The Daily Grind: Do you trust player census numbers for MMOs?

The Daily Grind: Do you trust player census numbers for MMOs?

It’s a shame that developers don’t really give you any official player numbers any more, but that’s the state we live in. Players have done their best to step up to the plate with unofficial player census operations, though; games from EVE Online to Final Fantasy XIV have players using various tools and methodologies to figure out how many players are there and active in the game.

The problem is that almost all of them are certainly wrong. It’s like trying to count the number of dogs on a suburban block by counting the number of doghouses; it’s not an awful methodology, but it’s mostly useful for an estimate rather than a number.

For some people, this information is still welcome as the closest thing you can get to an actual population count when studios are disinclined to provide “official” ones. For others, the lack of official numbers doesn’t make these any more plausible or more helpful. So what about you, readers? Do you trust player census numbers for MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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No I don’t. The reason is there are factors that change constantly.


EVE has the amount of connected characters to the launcher which is quite accurate and doesnt get “buffed” on low numbers. I actually once saw 68 characters logged on launcher after a restart – seems I was fast. That said it still is characters. One player can have 2-3 alts logged for example. Also active and inactive is a bit controversial topic. To me someone sitting and checking the market all day on EVE is inactive – now if you ask those who do that, they will say they are active.

Kickstarter Donor

I only believe what I see and experience for myself firsthand.

I have seen and heard devs claims a great many things over the years about a great many things, very little of which has basis in fact as opposed to the facts they would like us to believe and most of which flies in the face of what we experience firsthand. “Yes our servers are packed… excuse me its been an hour since I saw another player I call BS etc…”

Metrics on all things have two sides the factual side that is useful and informative to them and the more often fictional side that is used for Marketing to try and sell more and bring more bums for seats and paint a picture of the game they want us to believe in order to make it a reality for them.

Pretty much the only numbers I believe are the ones which are trackable via external sources or things like creatures killed, quests completed etc.. as that fluff they have no reason or need to lie about.


Nope, not at all. Even eyeballing the population is no longer reliable with all the tech that can now just funnel players into instances that makes locations look populated.

With the very latest tech, it is not even possible to use server counts to get an estimate.

So, I guess MMOs are doing fine until they are undeniably not.


About as much as I trust polls that tell you what politician is best.

Kickstarter Donor

Only as far as I can throw them. They’re a good gut-check, but nothing I take remotely seriously as it’s rare there’s any methods that allow for any serious precision in determining active player counts.


I was playing a game the other day and thought of a different way to evaluate a game’s population that can be performed by anyone:

1) find the population center, where people hang out/look for groups/visit the AH/bank. Do a count, or just rate it 1-10 for density ‘feeling’
2) wander the world a little, give it another rating 1-10
3) evaluate the main chat channels (lfg, general banter). Again, 1-10

While this won’t give you an accurate population count, it will give you much more important information pertinent to your enjoyment of the game. A smallish game can feel much more populated than a big game (like WoW) where tens of thousands of players are playing solitaire.

Loyal Patron

I don’t trust player census numbers even a little bit. Take for example. Only 1.12 Mil characters logged, where as the actual population of wow at any given time floats around 6.5-9 million accounts. Not characters mind you, but accounts. So that website accounts for about 10-15% of all players, not to mention many of those characters are old and no longer playing.

Toy Clown

I don’t trust numbers, never have. When I want to check out a population of a game I’m interested in, I’ll go to reddit and their official forums. If both are dead and the game doesn’t have a RP community, or one with expired sites, or any sort of community that creates content, I’ll move on.

These are the things I look at when considering a new game.


If whoever did the count discloses the methodology, and it seems sound, then I will use it as a reference, though I still won’t blindly trust it.

If the methodology isn’t available then I will award it the same credibility as pure hearsay, which is to say none at all.