The release of the CSM election data is always interesting, because it gives us a snapshot of EVE Online’s subscriber numbers on Tranquility (the server that hosts non-Chinese players). After nearly every CSM election, CCP has reported on two important values: the number of votes cast, and the percentage of the total accounts that cast a vote. Now, I say nearly every CSM election, because CCP stopped giving that all-important percentage with CSM9[1].

To see the numbers in an overall context, examine first the results from every CSM election, from the first to the ninth:

To determine the number of subscribers during the 2014 CSM9 election, we have to engage in some guesswork. We can safely assume that the percentage of total subscribers that voted did not increase from the previous year. I feel that most interested parties are assuming, across the board, that the percentage of total subscribers fell for the second straight year. The question is, how much did it fall?

My gut feeling is that the voter turnout fell to around 8.0% to 8.5%. Gut feelings, don’t count. So let’s just run a range of different numbers for CSM 9.

For EVE Online to have maintained even the same number of subscribers as the previous year would have required a voting turnout of 7.6%. Bear in mind that voting turnout for the CSM has never dipped below 7.36%, but in recent years has not gone below 12.12%. Also bear in mind that a CSM election has never experienced a single year decline of more than 4.5%. Which is why I feel that a 4.0% decline this year is a safe and reasonable target.

It’s certainly possible that the turnout was in the 7.5% to 6.5% range, and that total subscribers rose. I just don’t think that’s a reasonable guesstimate, especially when taking into account a number of other factors happening within CCP Games.

What are those other factors?

CCP Games has always been happy to let us know when their subscriber numbers have increased, thus the inclusion of the voter turnout percentages in their CSM election result devblogs. This year is the first time that CCP Games has chosen to eliminate those numbers from their reporting.

CCP Games’ sudden change in development strategy for EVE Online. CCP hasn’t made such a sudden about-face in development strategy since Incarna, when they were faced with mass unsubscriptions. That about-face enabled them to entice those unsubs to return and to post a modest increase in subscriber numbers.

Layoffs. CCP has seemed quite happy to shovel money into World of Darkness while subs were increasing. This year they decided to call it quits. It might be because the revenue forecast is not quite as rosy as it’s always been.

High profile departures of upper and middle management personalities. Granted, people will always move between jobs, but I don’t think we’ve seen so many high profile employees leave in such a short time span.

The peak concurrent user numbers fell off a cliff between February and April of this year (see image below). Whereas PCU count is not always reflective of total subscribers (since some people don’t play while continuing to pay for their account) a significant drop in PCU suggests a drop in subscriber numbers. Not everyone who stops playing is going to continue paying for a dormant account.

Is it possible that subscriber numbers remained as-is or even increased over the past year? Certainly. I don’t personally think the evidence points to that conclusion, but as long as CCP Games keeps their numbers out of the public eye, then anything is possible.

If CCP Games has in fact seen a dip in EVE Online subscribers, can they regain those lost players? They did it after Incarna. They changed development direction, released Crucible, and pulled a bad situation out of the fire. CCP Games is once again changing development direction, promising players that they will start to look at long languishing systems (sovereignty, player-owned starbases, corporate roles). Will that be enough? Hopefully. But only time will tell.

[1] The calculation of the CSM8 subscriber numbers was a different process than previous CSM elections, since they didn’t supply the voter turnout percentage directly, rather supplying regional election data. See the following links for more information: CSM8 Total Subscribers Calculation and CSM8 Election Results.

– Poetic Stanziel

Poetic Stanziel is Nerd Soliloquy. Basically a nerd and geek culture buff. Writing words on all of it. You can read more of his work make sure to visit his Nerd Soliloquy blog.

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