thought about. I've never made enough ISK to fund my game that way. The part about CCP competing with themselves is... indescribable.

    2. That happens to any game company that puts out a new game. Blizzard saw the the number of players in World of Warcraft drop when Diablo 3 came out. Guild Wars 2 is an extreme example because I think ArenaNet wanted to move all their players from Guild Wars to GW2. I consider GW2 just a really big expansion for the original Guild Wars.

  3. I echo the blathering politicians... "its the economy". Average age of EVE players is older than that of other MMOs and most of us work. Q4 is in many companies the busiest and many of my alliance mates are slammed with RL work. Add to this that EVE really hasn't done anything new to attract new players (I don't count weird and incremental changes of some fringe ships, but more like sweeping changes like Walking in Stations) and we have a stale game environment on a dying platform (PC) with an ageing market (supergeeks) and you don't really have a conducive environment for growth.

    1. PC Gaming is actually on the up not the down.

    2. About this death of the PC thing. It is a logical fallacy to believe that a change in hardware platform will kill the game, or any game. EVE by it's very nature already runs "in the cloud." It's a private cloud owned by CCP but it is still a back-end database with front end processors and remote connectivity. If the client platform changes so what. If I play EVE with keyboard and mouse or video contacts and hand gestures it makes no difference to the game. People play games. They always have. They always will. The PC may be gone tomorrow but only because something else takes its place and that something else will still interface with the game.

  4. Have been keeping an eye on that too. Dotlan seems shows a greater rise and decline in population over a 24 hour period, and I can't help but wonder if the holybotwar is part of what we're seeing.

    If a bot cannot go 23x7 any more without risk of ban (if it hasn't been already) or which has forced them to adopt more human behaviours as far as time keeping goes, then that could have a fairly sizable cumulative impact on numbers online at any one time.

  5. Yea... I too have noticed a slump... My home page is my blog and the first thing I do most of the time is run down my favs list and check the latest bloggery... I used to have trouble keeping up with new posts, now there is daily less and less of interest to read in the last few months... and fewer people logged on when I do log on.

    Please keep in mind I have had more RL>EVE stuff in my life lately... on a positive note, I have found a job at last, 1 yr contract with the local power co. doing a full swap out of all systems in the firm.

    I have also had something, tangentially off topic, but of note I feel, happen lately... I wrote in to the EVE Fansite and requested to join that Illustrious group after reading the latest Dev blog on "our" bloggery... and was turned down flat.

    Yup, seems my blog, "A CARBON Based Life" is not up to CCPs standards for amount of content. "...your site lacks current activity and content that adds general value to the EVE Online Community, therefore your site doesn’t meet the formal criteria to become an officially recognized EVE Online Fansite."

    Huh. I find this... facinating. I am a 52 y.o. husband & father with a house and a REAL LIFE but I am not producing enough 'activity and content' that 'adds general value to EVE Online' to be acceptable to CCP... huh. Glad I am not doing this for any 'official' recognition... it'd be a waste of time then... wouldn't it?

    And... it really doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy 'bout CCP either.

    1. Congrats on the job! Sounds like a nice gig even if it is for just a year. Boo on the Fansite stuff. I'll say this though. I blog for enjoyment. The quickest way to make a thing not enjoyable is to turn it into a job. This blog is also for the players, not CCP. Becoming one of their "official" sites is too much like being an intern. I'm too old for that crap. CCP needs to do their own damn marketing.

    2. Getting the media account is nice but I prefer to stay independent. I also like writing about other things than Eve, although that's what the vast majority of my posts are about. Although if you are going to write about Eve anyway and don't intend to run for CSM, why not?

    3. Yea, Mab and I talked about it tonight while scannin and doin PI...

      I blog for myself first and my 7 followers second (LOL). I don't 'want' anything for it other than, maybe, some recognition... and as far as I am concerned I do bring a modicum of 'added value to the EVE Online Community'... at least those who have commented, immailed and convoed me ingame feel I have.

      And nope, I have NO aspiration re CSM, got a house a wife and two children to think of first.

      ANYONE who blogs, writes, posts about EVE at all, is all for the good... of the game and hence, for CCP... so screw what they think.

    4. I wonder who decides what adds value. We have hundreds of pvp blogs and only a small handful of good wh blogs. Your wh blog adds much more value than yet another tears for the lulz blog, many of which are mostly cut and pastes of chat logs.

      You also post a lot more than Selene or Teadaze who I assume are "valued".

