Fun fact: Google search trends don’t tell you bupkis about MMO popularity

The original title of this piece had a cuss word in it

    
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Making problems for ourselves!

You know what the surest sign of an MMO’s popularity is? Whether or not World of Warcraft fans are defensive about its popularity. That apparently came up on Reddit when someone ran a search with Google search trends and found that, under specific criteria, World of Warcraft is much more frequently searched than any other online game! That post did all right on the WoW subreddit, and then it went over to the main MMORPG subreddit, proving that WoW is the biggest game out there.

Except… then someone else slightly changed the criteria and found that Final Fantasy XIV is five times more popular than WoW! That proves… what, exactly?

The actual answer, as put forth in the second post, is that it proves absolutely nothing. Search trends are, well, search trends, and so many of them rely on precise wording of what one searches for; all of these particular searches include variants on the game names, but the author of the second post even points out that if you look for searches for “WoW” you get a whole lot of background noise for searches that have absolutely nothing to do with Warcraft or worlds thereof.

The problem is compounded when other acronyms overlap; for example, both The Elder Scrolls Online and Black Desert Online have acronyms that tend to overlap with other search terms, thus making them nigh-on impossible to gauge through trend analysis. Really, all you can find by comparing how many people search for “FFXIV” to how many people search for “World of Warcraft” is… a comparison of two different numbers. It’s not indicative of anything beyond which terms are searched for more often and not a predictor of overall popularity.

On the plus side, learning about all of this prepares you for a future in analyzing trending topics, so you can derive some information from these goings-on. Just not about the most popular MMO out there.

Source: Reddit (1, 2, 3)
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Ben Stone

I don’t really care how popular my chosen game is as long as they make enough money to keep going and there are people to play with. For years I preferred EQ2, knowing full well it wasn’t even competition to WoW.

I think both WoW and FFXIV are pretty safe in terms of future and people to play with.

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HawkeWar

All I know is every time I log into ESO it is packed…really don’t care what another MMO is doing, my game is healthy and there will probably be at least three more expansions.

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Witches

In related news, i asked my mother who is her favourite son and she confirmed it’s me, suck it bro!

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Sorenthaz

Sounds like how the LoL subreddit would constantly bash Overwatch and mock anyone who thought that LoL was losing numbers or hitting a point of stagnation.

Reddit just encourages groupthink and echo chambers. Sadly it’s a terrible platform for actual diversity of opinion and discussion about those differences.

Loewenheart
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Loewenheart

Your conclusion is SO wrong. In this case, search terms around “FFXIV” are included in Final Fantasy XIV (game). if you type in the term and choose “online game”, this means it is a comprehensive topic complex in Google Trends. Google knows very well what surroundings and abbreviations belong to the game title.

Check it yourself and go down to the related keywords. They are taken into account in this graph above! Even if people only search for “shadowbringer” without Final Fantasy XIV.
https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=US&q=%2Fm%2F064ln09,FFXIV

If it’s a complex, a lot is inside. Even if you search for the official website, the download, you want to buy it or just google for news related to the game. The comment you took isn’t true btw.

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=US&q=%2Fm%2F021dvx

Only search terms related to World of Warcraft. If someone is that stupid and doesn’t pick the category (game instead of search term only), it’s his fault. The person who opened the subject got it right. And Google Trends is just one of the few good indicators for the popularity of a game. No more, no less.

Loewenheart
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Loewenheart

But it’s an indicator.

“but the author of the second post even points out that if you look for searches for “WoW” you get a whole lot of background noise for searches that have absolutely nothing to do with Warcraft or worlds thereof.”

Why are you just repeating stuff from people who have no clue about? I don’t get it. You could have checked it by yourself easily. Makes it look like you guys don’t even know. No offense, but that’s how it seems to me now.

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Bryan Correll

/goes to google
/enters WoW as the search term.
/sees that most of the first page results are related to https://www.wowway.com

Only search terms related to World of Warcraft. If someone is that stupid and doesn’t pick the category (game instead of search term only), it’s his fault.

No, I wouldn’t just type WoW and nothing else if I were looking up the game. But that’s what the article was talking about when referring to background noise.

You could have checked it by yourself easily. Makes it look like you guys don’t even know. No offense, but that’s how it seems to me now.

Looks like you’re […] No offense, but that’s how it seems to me now.

Loewenheart
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Loewenheart

This is about Google Trends and this tool is filtering it. Google even tells you not to compare simple search terms with categorized terms. Categorized terms are the the right way because it will filter all searches related to a game then. You‘re doing not the right way if you want a better, comparable analysis.

And as I said: The one who opened the reddit-thread, did it righ with Google Trends. “WoW” as search term only is simply wrong if you want to get terms related to a GAME and not generic ones. Anyone who works with it professionally will be angry to read it. Trust me. You need to choose the suggestion with (game) in brackets.

[…]

Maybe I was not clear enough. I‘m talking about GOOGLE TRENDS.

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Bryan Correll

I don’t feel the need to get into a lengthy “No You!” argument. You’re arguing against a point that neither I nor the article actually made.

Loewenheart
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Loewenheart

The point is, Google Trends in most cases is smart enough to see which search was belonging to the game. Just check the related keywords in my example link. They are clearly all related to the game.

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Bryan Correll

You’re talking about Google Trends. I’m talking about a basic google search.

Loewenheart
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Loewenheart

Yes, but Google Trends tries to filter out irrelevant searches you are referring to.

In the reddit thread, there were also many people not understanding how Google Trends works. They were typing in generic search terms etc. and claiming there were wrong related keywords showing up.

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Greaterdivinity

Google Trends data, like user reviews, is largely useless outside of select situations. I saw that original WoW thread yesterday and couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. Yeah, it’s probably still the biggest MMO in the west by quite a bit, but the circlejerk in that thread about how great WoW is and how all the challengers suck so much was nauseating.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

You’re more likely to determine population and popularity by the number of content creators with views, and subscribers in sub reddits.