The Nosy Gamer posted some analysis of ship kills in low sec in the first half of 2013 and 2014. His post is well worth the read, but I found it rather limited. So, I looked a bit more at the monthly ship kills in null and low in 2013 and 2014. Monthly totals are hard to analyze, given how much variation exists in monthly activities year by year in a game as big as EVE, but the numbers indicate a few things about the health of the game and the amount of content—in terms of ship kills—occurring in game. (For more metrics of player activities, such as jumps and NPC kills, see my original post.)
First, though, I will just recap the points I made in my original post, since it was pretty much too long:
1) The drop in the ACU over the past few months is of course a bad sign—I don't think anyone thinks otherwise. However, I argued, looked at in isolation it paints a much more negative picture of the state of EVE than it does when paired with other statistics, and the drop admits of many explanations, from regression toward the mean to the drop in alt accounts (as opposed to the game simply all of a sudden being terrible!). Of course, if you want to revel in pessimism about EVE, feel free to just look at the drop in the ACU in isolation.
2) Looked at as a whole, in terms of a few types of player activities, 2014 is decent compared to 2013, and in some ways better. So, the idea that EVE is in a spiral of stagnation is a bit overblown, even if there are real problems with new player retention as well as a growing problem of alt retention. [E.g., "The stagnation in null sec is killing the game CCP, and its really starting to show. You're running out of time," is probably one such exaggeration about the poor state of null--see more below.]
That said, let's look at the monthly ship kills in the first half of 2013 compared with 2014 thus far, starting this time with null sec:
While perhaps not killing supers as fast as many of us would like, null sec ain't doing that bad in terms of ship kills by month compared to 2013. Jan-Mar was modestly better than 2013. The decline in the ACU occurs primarily from April to June, 2014, yet May remained better in terms of ship kills than it was in 2013, with June only 2k kills less. And remember, in May of 2013 there was, on May 5th, a record-breaking 65,303 concurrent users online. Make of these numbers what you will--maybe it is just due to HERO. whelping a huge amount of cheap ships? What matters is that people are undocked, exploding ships, and doing it a bit more than in that record-breaking year of 2013. So, regardless of the ACU and the serious hurdles facing EVE etc., things are not as bad as the drop in the ACU suggests.
Let's turn to monthly ship kills in low sec in 2013 and 2014 (I've included 2012 for reference here):
There are two noticeable things worth pointing out. First, the first four months of 2014 kicked the crap out of 2013 in terms of low sec ship kills--and, remember, 2013 was by most accounts one of the best years for the game by most statistical metrics. In fact, there was over 100,000 more ship kills in low sec in 2014 than in 2013 in February and just about in March as well. However the rest of 2014 goes, that's a huge accomplishment for low sec and something every low sec PVPer should be proud of. Then, of course, the drop in the ACU catches up to low sec, and we see a drop in ship kills, putting May and June a bit behind 2013. Keep in mind that Brave Newbies--a massive source of players and content--largely moved to null in March, roughly the same time we see the drop in ship kills in low sec. So, it's likely that the Brave's move from Barl to (largely) null has drawn activity from low sec and into null. Most PVPers probably knew this already, though.
So, by this metric, the ACU is indeed being felt in low sec PVP activity in May and June, but don't let this overshadow the fact that overall 2014 has been a good year for low sec, with the downward trend relative to 2013 only coming in the past two months.
Finally, let's combine these graphs and see what low plus null looks like for 2014:
The first four months of 2014, in terms of ship kills in low plus null, were significantly better than in 2013, no doubt about that. A downward trend exists in both months in April, but it hit 2014 a bit harder. The downward trend in May and June in 2014, though, is not that bad--only a difference of some 20k kills in May and 40k kills in June. All of this suggests that the state of EVE in 2014 is a lot more complex than simple analyses portray. It also suggests that the drop in the ACU is worse, overall, than the drop in certain player activities such as ship kills--so far at least.
Even if the rest of 2014 continues the downward trend, I'm still impressed with how well it has gone so far (never forget regression to the mean!). What most of us know, though, is that the next 6 months are pretty important for EVE. How will player activity fare in the next 6 months? Will the new release model help the ACU? Will we see CCP make changes that improve both new player retention and alt account retention? However, don't forget that the players, not CCP, have the most control over the state of EVE. So I think I am going to stop thinking about ~numbers~ and start exploding stuff now.