Lets Talk About PCU

Greetings Fellow Empyreans it is I, Ashterothi and boy am I tired about hearing about PCU.

In 2019 playerbase pointed to flagging PCU count as evidence that there were problems in the game that needed to be addressed. Now with the PCU again sinking down to low 20k, once again players are crying out about how bad EVE Online is doing.

So let’s talk a bit about the PCU.

The PCU or “Peak Concurrent Users” is a measure of the most number of accounts that are logged into Tranquility at any given time on any given day. It does not count how many people login in a day, only how many are logged in when the most people are logged in that day. This makes PCU a terrible stat to determine health for several reasons:

  • It disproportionately counts AFK players and playstyles - long play sessions are more likely to be online during the peak count for the day, and thus more likely to be counted
  • It disproportionately counts multiboxers - Likewise people with multiple accounts logged in, especially a large number of accounts logged in will have a big impact on the PCU as they push up the logged in numbers more for an individual. Players having several accounts logged in at once does not necessarily indicate a healthy game
  • It doesn’t account for playstyles that don’t involve logging in - There are lots of people who play the game without being logged in to do what they do.
  • It doesn’t include any measure of actual activity - It only measures if someone is logged in, including people just sitting in the station.

So PCU is a pretty terrible stat to use to gauge the health of the game and it’s playerbase. So why do we use it? Well because simply it is the only such statistic we have access to. This is the same problem we ran into in 2019, especially as CCP started to crack down on bots during and after Blackout, the PCU dropped further and caused people to cry out that the sky was falling. At the time CCP discussed a lot of this in EVE Vegas 2019 and people started to quiet up about it as by May of 2020 the PCU was 25% above what it was in May of 2019.

CCP has far better metrics to understand player behavior, and while they showed us a glimpse of what they have, we simply do not have access to this information on an ongoing basis.

All that said, the current PCU chart for EVE Online measuring from Jan of this year is quite stark, leading many to suggest that EVE Online is “falling off a cliff”, and I will admit at first glance it is quite striking.

You can see starting in June we have a sharp downward slope from 30k average and 25k lows to about 23k average with 20k lows. That is a huge drop in a short amount of time, but what could be causing it? Industrial changes? Capital nerfs? Microtransactions? I don’t believe so…

Often when looking at this PCU graph people like to compare it to last years which makes it look even worse by comparison:

This graph, which shows the same range of time (Jan though Jul) of 2020 does show a bit of a slump at the beginning of June, but not nearly as significant. However, the bigger anomaly is that while the PCU was steady from January to May of 2021, you see a jump in April 2020 that means that even if it does dip a little bit in June, it is still far above the pre-April counts.

So what happened in Late March 2020?

On March 19 2020 the State of California became the first State in the US to issue a Stay-at-home order due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By April of 2020 the vast majority of Nations from which EVE players come from were under lockdown. There is also a spike in new accounts to correspond with this.

In addition to this, we do see that while the 2020 numbers did slump some at the beginning of June but by the July it appears to have picked up again, why is that?

On June 21st Legacy forces delivered a message to Imperium that the ‘The Die is cast’ signaling the start of the War for Delve that has been going on ever since. This war used the lockdown to drive an extreme amount of excitement and activity within EVE and yet never hit the yearly PCU of May, right after Lockdown was announced. While this may suggest that the was wasn’t as impactful as many would expect on PCU count (only really helps if the big fight happens in peak hours), it more just shows that the Wars numbers were simply covering up what would be the normal “Summer Slump”

If you look at the same time period from years other than 2020 you start to see a pattern within the PCU in June. The 2019 chart looks like this:

While it is not as pronounced as 2021, in 2019 you can see that the PCU remains relatively flat throughout January through June with a falloff starting around June. Additionally you can see the entirety of 2019 was lower, with the Average PCU of this time being 25k as opposed to now at 31k or last year at 32k.

2018 shows a similar picture.

Although it has a 32k average, you can see once again that it starts to fall off again in June, and 2017 is even closer to 2021s trend.

In fact going back you can see an overall trend every year to start to see a slump in the beginning of June.

Another thing to think about, as was pointed out by CCP Larrikin in that 2019 talk, bots have a huge impact on the PCU numbers, and thus CCP going after bots aggressively can be seen as a drop in PCU numbers. Additionally, CCP has been going after AFK gameplay and activities that favor large scale multiboxing for hours at a time, but most specifically for this discussion they introduced the Mobile Observatory on June 8th, ending AFK cloaky camping as we know it. We have no real way of knowing how many AFK cloaky campers stopped operating after that, but we can safely assume that it would have an impact on the PCU numbers as AFK cloaky campers would almost certainly be logged in with all of their accounts during peak time.

So in conclusion, what may seem like the sky is falling can be reasonably understood as a combination of these four factors:

  • End of lockdown and players of the game interested in doing activities outside of the house
  • Slowdown in the War - with no progress by PAPI forces in over a month the war has ground down and players engaged in it are not logging in as much or for as long
  • Mobile Observatory ended AFK cloaky camping which disproportionately impacted the PCU
  • The normal “Summer Slump” which always begins in June

So Chicken Little you can go back to the shed. It’s fine, you’re fine, everything’s fine.

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TL;DR PCU has been stable for years, with small peaks and valleys here and there.

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That’s a pretty long winded way of blaming everything on anything but the game. The trend toward a blatant cash grab live services model has nothing at all to do with the drop in PCU.

Right? RIGHT???

Mr Epeen :sunglasses:

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I just let my subscription lapse. Not because anything CCP did. Because I play this game for the community / social element. The community has never been worse then it is now, you can’t go anywhere without seeing people spew hatred. They’re not thinking about the long term health of the game, just their short term satisfaction. This is mob mentality in action.

