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Nov 28, 2005



As an Econ. Ph.D., such kind of researches sounds fasinating to me. In addition to simple statistic analysis, it will also be very interesting (and rewarding) to look into more profounded interactions, such as the elasticity of player number to subscription price, or to server population. As far as data is concerned, online games provide an unprecedented great environment to do economic analysis because everything happened in the virtual world are already digitalized. However, for now, external researchers are largely deprived of the access to the necessary data. I am also worrying that detailed data long time ago has already been discarded by the game companies.

I believe that the time will come when the competitions among MMOGs are so intensive that the developers/publishers desperately need to retain old players or to attract new players. More money should be spent on economic consulting - especially for recruiting millions of players that will eventually get tired of WOW and start to look for another online game.


I know city of heroes has a finder that used to list all the non-hidden heroes. Briefly, when City of Villains went live, you could search both, but that's since been curbed. Heroes only see heroes. Villains, the other bad guys.

Popping between the two on my preferred server (Liberty) last week, I found 1,600+ on CoH, 2,000 on CoV with the server at "green" status. This weekend, I didn't check, but servers were all "yellow" every time I logged in.

The problem with these numbers (on some games) is that they might not include hidden players. I've noticed that the player base has a nasty habit of doing unannounced cross-zone invites, which many of us find annoying, so if we're not already grouped, we're on hide. How many of us are hidden at one time, I don't know.


As for the "generation gap" issue... well, you can see that in many games as the "veterans" become hostile to the potential new influx of kids.

On Star Wars Galaxies, when the NGE hinted toward a console version in the works, guild members, civic leaders, and players who I always considered very open minded started circling the wagons- warning everyone not to be too generous to the "new kids" and make them earn their way.

I used to go to Mos Eisley with "greeter packs" to help people get over the starter barrier, and I wasn't alone. Now, when I'm there (there are a considerable number of new characters/rerolls/free trial users) I see more veterans heckling. Of particular note were the "elder jedi" who feel particularly hard hit by the changes and the fact that anyone can roll a jedi from the start.


So, I logged into City of Heroes, which just seemed to attract a more virtuous player (for the most part... as in all games, but my experiences were always that the costume brought out the best of many) and what did I find?

People warning about the "star wars exodus" and how those "long-term SWG players" were always so venomous... they should be avoided.... By the end of the night, I heard people complaining how the new players "have it so easy" by getting financial assistance and powerleveling to 50.


Subscriber figures are generally considered proprietary information in the Western market. EverQuest used to list how many people were logged onto a server, but they changed that a while ago when some of the newer games came out.

The reason for this is the herd mentality of players. If people see (or even thing) that populations are falling, then it becomes a self-reinforcing prophecy. Obviously the game isn't popular anymore, so people leave for the next big thing. By not exposing numbers easily to people, it becomes harder to judge how many people are showing up or leaving.

For example, how many people really left due to the recent changes in SWG? A number greater than 0 is about all we can absolutely know without someone leaking/whispering the number. If outsiders knew the numbers, then it would affect things. If a significant number of people had left, then the players would make a louder ruckus, and it would likely chase more people off. On the other hand, if numbers grew than SOE can put out a press release and settle the issue once and for all.

Some insight from the dev side of things.

Have fun,


I've always found SirBruce's work useful when trying to find out how the various MMO's are doing;


Certainly not official numbers by any means, but he's careful to point out the particular accuracies of his sources, and it makes for believable ball-park figures in the absence of anything more concrete.

It seems to have been a while since he last updated though, so there isn't any NGE data on there. Quite a relevant link anyway, although it is per game, rather than per server.


Square Enix also publishes a special "Census" once every year in which it reveals many statistic figures from the game like login time, race and job distribution, linkshell (similar to "guilds") activity etc.

4th (2004): http://www.playonline.com/ff11us/survey/

5th (2005): http://www.playonline.com/ff11us/event/survey/

For example you can check highs and lows of login time:

When you combine it with "/sea all" command in FFXI you cen get approximate numbers of active people on the server. Multiply it by 30 and you'll get a total number of consecutive logins in FFXI.


SirBruce's data on game populations are widely seen as valuable if not 100% accurate (you might be surprised at how many business plans, venture fund plans, and industry reports contain data from his site).

Aside from accounting for marketing bloat and an increasing unwillingness for people to communicate (or leak) "real" numbers, there are some difficulties in relating monthly subscriber numbers to player numbers in Asian games. This is exacerbated by games that have a free-play option or that have a different play style than the typical MMOG.

As a result, most people now seem to key on average concurrent player numbers to gauge actual game populations. So naturally, game companies have begun to hide or bloat those numbers -- everyone wants to be seen as having more players than they do (well, everyone except a few like Teppy at eGenesis, who is one of the few remaining game devs who is forthright about his player base, no matter its population).

Paradoxically, one result of this bloat and dissembling is that execs and investors often trust populational numbers less (since "everybody lies"), enabling them to discount the continued growth in the market. If we had better data, overall we'd have a better business case.


I don't know about CoH's, but EVE-Online seems to be welcoming the SWG refugees with open arms. Of course, this isn't their first time with this -- a lot of Earth and Beyond folks ended up there.


Eve recently hit 17000 online users within a single universe (don't want to say 'server' because it's a cluster), since that's what we seem to be talking about here.

