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April is the Month to Watch for ESO: The Boom and Bust of a Volatile Gaming Population

thesarahandcompany
thesarahandcompany
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Let me start off by saying that I’m a trained econometrician (grad ed. In 2019) and that I fully understand there are limitations to this analysis. Let me also note I am not trying to break forum rules with what I’m posting, so please, ZOS mods, I would appreciate charity here if I’ve done something wrong. This is simply what happens when an econometrician is curious about something and has an hour on Sunday morning.

Now that this is out of the way…

In the world of massively multiplayer online gaming, a frequent buzz-word thrown around as often as games are created is “dead game.” Defining what, when and how a game becomes “dead” involves a close look at multiple aspects of the game – something that remains practically impossible for someone outside of a game’s company to truly ascertain. One may look at new content created, population size, company revenue, and so many other indicators of whether a game is dead or alive.

The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) has recently become subject to this buzz-word. ESO is a game with allegedly more than 190,000 active players at this time. These numbers are estimations based on subscriber numbers and online sentiment, and are most likely larger than the true population. Over the last 5 years, ESO has consistently experienced a boom and bust of players. For example, the below graphic from MMO-population.com shows that from May 2017 to April 2021, ESO had an overall positive relationship between playerbase and time, filled with booms and busts of players. By May 2021, the boom and busts continued but the relationship decidedly became negative in slope.

f857a1dzogxc.png

Data are also available for a proportion of part of ESO’s population through “Steam Charts,” a platform that conducts an ongoing analysis of steam’s concurrent players. Steam Charts provide critical data on the population size component of a game’s death and life. Brian Dean (2021) reports that steam comprises of 120 million active monthly users, including about 63 million daily active users. According to Thomas Alsop (2021),a global technology & telecommunication research expert, about nine in 10 play on a Windows 10 PC.

Steam charts show a similar pattern, as shown in the graph below. The boom and bust patterns in the MMO-population data are also reflected in the steam data. However, for steam players, the negative relationship between playerbase and time starts shifting negative in early 2020, rather than 2021. This is to say, the steam population in ESO may be very similar to the entire ESO population or the population of ESO players not counted in steam charts.

91exkvmebtlz.png

Steam Charts have monthly data as well, which allow for more granular analysis of the ESO population. According to steam charts, ESO lost 29.25% (about 5,200 players) of its active player base from February of 2022 to March of 2022. Prior to that, ESO lost 9.11% of its active player base from January 2022 to February 2022. The loss of players in steam from February 2022 to March 2022 was the largest percentage share drop in ESO steam players since February of 2016. Numerically, this was the largest drop in steam players in ESO’s history, with May 2020 just 200 less lost players than seen in March 2022.

The question now is whether ESO will boom back after these losses in April. Historically, April has been a good month for ESO in terms of active players. With the exception of 2016, April has yielded at least a 15% regrowth in playerbase for ESO every year. In April 2020, the ESO population grew a whopping 92.92% – one of the five largest player growths in ESO’s steam chart history.

Of course, I could be wrong about April. April 2020 was pandemic-oriented growth potentially. Other months have no real pattern like April but do exhibit growth sporadically. For my analysis, it appears that April is a more reliable source of information for population growth insights. Already, Steam Chart has shown about a 1% increase in April 2022 growth. Three days into the month, that is about one-third of a percent per day, which would tally up closer to 15% over the course of thirty days.

My take: I think these recent player drops were a mass exodus of end-game players. No tea, no shade: the changes to BG queues, performance issues in Cyro, lack of end-game PVE content outside of a couple dungeons and a trial every year; there’s not much to do for end-game players.

What does this mean? ZOS is living its truth. ESO does what it does best: offers casual story and questing content. Once you hit end game, some of the combat and aspects of the game keep you around, but eventually, you get everything you can out of ESO. And that’s the beauty of it: You don’t have to stay. And that’s OK.
Edited by ZOS_Hadeostry on April 3, 2022 10:52PM
Sarahandcompany
She/Her/Hers
  • thesarahandcompany
    thesarahandcompany
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    mmo-population.com shows similar spikes, and a similar recent drop, for other top games too, Destiny, WOW, FF, runescape, etc. It looks to me like a mix of Lost Ark taking players and pandemic restrictions ending and people doing other things.

    That's not to say ESO and some of the other games don't have other individual issues, but the steep drops across the genre points to something wider happening and the effect of individual issues is masked.

    Some of those big spikes are free trial induced, the April pandemic spike had the double whammy of free trial plus a lot more people with time to try it.

    I see your point but I don't think the data bear that out and I wouldn't compare ESO to a game like Destiny that is FPS or a game like FF that is decidedly PVE, or a game like WOW that isn't even on steam and is an anomaly.

