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Monday, November 24, 2014

Alik'r Saved, but what of Tamriel?

This past weekend saw me sink 14 more hours into The Elders Scrolls Online (TESO.) I completed the main quest line in Alik'r and saved the kingdom from the evil necromancers. After recovering all the Ansei Wards, I returned them to their rightful place in The Impervious Vault - now made even more impervious - we hope.

[caption id="attachment_4081" align="aligncenter" width="1400"]Returning the Ansei Wards Returning the Ansei Wards[/caption]

I will say it was an ego trip to have the three Ansei warriors kneel and pay homage to my greatness. It's really nice to be appreciated. It's even better to received a salute from every leader in the Alik'r Army.

[caption id="attachment_4082" align="aligncenter" width="1400"]Alik'r Salute Alik'r Salute[/caption]

Yes, I am great. So of course King Fahara'jad wanted me out of Alik'r as fast as possible. Hell, I could have become king I was so popular, except for being technically unclean because I'd killed the consecrated dead. However, because none of them were my ancestors I was given a pass on that dishonor. Still, it would not do for me to become an important person. It might undermine... Alik'r tradition. Yeah, that's it. Tradition. So King Fahara'jad had Gabrielle Benoit open a portal for me straight to the bridge leading into Evermore. I can't blame him. Heroes are better worshipped from afar.

So anyway, I had a lot of fun in the Alik'r desert. I love their heavy armor and I'd gladly kill the undead for them all day long. And the entire time I was having fun, I kept thinking about TESO as an MMO, and whether it would stand the test of time. There were several dungeons, the Lost City of Na-Totumba especially, where informal grouping saved my bacon. But most people were soloing, which obviously isn't good news from an MMO.

So I did some digging around trying to find some sort of number that would tell me if TESO is surviving or failing. I don't trust the Raptr numbers. Not one of my 14 hours this weekend was automatically recorded. It's a problem I noticed the other week completing Rivenspire. I thought it was transitory but it is not. And Bethesda is no help. They are as tight-lipped about numbers as Priests after confession. Many will point at that as being indicative, but really it's just business sense. Many MMOs don't publish numbers because then they are compared to World of Warcraft and labeled total fail. That sets a bad expectation in the minds of players, both present and future.

So again I had to turn to secondary indicators. What I came up with is Alexa numbers. For those unfamiliar with Alexa, it's a service run by Amazon that attempts to estimate web traffic. It's actually really damn accurate. The free Alexa page is rather long, so I had to take it in three chunks. I'll start at the top and go down.

[caption id="attachment_4084" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Alexa ESO How Popular Alexa ESO How Popular[/caption]

The first third is a traffic ranking. This portion also gives so general behavior numbers, like bounce rate. That's the percentage of traffic that gets to the page only to leave it on the very next click. It's roughly a broad measure of, "oops, didn't mean to go there." It's not very informative in most cases. The next two numbers are better. They rate how many clicks within the domain were made by the average user, not including bounces, and how much time they remained on the domain. Believe it or not, both 7.3 pageviews and 7 minutes 39 seconds on site are both pretty good numbers. But perhaps the most telling feature of this section is the graph of site rankings relative to other sites. You can clearly see the build up to game launch and then a slow decline as expectations were brought more into line with reality. Around August you can see that adjustment end, and a more normal in-production graph begin. That's the sinusoidal like up and down of interest as content cycles occur. There is an uptick each time the developer releases something new. What this shows me is that November really isn't month TESO died. If anything, it looks a lit like October.

[caption id="attachment_4085" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Alexa ESO Who Visits Alexa ESO Who Visits[/caption]

The next section of the Alexa page shows who the audience is for the web site. I don't see any surprises here. TESO players are overwhelmingly male. Derp. They play from home. Derp. And considering that most have at least some college, we can deduce TESO is in the appropriate demographic. The only fact that raised an eyebrow for me at all was Germany being the second largest audience by geography. Offenbar TESO ist sehr beliebt in Deutschland. Sehr gut! That said, it was only a matter of placement. The five countries listed are the five I'd expect to see listed for a subscription MMO. It ranks right up there with GDP and Internet accessibility. Hell, China would probably trump the whole list if Chinese gamers weren't behind the Great Firewall of China.

[caption id="attachment_4086" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Alexa ESO Where From Alexa ESO Where From[/caption]

The last third of the Alexa report shows where the traffic is coming from if that origin is a search engine or social media. Again, I see no huge surprises here. I look at this sort of thing all the time though, so perhaps you may. What I think is really shown here is that Search Visits percentage. And what draws my attention to it is how much lower it is than the bounce percentage. There's an 11.3 percent difference, which to me says one out of 10 visitors are arriving at the web site through a short cut of other web site link and then leaving. Is that the age page coming into play? I've no idea. I don't think it really says anything about the health of TESO; the Traffic Ranks graph did most of that. It's just a bit odd. Game-zines perhaps? There is a bit of an uptick in searches that lead to the domain, but it coincides with the latest expansion. The graph is fairly well established as hovering around the 20 percent mark.

So taken as a whole, I don't see a great redemption for TESO going on here. I also do not see its death. I do see people playing it when I am online and playing it myself. The world is not overwhelmed with players, mind you, but they all seem to be having fun. Only time will tell if it remains as it is, or goes free to play, or simply passes into Oblivion. Hehe, see what I did there? XD


  1. Probably not representing the average... But 9 out of 10 times, I hardly ever visit a game's website after started playing. Maybe if I need something sorted out through customer support or I want to change password (which is really rare). Nope, not even it's own forums.
    So, in my case, these kind of analyzes would be very unreliable.

  2. Nope. Not pretending this is anything close to player numbers. This is just a measure of interest in general. The high bounce percentage shows lots of folks are likely like you. I hardly ever go to forums either. But this is what we've got and is marginally better than nothing which is what Bethesda gives us.


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