    5. Anyone who blogs about EVE in any capacity putting ink to their experience from whatever point of view their experience regardless to how they play EVE "adds value" to the game and community voice. And the more they continue to do that also helps forms and grow some segment of the community that exist around the game talking about their experience in the game. We are not all BOTS!

      Back when I was starting EVE as a blogger they first thing i did was to decide to read some blogs to get an idea of peoples actual experience in the game to find out what it was about. I google searched. First blog I ever read about EVE was about a guy named something Vindaloo who was a miner and trader selling a few Hulks and he was talking about some industry stuff. I dare say he added value to EVE as he helped propel me onto seeking more info about the game because it did not make sense to me. He marketed his experience in the game to me from his view in how he played the game or life as. He also gave me some understanding what the game was about because reading nothing from EVE site actually helped.

      Reading blogs were much more of a help. Who's to say the value of any blogs written about the game in marketing of the game and conveying actual experience in the game or guides or how to do stuff. So there will be many who likely gave EVE and try the game for some reason because they read some blog somewhere written by someone who experience's EVE. Yeah your blogging about EVE can and does add value to someone that may come across it in a random google search as well in the community that we are all collectively apart of. CCP is not the only one who in the end decides what exactly is of value to some other random person who has never played the game. I find a person's actual experience in the game matters.

      When i blog about EVE or any other game its at my pleasure and how i continue to feel about the game as my experience, mood and attitude changes over time as the game changes and community changes.

    6. Damn Stabs... thanx man! You know... your comment alone means far more to me than any official recognition I could ever get from CCP. Mab was right... being a part of this community, and get a pat on the back from my peers, is way more important than anything CCP could ever do.

      I read every post of yours and feel exactly the same about your writing and so may others... thanx again man. =]

    7. Galo, I couldn't agree more. I too searched and read many blogs during my first months ingame... and they too helped me far more than anything offered by CCP... and they are also part of the reason I started blogging.

      By limiting their 'official' recognition to only the most active blogs I woner how much truly valuable content they are ignoring? I mean, the guys who TALKS the most is not always the guys who KNOWS the most (Jester not included..) =]

  6. Wow, talk about rose-colored glasses...

    Sorry, folks, but this ain't no slump, due to seasonal, economic, botting, PLEX or any other fanciful reasons.

    The hard cold truth is: EVE Online sub rate has dropped hard over the past year, with new player subs showing a particularly steep decline.

    The reason? Not hard to figure out - lack of new, exciting content. There hasn't been a true expansion since Incarna (yeah, you might hate Incarna, but the avatar stuff demoed well at E3). The last two "expansions" - Inferno and Crucible - as well as the upcoming Retribution are nothing more than maintenance releases. Fixes to wardecs, FW, a few new ships and all that are great for the existing player base, but mean absolutely nothing to someone who doesn't actually play EVE yet.

    Don't believe me? Check out the Features page for Retribution and pretend that you've never played EVE before. Would any of this actually mean anything to you, or get you to start playing the game? Nah, I didn't think so.

    Face facts... EVE is an old and aging game, and without ongoing *major* content expansions, it will eventually taper off and die, as we all wander off to look at the latest and greatest new game on the block. Spreadsheets in space just doesn't cut it anymore.

    Now, Chris Roberts is actually betting on this. He expects to seduce most of the EVE player base right over to his new game, given CCP's distraction into console gaming and the lack of any other real competition in the hardcore sci-fi MMO game universe business (Just FYI - SWTOR is not hardcore sci-fi, it is sci-fantasy. Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks have no place in sci-fi, in any way, shape or form.).

    Is this a bad thing, though? Nope. Serious competition and the threat of losing Eve's subscriber base might finally get CCP to drop its "other" projects and focus solely on reviving its flagship product.

    1. This

      "EVE is an old and aging game"

      plus this

      "focus solely on reviving its flagship product."

      contradict each other, at least in business terms. If CCP only does Eve and Eve is dying then the company folds and everyone loses their jobs when that happens. That can't possibly be a reasonable long term business strategy.

    2. "old and aging" does not equal "dying", in business terms.

      Many old/aging products, such as Lego, have been successfully revitalized by the introduction of new content.

  7. Larry, I am very worried that I agree with you.

    Not the rose colored idiom, but the basic reasoning as to why there is a perceivable slump. I agree Incarana, as much as it caused the “Summer of Rage” was a true expansion, and everything since has been, at best, ‘updates’ but with no ‘real’ new content… and there is SO MUCH CCP could do w/ EVE… the possibilities are limitless… I mean its Sci-fi fer the god’s sake, the most limitless literary genre in the world.