    I'd compare ESO to like Guild Wars and SWTOR. ESO has a more volatile playerbase. Look at the Guild Wars historical data, a let loss volatility.

    b3nu03qhs4xr.png

    Look at a comparison of SWTOR and ESO. SWTOR has much, much smoother relatinships.

    SWTOR
    q4d7wpxn3kw3.png

    ESO (adjusted for time)
    3y6rdarrlzfn.png
    Sarahandcompany
    She/Her/Hers
  • propertyOfUndefined
    propertyOfUndefined
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    I’ve been playing a lot more since the last DLC. I actually like what hybridization did for build diversity. I only wish the coming expansion had more for somebody like me to be excited about. No new skill lines or class, so here’s to hoping the new sets are awesome.
  • spartaxoxo
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    ESO has long had and devs have pointed that it's players tend to come in waves. They leave and come back for expansions. This game also has somewhere between 1/2 to 2/3rds of it's players on console, so comparing it to PC exclusive games don't make much sense.

    Also the pandemic winding down has caused this same kind of pattern throughout the entire industry and Elden Ring coming out has also definitely been a major competitor for the current dungeon dlc. I don't see that changing anytime this month.

    High Isle will be the real test, not anything happening now.
    Edited by spartaxoxo on April 3, 2022 9:22PM
  • The_Lex
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    spartaxoxo wrote: »
    This game also has somewhere between 1/2 to 2/3rds of it's players on console...

    Source?
    PC NA | @The_Lex
    Guilds:
    Forged for War
    Art of War
    Lords of the Shaft
    Nugget Nation


    Characters (PC NA):

    Dragonknight
    Vaaljørn | Imperial Dragonknight | PvP Magicka DPS/PvE Tank | DC

    Necromancer
    Tenebris Lex | Imperial Necromancer | Magicka | DC

    Nightblade
    Dro-Zhirr the Wanderer | Khajiit Nightblade | Stamina DPS | DC
    Lex Dark-Stalker | Bosmer Nightblade | Stamina DPS | EP
    Vaanryth Fyr | Dunmer Nightblade | Stamina DPS | AD

    Sorcerer
    Worf of Sto'Vo'Kor | Orc Sorcerer | Stamina DPS | DC
    Maldarin Direnni | Altmer Sorcerer | PvP Magicka DPS / PvE Healer | EP

    Templar
    Maximus Lex | Imperial Templar | Magicka DPS | DC
    Jabs-A-Lot | Khajiit Templar | Magicka DPS | AD

    Warden
    Tyrannus Lex | Imperial Warden | Stamina DPS | EP
  • Stamicka
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    ZOS has some really hard choices to make. One big thing holding them back is continuing to support the original Xbox One and PS4. They’re very weak devices in 2022. While these devices are supported, we will be seeing a very limited amount of new features. However, new consoles are still tough to get your hands on, so pulling support from the original consoles could easily cost more players than new features would bring in.

  • thesarahandcompany
    thesarahandcompany
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    _Zathras_ wrote: »
    My take: I think these recent player drops were a mass exodus of end-game players. No tea, no shade: the changes to BG queues, performance issues in Cyro, lack of end-game PVE content outside of a couple dungeons and a trial every year; there’s not much to do for end-game players.

    What does this mean? ZOS is living its truth. ESO does what it does best: offers casual story and questing content. Once you hit end game, some of the combat and aspects of the game keep you around, but eventually, you get everything you can out of ESO. And that’s the beauty of it: You don’t have to stay. And that’s OK.

    I think that's a pretty long pitch to ask for more "end game" content, to retain a certain demographic. Or, at least to speak on their behalf..which is also very gentlemanly of you.

    At the end of the day, as you noted, it is your take. A bias, if you would. I'm not saying there shouldn't be more content of that particular type, but the data you present and your hypothesis don't necessarily have a correlation.

    For instance, speaking only for myself, I am part of the data information which contributes to the drop in logins in the last month. I am allergic to anything most people would consider "end game". My not logging in is a direct result of radio silence, and community mismanagement.

    If your larger point is retention, as in, "How do we more effectively retain this demographic", then I think the problem is larger than simply pumping out new content, after new content, when it is so easily chewed to the bone and put aside. Some other studios manage this differently, with reputation grinds, abysmal drop rates, etc., but ESO isn't that sort of game. That said, it might benefit from borrowing aspects of what their neighbors are doing, to keep up with the Jones'.

    I don't think the disaster that those numbers represents is anything near to what you are suggesting. Given the dumpster fire of these last few weeks, I think the source for the exodus is pretty obvious.

