Thursday, January 16, 2014

EVE Will Grow

The latest blog banter is about the subscription numbers for EVE.
... take a look at the All Time (weekly average) graph for concurrent accounts logged in.
For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.
What's on the other side of that plateau?
Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past.
Also, what would EVE be like with an order of magnitude fewer or more players?
I've read some people's responses and was a bit surprised.  People are saying EVE may die or become a niche.  But I think the numbers will go up.

The hardware required to play EVE is not ubiquitous.  It is not even close, even in the developed world.  Data at la Wik: List of countries by number of broadband Internet subscriptions.  Look at the rates for fixed broadband.  I don't know if one can play EVE tolerably with the minimum "broadband" they have defined, which is DSL (256 kbit/s).  I doubt it.  But even allowing that EVE via DSL is possible, we still see broadband penetration rates in the first world of 27%.  A quarter.  And in the third world, nearly negligible rates around 5% or so.  If my doubts are correct, then in fact the number of people who can play EVE is an even smaller fraction of the population.

Another thing that makes EVE much better is a large monitor, and indeed, preferably two or more.  You need screen real estate to put all the spreadsheets on.  And you need two monitors to dual-box, which (due to the nature of many tasks in EVE) makes EVE a much more immersive and thus fun game.  Big displays have gotten radically cheaper in the last few years, and therefore must be becoming more widespread.  Most video cards can run two monitors these days.

Now, of course the sort of geek who likes EVE is far more likely than average to have broadband and a large dual monitor setup.  Why, everyone I know has broadband!  But still, there are a lot of people out there who cannot play EVE for the simple reason that they lack the connection to do so.  The vast majority of people who would love EVE if they could play it, cannot.  As true highspeed Internet continues to expand, the pool of potential players will increase tremendously.  Ditto for cheap large screens.  EVE will expand with these technologies.  Or at least, EVE should.  This is, I think, what one sees at in the first half of the graph above: a game that is expanding keeping a more-or-less constant share of highspeed Internet users.  So, the second half is not really a plateau; it is a decline.

One explanation for the decline may be the shift from desktop computers to mobile computers.  Personally, I feel this is a temporary thing; there are certain applications that simply require a lot of screen real estate.  You cannot effectively use a spreadsheet on an iPhone.  Be that as it may, over the past few years there has been a pretty sharp decline in the number of desktops sold, because mobile computers can do most of the most useful things that people use computers for.  And it appears the forecast for desktop sales is down for years to come.  So, this may be part of EVE's problem.  I don't think it is fixable; EVE on a cellphone is not viable.

A second explanation for the decline is the recession.  Here is another graph of basically the same information, which has proper axis labeling:

The plateau you can see correlates with some lag with the recession, which "began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp downward turn in September 2008".  EVE's players seem to lag the recession a bit, perhaps a year.  But wealthy as they are in world terms, they are also being pinched.  EVE is a premium game; it requires a fairly substantial amount of money to stay subscribed for the average player.  The average player does not PLEX.  He just pays his $15/month.  Over a year that is $180 -- perhaps too much for many people when they lose their job.  (I also note that part of the reason for the decline of the desktop is the recession.)

So what are the prospects for EVE?  I see the plateau, or relative decline, as largely caused by market forces.  Those same forces will bring new players to EVE, eventually.

EVE is not going to stagnate forever.  Its appeal has evidently declined in the last few years, but it still has appeal; and I cannot see that it will lose that appeal.  You know that appeal, and I know it.  So, as more and more of the world population come online not just via cell phones, but via highspeed connections with big screens, EVE will grow again.  If and when the world comes out of recession, we will see growth.

"The" path that CCP needs to follow, then, is simply to keep doing what they are doing.  Potential customers are coming online all the time.  Their woes of recent are not their fault; their product is solid.  In fact, I think they should be a little proud of holding on to as much of their customer base as they have, given the recession.  We might compare them to the makers of other entertainment during the recession.  How is movie income?   Plateau.

2 comments:

  1. First time I see someone link eve subscriptions with the recession. But it makes sense, especially when I look at my own situation.
    2013 I had some financial troubles and less eve income to PLEX accounts so was considering letting two accounts lapse and move the main characters to my active accounts.

    Now that my personal crisis is over I extended 2 accounts with a one year subscription. Depending on RL vs eve financials I might plex or pay for the two other accounts. If I want to save isk for ingame expenditures I'd have to pay for my subscription with cash. If I want to buy a second PC with cash I have to plex my accounts. Or I take the third option and don't buy as many new clothes or delay buying a dry suit for diving.

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  2. M8 i see you did excelent job. I playing EVE since 2004. All recessions happened because of EVE's sweet promises, or repressions from eve creators. PLEX system bringed a possibility to play for ppl with instable income in RL... Plex cost more $ so EVE or CCP get more income. Everyone happy, excep for players who hearing promisses... Last year (i mean end of 2012 begining of 2013) EVE started to look to client from point: If it's written in rules no exceptions, dosent matter you can understood this... They loosing clients from countries where ppl speak no english, german or russian.

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