I saw on facebook today that CCP announced it reached over 500,000 subscriptions. I went to twitter and I congratulated them on the accomplishment but ended my tweet with "but how many are alts?"
A discussion arose in which another tweeter, DJ Wiggles of EVE Radio fame, posited that the accomplishment is a good thing regardless if the player base has actually grown or not. I disagree and this post is going to explain why.
A few years back I read about a research study looking at the effects of industrial fishing, especially in regards to the practice of keeping only the largest fish and little the smaller ones go, ostensibly to allow the population to remain stable. Sustainability if you will.
The problem the researchers found was that this selection put downward pressure on the average size of the fish species that this applied to. When stress was put on the population it was determined that smaller fish were more likely to die from the conditions than larger fish were. That is to say, the larger fisher had more resources to survive the adverse conditions than the smaller fish. Therefore the practice of letting the little ones go was actually making the population more vulnerable to die off.
How does this apply to Eve? Well, I'm getting there.
The correlation is not direct but the principle is similar. If the subscriptions increase but the playerbase does not, this does not mean that the game is growing. It simply means that more people want active alt accounts. Yes, this means more cash flow for CCP and more money to invest into their games, but at the same time it means that the game is proportionally more vulnerable to catastrophic failure upon some Incarna-level like stress. That is to say, as the number of players with alt accounts grows, then as those players burn out / move on / rage quit over time, and there is not many new players coming in to replace them, the impact is greater and business plans more fragile.
Its worth noting as well that those "subscription" numbers are worldwide and include Serenity server, the dedicated Chinese shard. How much are those numbers impacting the overall totals since it was restarted in June of last year? How many of these growing subscription numbers are part of Playstation console players trying Eve due to the Dust 514 game, and how long will they stay?
Without the raw numbers and their sources, we are left to guess how much the announcement is actually good news and how much is good spin.
P.S. Fiction Friday coming back next week!