The Effects of an Aging Player Population

The bulk of EverQuest’s current population has to be 30+. EQ originally came out in 1999, and I was 15 years old. I’m now 31 years old, and I can remember even back then that most players were older. That was back when MMOs weren’t even MMOs. That terminology didn’t even exist back when EQ first originally launched. We were still toying with what to call these online graphic DikuMUD things.

Now, 16 years later, on a niche game running niche rulesets with a specific niche holdout community, it’s not farfetched to think the average player has to be older. What does that mean for the community?

Maturity & Civility

You would think so, but really people are still immature asses. The “barrens chat” isn’t at a high school or college level; instead it’s about social security. People are still idiots. The people who would have been the offenders 16 years ago, or on a modern MMO, are the same type of people they are even when older. Camps are stolen, scams are run, intentional training runs rampant, etc. People are people.

Playtimes

Here’s an interesting one. I’ve been complaining about getting groups lately, and I didn’t stop to think about why it may be such an issue. I play at prime time when I get home from work. If everyone is my age or older, we all have full time jobs, spouses, kids, etc., in a higher concentration than most newer games. No wonder it’s difficult, right? 95% of the population all wants a group at the exact same time I do.

I’ve seen on more than one occasion people saying that the server is dead in the mornings and you can practically get whatever camp you want. Well that makes sense. I also have noticed firsthand how in the 7:30-8:00pm range that suddenly a lot of people all have to log off — bed time? Yep, that’s when I usually let my groups know I need a replacement.

Economics

EverQuest operates on the usual $15/month subscription, at least for the progression servers. However, Krono and in-game potions/boosts are common too. I keep seeing so many people uses potions and the Krono market is definitely a regular part of the economy beyond what I would have expected for a niche game. Why? Again, the average player has a job. We aren’t starving college students or teenagers begging our parents for cash anymore. Most people just buy what they want, when they want it. This absolutely plays a part in EverQuest.

Design Choices

Although pretty much nonexistent in terms of developing or designing the game since we’re just playing an old game anyway, I have to wonder if (hopefully) Daybreak games makes their decisions knowing their players are older. In H1Z1 they push hoodies and gimmicks. In EQ they push nostalgia and convenience. Why does this server exist anyway? To relive the past.

I do wonder what MMOs as a whole would be like if everyone was older and the average player’s age was closer to 40. The choices devs make to capture the 40 year old vs. the 18-24 year old would certainly make MMORPGs different. Just something to think about this Monday morning as you sit at work waiting to get home and play. 😉

  • I would bet the average age of players in EverQuest is 40+. At least. Try starting a /ooc conversation about it (or better yet a conversation in General). Every time I’ve seen one of those start up in an MMO, even five or ten years ago, the majority of people willing to speak up about their age were 30+. Plenty were a lot older than that.

    I think that when you were playing EQ at the age of 15 in 1999, you would very much have been the exception. I was 40 when I started, late that year, and in all the time I played I only met a handful of players who claimed to be teenagers. I was in several guilds back then and every one of them was populated with people either in post-school education or, more commonly, already in work.

    Plenty of people I played with at that time had children old enough to play too. We had to have guild policies about it. In DAOC almost everyone I met was an adult. The first guild leader I had there was in her 60s and when i moved to Midgard and joined a different guild it was full of real-life cops!

    It wasn’t until some time after WoW became the genre’s break-out success that I began to come across a lot of school-age players. I very much doubt the older MMOs ever attracted much of that new audience and I’m sure MMOs from 1999-2004 won’t be pulling in many younger players now.

    I’d bet that at 31 you’d still be among the younger players not just in EQ but in many MMOs. Also 7.30-8.00pm is bedtime? Wha..? I don’t go to bed before 11.30 even on a worknight – more often it’s well after midnight.

  • One of the nice/interesting things about these nostalgia servers, especially in the age of F2P, is that they do tend to filter out the people who aren’t all that invested in the game. That doesn’t mean they are better people. The latest server was put up specifically to thwart the multi-box menace, and who is more dedicated than somebody willing to pay for half a dozen accounts? But you don’t get a lot of people really annoyed with the game or comparing it unfavorably to WoW. If you’re on one of those servers, it is because you really want to be, so you end up with a group of people who tends to know the customs of the land who, among other things, tend to be older.

    I do wonder how this will play out in the longer term. On the EQII side of the house, the Stormhold server robbed the live servers of a lot of players, to the point of raiding guilds pissing and moaning about it on the forums as they lost a chunk of their teams. The people who went over seemed to be likely to already be All Access players, given that, so I am not sure if the experiment included any significant boost in subscribers, or if it just helped keep the current ones happy.

    And then there is the new blood issue. They had to go F2P across the board with EQII after the EQII-Extended experiment, because new players will go to the free servers and form social bonds while the pay to play servers will tend to stagnate.

    I am not sure players are as young or old on average as we might suspect. CCP did a study on their player base over the years and found that the mean age went up over time, but it only went from about 28 or so in 2004 to 35 in 2014. I think the real study should be of the age of people who are overly vocal in public chat channels, that would be interesting.

