You, me & EVE (Part 1)

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss EVE’s player activity slump and the price of fish.  Or was it PLEX?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I want to talk about a broad range of the issues as I see them within and beyond EVE itself.  Let’s start with a couple of current hot topics, player activity and the PLEX market.  Because there just isn’t enough speculation already. 😉

It was noted back at Fanfest that CCP did not make their customary announcement that EVE had enjoyed yet another year of sustained growth like they have every year previously.  It has also been well noted in numerous places that EVE’s Average Concurrent User count has fallen hard this year, even harder than usual for the regular annual summer slump. Nosy Gamer does a nice job looking over the past couple of expansion going back to the launch of Retribution.

The short version?  Retribution (and stories like the Battle of Asakai) was a big hit drawing in lots of player activity, then Odyssey was a huge bust seeing those gains wiped out.  Rubicon brought some of that activity back and retained it for longer and around the Battle of B-R5RB was a huge spike but numbers have been dropping hard since.  There was a modest rebound around Fanfest and Kronos but numbers keep falling.  The run up to Crius and the focus on industry certainly doesn’t seem to be generating much activity.

If my own activity level is a reflection of the rest of you, I can see why Nosy’s chart is looking so rough.  I really haven;t been putting in the hours and by the looks of things I’m far from being the only one.  Of course it doesn’t get much more cheerful once you start thinking about this stuff, so consider yourself warned.  This may get melancholy…

You may recall that last year’s (2013) Fanfest announcement was that EVE had gained subscribers over the past year, but that  CCP were now including the subscription numbers for the newly re-launched Chinese server, Serenity, along with the Tranquility total.  That raised some eyebrows at the time and seemed a questionable move to make after keeping the two apart historically.  Personally, I suspect that the drop in TQ’s player numbers was showing back then and without the extra Serenity accounts CCP might not have been able to make their claim for a full decade of consecutive growth.

Consider the community analysis of the ACU counts falling over recent months or the oft-remarked upon plateau in PCU numbers (and the implied stagnation in subscription growth it represents) over a much longer time span.  Add in to that CCP’s recent staff layoffs and the cancellation of World of Darkness.  It seems an inescapable conclusion that EVE has indeed been losing subscribers above and beyond any historic fluctuations and that CCP have been staring those numbers in the face for awhile now.  They have tightened their belts.

Let us now briefly touch on the PLEX market.  Kirith Kodachi has a nice little post that sums up my thoughts quite well.  Prices are up while traded volumes are down.  I suspect that the reason is fairly simple.

Players who purchase PLEX to sell for ISK, do so to fund their gameplay.  If players are spending less time playing the game, then they are going through less ISK and don’t need to buy/sell so many PLEX to fund themselves.  So less PLEX reach the market.  Everyone who uses PLEX for their subs on the other hand still want to buy and are doing so, pushing prices up as the supply diminishes.  If the high price of PLEX is indeed having an impact on subs, then it is probably mostly players consolidating accounts and cutting back on alts.

Some players might choose to leave the game entirely, but I suspect that it is a relatively small number. Those who use PLEX arguably have good enough income streams established to find the ISK for it while the rest of us just pay for our subs using actual money anyway because we either don’t have the time to grind ISK or are too lazy to do so in the first place.   These are also the same people who might consider purchasing PLEX in order to sell for ISK in the first place (although not me personally, I just stay space-poor!).

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new ship skins, dual character training etc as a factor in pushing up price, but I think the reduced volume is probably down to a reduction in player activity reducing their need to put PLEX on the market.   And so we have declining player activity and rising PLEX prices.

In the next post I’ll get to the point of why I think player activity is falling.

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