When I login to EVE, usually doing the evening of my time zone, there are between 20,000 and 25,000 accounts active according to the Logged In Users counter. I've logged in from work, occasionally, and on days off and see between 35,000 and 40,000 accounts active.
This is good, the higher the number the more people playing. Or so it appears.
It has always niggled me that we (outside of CCP) don't know how many people this actually is. Ripard Teg has been covering Alts on his blog recently and he said:
I personally know EVE players that have 30+ accounts
I know a couple of people with six or seven accounts and I personally have four. So how many real people are in these numbers of logging in users and how does this bode for the future.
This graph is being used in the current Blog Banter (#52) as the instigator for a conversation about how viable is EVE now and for the future:
It's a great question and some of the posts on this I've read have been really good, please go read some like Roc's Ramblings, Rixx Javix and Ninveah (others are available, a log can be found here at EVE Bloggers)
I've played for just over three years and have four alts, I've been in a couple of corporations but I wouldn't say I'm au fait with the meta-game nor with serious politics within New Eden. I know enough about where I am and things that may impact me. I also learn from my friends, peers and those I meet or read the blog of.
I think the one major impact on EVE will be the age of it's players and how long they have been playing. For me the plateau of "excitement" started to level out around two years and whilst I don't force myself to play I don't spend every waking hour in game anymore. I just don't have that time, I have a family, commitments and other things to do.
However EVE Online has spaceships, massive battles and is just a fantastic place so I will remain and my friends I've spoken to share these sentiments. I'm still waiting for one friend to finally quit, he's adamant he won't at this time but he just doesn't' get the enjoyment out of the game and seems bored when he does login (and I've already asked if I can have his stuff, he said No).
What Do I Think
I think the game is moving in the right direction, changes are happening and things are being done to improve the "new player experience" that will hopefully retain more than is lost. The steady logged in player count shows that CCP is doing something right, if they weren't I'd expect a drop over time but it isn't.
The number of players increases when new expansions are released and this shows older players resubbing or new players joining.
The new players of today are different from my generation and that of the first EVE players. They want quick rewards for little input, they want it all and they want it now. They want instant gratification.
CCP are staying true to the story, lore and the current core concepts of EVE Online (spaceships in space!) and the plans for the future continue this. If they stay this way EVE Online is in good hands and the ship is flying aligned to the best celestial.