Over the first half of this year, the seven-day rolling average of concurrent logins on Tranquility has dropped by over 25%. The figure has continued to drop from nearly 29,000 at the beginning of the year to roughly 23,000 on June 1st, now hovering at just over 20,000 concurrent users.
The change also shows in the rolling 30-day average, which is down to approximately 21,500 from its mid-January peak of 27,000. The total drop represents a loss of roughly 40% of the concurrent userbase since the peak count of almost 35,000 users in January of 2014. That peak came in the wake of the Battle of B-R5RB as EVE’s greatest single engagement made the headlines of mainstream news outlets. As Jester explains, a similar uptick occurred in November of 2014 following the release of the “This is EVE” trailer, leading to the January 2015 peak. Both peaks are visible in the second of Jester’s graphs, as part of a continuous slow decline in numbers that have lead us to this point.
Any dip in login numbers, no matter how transitory or shallow, has long prompted cries of ‘EVE is dying!’ from certain quarters. Certainly, the hue and cry has already cone up in the reddit threads addressing the topic. Blame for the impending death of New Eden is being laid at the feet of Dust 514, Elite: Dangerous, and even Star Citizen. Even summer itself is being hailed as the poison pill that EVE will never recover from. But it is worth noting that while the current trend is downward, EVE has been here before, as the third graph illustrates.
Obviously, the situation now is very different than that of the later months of 2008. March 2009 saw the release of the Apocrypha expansion, which built on the success of Quantum Rise in November 2008. Apocrypha introduced W-space, and is still hailed as one of the best expansions in EVE’s history. However, of particular note is the dip in user numbers in the second half of 2009, beginning with the August release of Apocrypha 1.5.
Apocrypha 1.5 saw a resurgence after a drop of over 5,000 users in the average concurrent logins, but then suffered from another dip and uneven activity, and finally a steep drop similar to the one we’ve seen this past month. What happened? By some estimates, what happened was the game taking a deep breath, and waiting.
In December of 2009, the face of nullsec warfare changed with the release of the Dominion expansion. Dominion saw the end of ‘tower everything‘ sov warfare, and ushered in the system of reinforcement timers and structure grinds that we have ‘enjoyed’ ever since. But along with the new system of warfare came a renewed vitality to nullsec and nullsec warfare, and with it, a resurgence in user count.
Today, we stand at the precipice of a similar sea change in nullsec warfare. The Aegis Sovereignty system (aka ‘Fozziesov’) built around the Entosis Link seeks to revitalize sovereignty war in a way that has not seen in almost six years. For many nullsec alliances, the decline in activity levels began with the announcement of the Force Projection changes that went live in Phoebe. That announcement came just prior to the September 30th release of Oceanus, and included warnings that Jump Fatigue and jump bridge changes were only the first step in a radical overhaul to sovereignty and sov warfare. In many ways, the waiting began then, and — despite an uptick in logins, possibly related to the extensive use of capitals and supercapitals during the orgy of destruction that occurred in Deklein in October — the drop in user count was evident at the time.
When Fozziesov was delayed from Carnyx to Aegis, and then a week beyond Aegis, the sense of ‘waiting for things to happen’ was amplified.
Many other things have contributed to the reduced average user count, of course. The outlawing of input multiplexing, commonly referred to as an ‘ISBoxer ban’, greatly reduced the number of people running multiple accounts to mine or engage in PvP. Some players have left the game entirely, a particularly noteworthy example being Replicator, who ran as many as 40 accounts at once prior to the change. Others have simply canceled a number of subscriptions and/or sold alts off through CCP’s forums and character transfer system.
The change in Force Projection has made it less necessary for large organizations to maintain a vast network of cyno alts spread across New Eden. At the same time, many players responded to the changes by selling off supercapital pilots, or simply letting the accounts lapse.
EVE as a game is getting older. The players, on average, are also getting older. With age comes a vast array of additional responsibilities and additional demands on our time and money. For some of us, this means paring down the number of active accounts we maintain during peacetime. For others, this might mean letting their gaming hobby lie fallow for a time. In a game where new player retention is under 50%, and much of the work to get new players hooked and engaged is shifted onto the existing playerbase, the normal attrition that all games suffer over time is magnified and made far more evident.
But none of that can tell us whether the current decline in user numbers is an irreversible slide into the abyss, or merely the deep breath before another explosive orgy of furious destruction. Some of the largest organizations in EVE, such as Brave Newbies, have been active on the Duality test server instead, learning the ropes of Aegis warfare. Others, like the Imperium, have organized their people in other games in order to keep the bonds of camaraderie and esprit de corps strong. Both of these answers to the waiting game reduce the number of people logging onto Tranquility.
The average number of concurrent users logged in to Tranquility is down from the beginning of the year. That is a fact, and there is no arguing with it. What that fact means, however, is still up to significant interpretation. To some, this is – as is everything else from a drop in kills on a Tuesday to a rise in petroleum prices in Mozambique – confirmation that once again, everything is going to hell.
“Game over, man,” they’ll tell you. EVE is Dying. Perhaps.
Or perhaps… EVE is Waiting. Time will tell.