    Statistics and data talk about things in broad strokes, that's what it does. We can make generalizations or broad insights. While the community isn't a monolith, acting like there's no similarities and that every single player needs to share their specific experience in order for anything to be valid misses the point here and is just problematic thinking. Also, don't refer to me with terms like "gentlemanly" -- thanks.

    Data actually do suggest there should be more content. If you go back to Q4 2016-Q3 2018, that's era of the smoothest population/stable population on steam charts. Which is around Summerset. When there was more content. It's what someone else indicated above.

    I don't think you can also deflect any of this onto the login issues of last weeks. Or Lost Ark. As there have been significant declines like this at almost similar levels (like May 2020). All of these things take place after summerset, when there is significantly less robust content being produced, ontop of compounding performance issues and PvP neglect.
    Sarahandcompany
    She/Her/Hers
  • Jaraal
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    Stamicka wrote: »
    ZOS has some really hard choices to make. One big thing holding them back is continuing to support the original Xbox One and PS4. They’re very weak devices in 2022. While these devices are supported, we will be seeing a very limited amount of new features. However, new consoles are still tough to get your hands on, so pulling support from the original consoles could easily cost more players than new features would bring in.

    They didn't have any problem with cutting the 32 bit PC players shortly after Morrowind. If they expect to stay relevant, they need to keep up with the tech. Otherwise they will end up losing the people with the new systems over gutting the game to cater to the old tech. I know I'm not the only one who has abandoned housing because of their refusal to raise the furnishing limits for these giant houses they sell. And they have specifically stated that those limits remain because the memory of the first gen consoles can't handle any more furnishings.


    Edited by Jaraal on April 3, 2022 10:00PM
    RIP Bosmer Nation. 4/4/14 - 2/25/19.
  • Stamicka
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    Jaraal wrote: »
    Stamicka wrote: »
    ZOS has some really hard choices to make. One big thing holding them back is continuing to support the original Xbox One and PS4. They’re very weak devices in 2022. While these devices are supported, we will be seeing a very limited amount of new features. However, new consoles are still tough to get your hands on, so pulling support from the original consoles could easily cost more players than new features would bring in.

    They didn't have any problem with cutting the 32 bit PC players shortly after Morrowind. If they expect to stay relevant, they need to keep up with the tech. Otherwise they will end up losing the people with the new systems over gutting the game to cater to the old tech. I know I'm not the only one who has abandoned housing because of their refusal to raise the furnishing limits for these giant houses they sell. And they have specifically stated that those limits remain because the memory of the first gen consoles can't handle any more furnishings.


    I’m with you, I’d like to see them stop supporting older consoles and PCs too. I’d even like to see Stadia and Xbox Cloud support ditched too. Unfortunately I don’t think this will happen.
  • Aldoss
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    _Zathras_ wrote: »
    To be honest, your replies are really dismissive and fairly aggressive towards the people who are taking their time to reply to your OP.

    To be fair, you quoted someone whose account name contains "sarah" and either accidentally (best case) or purposefully (worst case) misgendered her. I'd be dismissive too.

  • _Zathras_
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    Aldoss wrote: »
    _Zathras_ wrote: »
    To be honest, your replies are really dismissive and fairly aggressive towards the people who are taking their time to reply to your OP.

    To be fair, you quoted someone whose account name contains "sarah" and either accidentally (best case) or purposefully (worst case) misgendered her. I'd be dismissive too.

    Yeah.. let's leave gender politics out of this. "Gentlemanly" is a word used in lieu of "courteous", or "honorable". It doesn't need to be taken any further than that.

    Also, I never assume gender on the internet. Anyone can be anyone, name, avatar, or whatever. There are places where you can have gender neutral discussions; these forums generally aren't that location.

    Besides, there is the rest of the reply to me, and to others, that I was referring to. Their tone isn't conducive to a civil discussion. It's about how they are right, and we are wrong.

    Edited by _Zathras_ on April 3, 2022 10:42PM
  • drunkendx
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    No I think I'm qualified to give my insight and analysis. Bless your heart.

    And I don't think so.

    Same as Ukranian war brough out sea of "war experts" who think they are qualified to "conclude how war is fought", so "dead game" talks bring "experts" who think they know how to deduct if game is dying or not.

    Only ZOS has data that let's them see if ESO is dying or not, everybody else just throws out wild guesses, no matter how qualified they think they are.
  • ZOS_Hadeostry
    Greetings everyone,

    As this thread has run its course and is no longer constructive, we are now going to close it. We always encourage sharing opinions, but we ask that they remain respectful when doing so.

    Thank you for your understanding, and please keep the Community Rules in mind when posting on the forums.
    Staff Post
This discussion has been closed.