Back in mid-2014, I started keeping track of player activity statistics in EVE, including jumps, NPC kills, the ACU count, and, in particular, ship kills across different regions of EVE. I wanted to know how player activity levels have changed in EVE, and what that might say about the game's overall health. Obviously there are many limitations in the data and what it might say about the game. I find the trends interesting and suggestive (merely suggestive) of a few things about the game, but that's really it.
I've kept an eye on ship kills is low and null security space in particular. The data, collected from Dotlan's statistics, is at the bottom of the post. I decided to sum up the numbers now, before the December 2014 statistics are in, simply because Rhea introduces so many new elements of game play to EVE that December 2014 really marks the start of a new era of PVP, making it worth looking back on 2014 just in terms of the past 11 months. Here are the graphs charting ship kills each month over the past 5 year (incidentally, I don't actually know what the PVP spike in 2012 was from, or if it's real):
First, low security space ship kills, with 2014 in the light blue:
Next, ship kills in null sec:
And LS+NS combined:
There are some straightforward explanations of the trends witnessed in 2014.TEST leaves Innia and Faction War in late 2013, part of the slow decline of faction war that culminates in the second half of 2014. In February, Barlegeut had 11,800 kills; in March, 4800; and by April, just 399. Brave's PVP activity in March and April was largely clustered around Sendaya and the low security systems surrounding the area, but by May virtually all of Brave's PVP switched to to null security space, with only 142 kills in Sendaya. By June, a low security system wouldn't even appear on their top 10 systems by kills.You can see this movement of Brave on the LS and the NS charts for 2014--that drop in LS ship kills corresponds exactly to when Brave leaves for NS, which corresponds with a sharp rise in NS ship kills.
That discrepancy of on average 50k less kills in low security space from May to December 2014 is, then, largely explained by the loss of Brave & allies, the loss of the single largest content driver in low security space in 2013 and early 2014.
However, once you take into account Brave's departure from low security life (not to mention the departure of a number of other major groups in late 2014, including Pandemic Legion), and the general slump of faction war in the second half of 2014, the statistics for low security space do not look too bad, all things considered. Imagine someone at the start of 2014 asked: What would PVP activity in low security space look like if Brave left and faction war got stale? I am pretty sure they would say, “pretty bad,” and one might well expect the statistics to be close to 2010-2011 levels. Instead, though, low security space PVP in the second half of 2014 was still the second best May-Dec period ever, surpassed only by the record-breaking year of 2013.
So, to sum up, the general state of LS & NS PVP activity in EVE online currently and throughout 2014 is this: PVP activity in LS and NS has reminded very close to the record-breaking levels of 2013. Activity was higher than ever in low security space in early 2014, and activity was higher than ever in null security space in late 2014, largely following the movement of Brave & allies and the ebb and flow of faction war activity.
If you recall the loud chorus of “EVE is Dying” during the summer of 2014, these statistics should be surprising. They indicate that the people claiming the death of EVE largely off-track, in that many people were still active in things like PVP compared with the record-breaking year of 2013. Of course, the many people who were actively playing EVE during 2014, and the people writing eulogies on the forums, were largely two separate groups.
What about the impact of Phoebe on Null sec activity? While we only have a month of data, the numbers are highly encouraging. Ship kills in null spike in November, part of a 3 month period of close to record levels of PVP activity in null security space. Looking at PVP trend in 2014, it actually looks like null security space is in better shape than PVP in low security space. Critics of the changes in Phoebe certainly can't point to a decline in activity in null to bolster their arguments.
A final lesson is that, as I argued in my post “Why You Shouldn't Trust ACU Numbers,” the ACU count does not closely track player activity levels. The amount of people flying and dying in space has remained remarkably close (if a bit less) to 2013 levels, while the number of alt accounts has surely declined, in part due to near infinite skill queues, multiple-character training, and rising PLEX prices, etc.
The chorus of “EVE is dying” has largely been swamped by optimism, even on the official forums. The hugely successful “This is EVE” trailer could not have come at a better time for the community, bringing in a mass of new players who would be joining a more welcoming community than I can ever recall, with more small and large scale initiatives to help new players than I think the game has ever seen at one time. When you combine that with the fact that the Phoebe+Rhea releases are are, for many players, close to the single best set of changes EVE has seen in a very long time, there is now a lot of optimism about the game's next year. Could PVP activity in 2015 break the records of 2013 and 2014? I certainly hope so, and I think the chances are better than ever.