Some websites have actually been plotting this, which you can see an example of here: http://www.eve-online.de/page_serverstatus.php?serverid=1


NCSoft Korea gave me some numbers for Lineage 2 while I was there... they can support a max of 4000 players on each of 30 servers - they average 80-90k concurrently (so 3k each per server, similar to Mia's FFXI numbers), but can handle up to 120,000 players at once.

Here's a techie paper on the topic...


*sigh*. I admit, one of the things I really like about EVE-Online is their dev blogs. Getting to read the juicy details on how and why they're making changes (not to mention the best part -- talk about their hardware setup and application coding) is nice.

Reading the "whys and wheres" make painful changes easier to handle, especially coming from people who honsestly see this as more than a job.


Morat> EVE-Online seems to be welcoming the SWG refugees with open arms.

Slightly OT, but to follow up on this observation, the notion of "SWG refugees" has got to be one of the more interesting social phenomena in the overall MMOG world in some time.

If this exodus is really happening, it raises a raft of questions. For example:

* Has a mass migration of the scale we're told is happening ever happened in the MMOG universe before? What if we exclude voluntarily moves to a new version of one's existing game world -- has there even been such a diaspora of unhappy gamers?

* Where are the majority of the SWG refugees going? Are they quitting MMOGs entirely, or switching to new MMOGs? If the latter, which MMOGs are picking up the most new subscribers... and why those particular MMOGs?

* If a SWG refugee is unhappy enough to switch, they're likely to be very vocal about it on the public discussion forums for their new MMOG home. Any repercussions there for SOE? What about the refugees themselves -- how will the existing players/forum users perceive the refugees, especially if the refugees spend most of their time complaining about how they feel they were treated?

* How do the operators of the various MMOG worlds feel about a taking in a large influx of unhappy SWG refugees? Are these migrants viewed as desirable for their subscriber numbers, or undesirable if they are perceived as unhappy gamers who could potentially "infect" existing players with their negativity?

* Is there any problem in using the word "refugees" to describe people who voluntarily left an online computer game? Does our using the word cheapen its value in describing people who have been forced from their communities by war, famine, disease, or natural disaster?

There is definitely some juicy research material here just waiting to be explored....



You might troll through the EVE forums about the time Earth and Beyond folded. I didn't play E&B, but I understand that the EVE folks not only welcomed them, they made some sort of deal with E&B to transfer remaining account time to EVE -- CCP actively marketed the E&B crowd to give EVE a chance.

If I understand correctly, one of the larged EVE corps was formed solely from those leaving E&B.

Now, SWG is unique in this sort of mass exodus with the game still running.

Speaking for myself, I went from SWG to World of Warcraft and City of Heroes, and then later tried out EVE. I'm a sample-size of one, but what stuck most with me was:

1) There are lots of whiners on the forums at WoW and CoH (less at EVE, but I think their demographics are VERY different), over crap that wasn't 1/100th as aggravating as stuff SOE did daily.
2) Shock and awe at professionalism of the developement and customer service employees. It was NOTHING like Galaxies.

SOE taught me to tolerate nerfs, and to appreciate good customer service. I could *never* go back to SWG after having experienced professional-level quality.

From looking around, it looks like the SWG people picked up and scattered -- sometimes entire guilds picked a new game (not unusual -- I know guilds that have been together since the MUD days almost) and went, other times people just chose at random.

I would imagine WoW got a good share -- but not as much as you would think, since it has a bad rep. among the SWG crowd. SWG had a solid virtual world element, and I find WoW's crafting system to be really shallow. But I find the gameplay and PvE content to make up for it. I'm not a powergamer, so my highest level toon is only 38.

EVE probably got more than their market share would indicate, because it's not only Sci-Fi, but has a complex crafting and economy -- a good place for all those weaponsmiths, armorsmiths, and merchants who played SWG to be crafters.

I heard quite a bit about guilds preparing for upcoming games -- DDO, Star Trek Online, and Dark and Light came up a lot.

The thing about SWG's players though, is a large portion of them are the sort to buy multiple accounts. They're a boon for any game that gets them -- if you don't shaft them, they tend to put in for the long haul.


Bart - you missed out persecution and opression. What are the differences between a game company nerfing a style of play (perhaps till it's no longer a fun and valid primary gameplay mechanic), and some forms of political opression or discrimination?

Bart - you missed out persecution and opression. What are the differences between a game company nerfing a style of play (perhaps till it's no longer a fun and valid primary gameplay mechanic), and some forms of political opression or discrimination?
It's easier to quit a game than a country?

Would you like to go double or nothing to 2 cents and say if you think that means that it's impossible to be driven to leave a MMOG because you feel persecuted by the developers, or if that, while conforming to what may be required to be a refugee, represents an application of the word that trivialises the meaning?


I'd say it's absolutely possible to feel you're being persecuted or driven out of a game by developers -- there's a strong history of some types of game play being ignored (or even actively removed) in favor of other, more popular, styles.

Whether or not that was the developers intent (or whether they even realized it) isn't really important.

Persecution, of course, is a loaded word -- it can mean anything from "hunting you down and kiling you" to "You won't let me hunt that guy down and kill him". Real life trivilizes the word often enough -- virtual life can't do it any more harm.

As for "refugee" -- the word simple means someone who has fled one land from another. Insofar as you can get "refugees" in virtual worlds, Galaxies seems to be an ideal example, as loyal customers were driven out by game changes seemingly designed to crush their play style.

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