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TL;DR: nothing to worry about. All of the evidence is bad, but the evidence is deeply flawed.

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I think all those “EVE dying” feelings ( because at this point, and without concrete proof from a reliable source, they remain feelings ) stem from, in part, the fact that CCP isn’t telling us everything and that there’s a large amount of paranoia and distrust towards CCP that can lead many people to think that if EVE was dying, CCP would remain silent and pretend nothing’s the matter until one day the servers are shut down abruptly without explanation.
Just my 2 cents, for what they’re worth.

As for myself, I’m not overly worried about it. I think EVE still has plenty of years ahead of it and, hopefully, decades even.
And if those people who quit are multiboxers, bot accouns and AFK players, so much the better.

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it doesnt take much math to figure out that numbers have been bloated by homebound covid players logging in. as that recedes and summer is here, numbers logically will drop. additionally , i am guilty of leaving all of my accounts logged in whether i am at the keyboard or not. a simple survey of alliance members shows a general trend down in play time as so many changes , especially those affecting mining and industry have made the game into work. anecdotal information tells us that EVE playerbase is shrinking. recycled events and a dependance on abyssal crap as the content isnt helping. CCP needs to look at the MER and figure out that unless the big war livens up again they are going to shed even more players due to lack of real content for all playstyles.,

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One drama attention thread closed, another one opened…

The changes that have been happening are to counter lazy/afk/grind/bot play styles that scale well with extra characters and accounts, in favour of “normal” less grindy and more interactive play styles. That means that CCP made these changes with that in mind, they knew that would happen.

Obviously the grind/afk/botter alts are going to cry and whine but what I don’t understand is why people look at the dropping PCU (which is an obvious and direct result of the changes CCP has made) and THEN try to frame it as something that is wrong, something that CCP apparently needs to be told about and somehow shows the health of the game.

Pro tip: no one is going to miss the grind/afk/bot alt account army, apart from the owners of those alt armies.

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And maybe the people who collected monthly subscription fees from those accounts.

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No because as said they knew this would happen. Also I do hope you’re not trying to convince others that you care for that unless of course you’re trying to use that information to back your personal ideas on what should or shouldn’t have happened.

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Wait. What? Do you think CCP reads these posts?

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Where did you get THAT from?

The only people who think their stupid crying and whining is read by CCP are the ones creating those threads.

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lol

That clears it all up .

I, for one, sure won’t.

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The numbers for newly created characters per day are extremely deceptive. Most of those are just throwaway spam and bot alts of existing people. For instance, there is a guy in Amarr, Jita and Perimeter that keeps creating a new char every single day that keeps spamming the same hypernet offer with a ui pointer in the message. Every day I block and report the char and every day I come back, he has a new char up spamming. These kinds of chars account for the bulk of these 1.3M new created chars that CCP Hillmar is so proud of when he talks about EVE player numbers and growth.

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Gotta be honest man after your “hot take” on the micro transaction debacle I don’t much care about anything you have to say. You trying to justify their greed to stay in the good graces of the developers is kinda slimy.

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I don’t disagree with most of what you’ve said. In fact, I’ve made similar arguments myself.

However, I would not go so far as to say everything is fine. Of course, this is casual observation, but there seems to be a marked increase in quitting threads, even the people that have been understanding and patient with resource scarcity seem to be getting tired of it, and the newbie plex ad certainly pissed a lot of people off at a particularly bad time. Yes, in-game and RL events are likely playing a big role in people logging off, but I’d bet my bottom iskie that frustration towards CCP is exacerbating their effect.

For example, it does indeed look like player numbers are dipping across the industry. However, they are certainly not cratering everywhere. And Dota2 apparently had an update or event that helped them to actually increase their numbers. It might not be by a huge amount, but considering what’s going on across the gaming industry right now, I’d say that they’re doing something right.

Eve Online
Sunday May 16th - 33,758
Sunday June 20th - 26,045
Percent Decrease - 22.8%

Counter Strike: Global Offensive (SteamCharts)
Sunday May 16th – 913,838
Sunday June 20th – 806,350
Percent Decrease – 11.8%

DOTA2 (SteamCharts)
Sunday May 16th – 593,576
Sunday June 20th – 630,863
Percent INCREASE – 6.3%

PUBG (SteamCharts)
Sunday May 16th – 385,489
Sunday June 20th – 376,704
Percent Decrease – 2.3%

Apex Legends (SteamCharts)
Sunday May 16th - 253,771
Sunday June 20th - 246,283
Percent Decrease – 3.0%

I appreciate what you’re trying to do, and, I’m most certainly not ready to give up on Eve myself. But, I sure hope CCP is paying attention, because I do think that we have a problem. Hopefully, they’ve got something in the pipeline for fall, when players traditionally start coming back.

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I’m going to have to disagree. I lived in NPC Null many years ago and what you’d see in local would make a truck driver’s eyes bleed.

Even Jita local was a constant barrage of racial and gender bashing prominently featuring language and terms that would get me banned real quick if I posted them here. The forums were so poorly moderated that some really twisted ■■■■ was allowed to stay posted on the regular.

No. I’m going to say not much has changed. Toxic then and toxic still.

Mr Epeen :sunglasses:

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Wheres theres smoke theres fire. There 1 sentence.

I would argue this shows the effect of the end of lockdown, and possibly a bit of the “summer slump” as it impacts game in general. However, the ‘end’ of the war, and the changes in AFK gameplay magnifies this change in EVE Online. That was my whole point.

That said, spot on about DOTA. It shows that there is a universe in which CCP did the “perfect” thing during this time and actually increase player count during this period, but that is to basically say ‘it could have been better’.