    After Incarna, in Oct. ’11 they reduced staffing, and yet only 10 months later in August ’12 they raised US $20M to prep for a possible IPO… Seems to me they should have kept the staffing, raised the $20M so they could work to keep their main product viable WHILE they worked to get DUST etc. online…

    Staffing cuts;

    Capitol funding;

  8. OK, I have to share this with those following this, and it may end up as a post on my site. I had replied to the first email thusly;
    "Current activity??? I am, as so many are, a more casual player as I have LIMITED TIME FOR A GAME, sorry, but RL>EVE or have you never heard that? And, I am currently summarising BB 39: "Home" for Freebooted... 42 respondents... it's gonna take a while and I have a REAL LIFE to live BEFORE I play a game... no matter how damn good that game is. I really thought CCP was supportive of ALL playstyles... guess I have something else to write about now. So TYVM and have a nice day..."

    It was, as far as I was concerned a done deal and I only brought it up here cause it made me kinda... you know, "What the hell man!" but it was not a big 'issue' for me it’s just that I felt CCP was being a bit hypocritical in the Dev Blog [] lauding EVE Bloggers and asking " and existing bloggers alike are encouraged to register with the following sites..." and including the EVE Online Fansite Programme: The official EVE Online listing includes amongst other useful sites links to some of the many blogs available... so I did and got turned down for not being Jester. Huh.

    But now it is becoming an issue with this wonderful reply…
    "Thanks for your reply. It’s true that we do appreciate all forms of playstyles, including those which are limited. However, part of being an official EVE Fansite includes extraordinary dedication to the game, which typically means a very high activity level and quality of content for the site. If you are unhappy with the decision, you are always free to resubmit the site for review and I will ensure someone else from the team will take a look at it."

    LOL Wow... so I am free to resubmit and someone ELSE will look at it and mebbe countermand your decison? Really??

    And the, "...part of being an official EVE Fansite includes extraordinary dedication to the game, which typically means a very high activity level and quality of content for the site." is just flat effin rude.

    Just starting and keeping up a blog is VASTLY more intensive than standard gameplay… and IS in sheer fact EXTRA-ORDINARY dedication to any ‘game’... Did you even LOOK at my blog? I do ALL my own graphics and of course write all my posts... as far as a high activity level goes, for a 52 y.o. husband and father with a house, 2 kids at home and all that goes with that, my level of involvement is higher than some who are younger, single and carefree.

    I am not going to continue mini-tirade this past this post… unless it really gets under my skin over the next few days… but running a blog, writing posts, and DOING ALL my own graphics (which means there are time I log in JUST to take pics of something interesting… and then editing for posting…) I don’t know about anyone else but that sounds like “extraordinary dedication” to me… I sure as hell know it feels like it.

    1. I really don''t understand why you got turned down. Whoever took that decision must have had a bad day or something. Your blog is definitely great and I regularly read it, you write more than I do, and I did get official fansite status. Even more importantly: You write from a minority perspective in the game - Wormhole Space - so this playstyle actually has the highest growth potential and needs more advertisement.

      I wish I could petition for your site to be accepted.

    2. Next expansion? "EVE Online: Casual Gamers Need Not Apply"?? ;-) At least it'd be truth in advertising. ;-)

  9. I thought the amount of Eve related posts across blogs was receding, but I had not seen it discussed yet. I guess it's coming down to four things:
    - new games that appeal to Eve players (MechWarrior Online, PlanetSide 2): these are sci-fi PvP MMOs based on well known franchises. I would also add to these v8 of World Of Tanks, since this game is popular with Eve players and this new version did bring a lot of people back in the tank busting business(including me).
    - future games that appeal to Eve players (Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous): whilst these game are not even in beta, they shed a harsh light on Eve. Eve looks like a ten year old game who hasn't seen a sea change in a few years, and CCP look like they have no vision for the game. So why bother with Eve in the meantime? Which leads to the next point.
    - CCP has not added much to Eve in the last years. The big change spread over several releases is the ship rebalancing, but would it keep players from leaving Eve or bring new players in? I don't think so. In the meantime, Player Owned Station, Corporation, Industry and Trading are in dire need of being worked over. But these items are still in the future, even thought they're quite likely to keep players in or bring new ones in.
    - the current economic climate is the final nail in the capsule. Not only Q4, but the current black clouds hanging over the horizon make it more likely for players to, at least, hibernate until either things improve in RL or changes to Eve bring them back.

    Maybe if enough Eve players bring this up, CCP will realise they need to get their act together. Otherwise this community will need to find a new home.