    @Bhagpuss – I am in bed by 9pm most nights… but I work for a company that is a couple time zones over and my life is just easier if I work on their hours… the commute is much better too and I get home when my daughter is getting out of school. That sort of habit sets your sleep cycle, but I used to be up past midnight and in the office at 10am at my last company.

  • @Bhagpuss: I’m awake at 6am (meant 5am) to commute each day, and it takes me only 40 min if I get on the road fast enough. I have to get off the computer by 8pm if I even have a chance of being in bed by 9:30pm. Stuff always comes up. Ultimately I’m home by 3:30pm each day and can go to the gym and have family time. 🙂

    @Wilhelm: You raise a great point about commitment. I do feel like people playing on the progression servers feel more committed than the average player in a MMO.

  • I go to bed about 10:30 and wake at 5:30 but probably not real relevant.

    I guess you were like 12 playing the realm? I think I stumbled into it in my late 20s or early 30s and I was hooked. When I was 12 we just had video games at the arcade. I’d tell my parents my brother and I were going to church and we’d go there instead. Yes, I’ll prolly burn in hell later for that.

    As much as I love the nostalgia of EQ, it’s hard to believe a bunch of 40 year old people a griefing you and wrecking your day. We get kinda tired of that stuff at some point. I’m starting to think is gamers just grow up late and eventually realize it’s not worth it. Griefing or the rest of it really.

    But I’m still shocked this niche game with aging players has much of that going on.

  • I typo’d. I’m awake by 5am. I’m at my desk at work by 6. I just don’t do well with less than 7.5 hours. It catches up to me really fast.

    I was 13’ish or so. Maybe 12 when I started alpha testing The Realm. I’ve told the story a few times about my friend and I convincing our parents to help us get into it. We had some crazy fun staying up all night playing. 🙂 Man, the best memories.

  • It’s not logic Keen you’re not getting a group is a conspiracy. Open your eyes. I’m 34 and as your elder I implore you to consider this: Queue not, lest ye be queued thyself.

  • Damnit I’ve misused “your” and now I’m freakin’ out because I can’t edit my post, I’M FREAKIN’ OUT, MAN! To be fair this is a use that required consideration. I originally used your then changed it and now I’m filled with regreat and loathing.

    I wish I had time for EQ. I had fun on Ragefire for 6 weeks or so but my playtime is so sporadic it’s very difficult to commit to a group and not feel like a d-bag for frequent AFKs with 2 kids, dogs, wife, etc.

    I find myself at odds with the conveniences WoW has brought versus the community that EQ encourages. Convenience seems to be inversely proportional to community.

  • We sure do all have different schedules ! Your log off time is when I often start cooking diner, so you can imagine I actually start playing any game when you’re sleeping. Or maybe not, timezones and such 😉

    I wish we would have some kind of data, I’d be curious to see what is the average player age for different MMO and over time for each one. I like big data and trying to find trends and relationships. Regression testing, those were my university days!

  • As for a lot of players dropping off around midnight..that might just be us euroes as the time would be after midnight where we are..

  • @Hebbe: I’ve been plotting times and keeping track lately. The nerd in me is trying to min/max my most opportune time to log in and get a group. I notice that between 4:00pm-5:00pm openings happen in groups. If I try hard enough, and put myself in ideal positions for invites, I can get a group. I think this is because the Euro players are starting to head out because it’s 11:00pm-midnight their time. Though at the same time, I’m hitting East Coast prime time. It’s tough.

    @Maljjin: I love big data too. I like to use it for making decisions.

    @Misaligned: You’re not alone. I too like some of the conveniences of WoW, but I do not like one at the expense of liking the other. For many people it’s the conveniences of WoW, and EQ is a horribly archaic monster… or they love the old school EQ and WoW is this new age beast. I see both as opportunities to have fun.

  • In the past I have said I would pay more for a server that’s a minimum of 21+ but would prefer maybe even 25+ to get rid of college douches. But then I realized d-bags in general chat are probably all ages and I only perceive them as whiney teenage brats. I think you guys are right about the commitment level being a better indicator of someone that will be a better part of the community. Perhaps a server that requires you to be subbed for x amount of time before you can join it would be a better choice than tying it to age.

  • My biggest problem with getting older and playing MMOs is justifying allocating the time to them. More and more I keep thinking to myself, “Life is short!” and wonder if I should be pouring all of these hours into a single game while others are passing me by. It’s getting to the point where I’d much rather go through a 10, 20, 30, or 40 hour game and be done with it than whittle away the time in an MMORPG. Having many solid, unique experiences is becoming much more appealing that going all-in on one drawn out one.

  • I’m actually finding it hard to even play a game for 45 minutes these days. Not that I don’t have the time, I just get tired and am ready to stop. An hour at a time is the max I can handle.

  • I was told for only 9.95 per month I can join The Goon Squad guild and have a great experience whenever I login to WoW.

  • I’ve transferred my need to dominate everybody from mmos, to work. So far it’s paying off in amazing ways, but the weekends crawl by. Never thought I’d look forward to Mondays. Very odd turn my aging gamer life has taken.

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