  10. tbh, You cant go off log in numbers. A large portion are botters or afk (you know the ones who leave their client open ALL day) or station trades who never undock anyways.

    I feel its a combination of multiple things; PLEX prices, lack of NEW content for the core game, summer/fall slump and the amount of botters being banned has been very high compared to previous years around the same time frame. Also, you need to take into account how many players did NOT resub after Incarna.

    And I think that updates like these last few have been pretty good. Not everyone is a fan of coding, mechanics, back end changes and updates ignoring the core game, but sometimes taking a year or two to give your game a facelift after 10 years of the same shit is a good thing.

    And dont forget, Halo 4 launched Tuesday this week in the US and next week Black OPS 2 launches here as well; both of which are powerhouses in the gaming population, so the recovery might take a bit longer than expected numbers-wise. And if DUST launches soon, it could take even longer as I know many EvE players will be on DUST often. I know I will be.


    1. Oh man, I'd completely forgotten about Halo 4.

  11. I think the current massive communities might play a part.

    Test and Goons together are thousands of people.

    Many of them follow eachother around because they come from communities that are independent of the game. If you look how much is written about Planetside and MWO on then it is easy to imagine that many of those communities just spend more time with those games because that's what their friends are doing.

    Makes me wonder what would happen if Goonswarm or TEST leadership collectively decide that they don't care about EVE anymore. I think then we might see a pretty significant drop in subscriber numbers.

  12. Another factor in the decline is the over-emphasis that CCP has placed on PVP in the past year.

    Sure, PVP is fun, but it isn't everything. If I want 24/7 PVP, I go play an FPS.

    Between PVP fights, esp. null sec fleet fights, there has to be something else to do in EVE, which is equally engaging. This used to include stuff like research, manufacturing, trade, missions, mining, exploration, corps, etc. But, these features have seen little, if any improvement over the years - barely enough to keep the old players playing, and certainly not sufficient to attract and keep new players. The missions, for example, never change - run them once, and you are done (unless you are grinding them for ISK). Mining is the same - chew up the rocks, come back tomorrow, same old rocks are all magically back again... repeat, rinse and wash, but only if you are grinding for ISK. Interesting to do once, not twice.

    Don't believe me? Ask the Goons. Part of the reason for their high sec hijinks is to keep the members engaged when there isn't a fleet fight going on.

    Another contributing PVP factor is the ever-growing separation between new players and old players, with regards to the ability to PVP. Even if a new player specializes in a single race, flys only frigates, and optimally trains up only the PVP-related skills, it will take him/her nearly a year to reach the same SP level of the 1+ year veteran players. As we all know, those 2% bonuses do add up fast and make a difference. And, let's not forget the ISK factor, where older, richer players can easily afford to fit all T2/faction modules, with 1B ISK or more in combat implants, plus combat boosters. A new player, running L1 missions and/or mining in a frigate, can't compete.

    Mix this all together into a single shard game universe, with limited protection for new players against aggressive, experienced older players, and you can easily see how new players can become quickly discouraged and move on.

    And, now CCP Fozzie wants to add even more skills to train? Ouch. Bad move.

  13. Search my blog for the term "Snapcount" and you'll see a lot of posts where I talk about this. Matter of fact, it's probably about time for an updated post on this topic, but the most recent one is here:

    It points back to several older ones where I've been tracking this.

  14. I have to agree with the above that the lack of "Jesus features" in the last few expansions is likely an issue. It is hurting Eve. One of the reasons Eve has been going so long is that every six months the game was refreshed. There was always something new for you to try.

    OK some expansions didn't do a massive lot, but the last ones that fix rather then expanded have good points... and bad points. I have said previously CCP needs balance fixing and iterating with the "ZOMG! Look at this" headline features which generate new interest and reinvigorate older players.

    With regard to current expansions, I do wonder what is the number of Devs working on Eve compared with years ago. Think of all the work that must have gone into the big expansions of yesteryear. I know we had the 20%, but think how much we got in Apocrypha and compare to what we're getting in Retribution. Same number of Dev's? I'm thinking not.

    Also cycling development themes in years based on the MMORPG triangle (you harvest stuff, you build stuff, you destroy stuff) that CCP are using currently.... 2012 - Destruction, 2013 - Harvesting, 2014 - Building, 2015 - Destruction..... will leave some players feeling neglected for two years at a time.

    Finally, with regard to blogging, I've seen a 20% increase in hits over the last few months. Now is this due to CCP promoting the blogging community more (as I thought this morning), or less people blogging meaning those still going get more visitors (as I'm wondering after reading this post)?


Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.