Maybe some of you fellow HC players have noticed that the servers have been acting up lately, as also reported by others. Combined with the mixed reception of the seasonal theme (some people saying they don't like it; some clearly enjoying it), I was wondering how popular this season is. Of course we don't know any player numbers, as Blizzard isn't sharing them. So I thought: why not use the stats from a D3-related website that has been up and running for several seasons with no major changes nor announcements to compare the different seasons? I went ahead and did some very basic plotting of D3Resource.com. Here's what it looks like, annotated (click here or on the pic for higher resolution):
I thought it provided some interesting insights (obviously this is just me guessing based on crude, superficial data analysis):
The Triune season is indeed a bit less popular than LoN. Which is surprising to me, as I felt 2.6.6 has more in store than 2.6.5 (some set revamps, new legendary powers, an actually newly implemented mechanic as season theme). My guess is that the summer release timing and the upcoming WoW Classic release had some people skip this season.
I was very surprised that 2.6.1 saw more traffic than 2.6.0. I believe this is, again, due to the Necro DLC hitting in summer; also, the release of 2.6.1 fell together with Blizzcon, which has always brought people back (I always see a few spikes in traffic around Blizzcon).
Looking at the graph, it looks as if balance changes are almost as successful in bringing people back to D3 as large content patches (compare S10 and S16 to S11) - especially after a long drought.
A similarly interesting insight is that the introduction of season themes alone was not interesting enough to bring people back (S14) - but a set revamp was (S16). This sort of makes me question Blizzard's statement about the introduction of seasonal themes being highly successful. By what measure? Are my numbers so off here?
The last, really interesting insight I want to make is that of player retention. It seems as if two seasons in particular were able to keep players engaged for a bit longer than the rest - S11 (Necro DLC) and S17 (LoN theme). Which brings me to a point I made countless times: Diablo is a loot-based game. A new class gives you more new loot to hunt. A push for LoN builds prolongs the loot hunt, because it takes longer to get a full ancient set. Want players to play more than just the weekend? Give us something exciting to loot on day 2.
Ending on the obvious caveat - this graph represents visitors on my personal website. It's from the entire domain of D3Resource, but the bulk by far (>80%) comes from the Season Journey Tracker, and the graph looks the same if I sample only for that. Also, I did not account for anomalies (e.g., a sudden increase from some random website that shared any of my links prominently).
TL;DR: I looked at some graphs and determined that if Blizzard gives us a reason for a prolonged/new loot hunt, or shakes up some set damage numbers, more people play Diablo 3. #shocking!
I havent played the last few seasons (Last played very end of 2018), and this season is the first Ive played in a long while playing regular. Due to life getting in the way, I could not start the season when it launched (8 pm EST) and had a very early start to the day on the following Saturday. Although I didnt play, I did check the leader boards at 4 am which is 8 hours after the season started and was surprised to see all 1k positions occupied and the leader at GR 85 and the bottom of the boards 20 GR (This is monk class). Im not sure if this is standard as I play HC mostly, but with my own internet becoming somewhat sketchy I started regular.
Is this pretty standard for softcore so early after launch? To me this seems to be a somewhat "healthy" population, but Ill admit I have nothing to compare it to but was surprised as hell to see #1 so high and even so many so high at the bottom just 8 hours after launch. I only looked at Monk, but I'd guess the other classes had similar results
I don't think the set revamp was getting players back (alone), but the first two season themes were bland and pointless and at best just saved some time.
Grandeur seasons actually gave people more power and allowed new build variations that weren't available before, same with LoN season.
Current season again just adds a few minor updates, but the season theme is rather boring after the game altering last two themes. They could just have come up with the season theme "Imaginationless" that adds 15% damage to all players.
And still there is no long time motivation to keep someone busy after one or two weeks. As soon as some healthy "time between updates" margin is passed I will stop once again this season. Some kind of item progression would be nice, so that items dropped by let's say paragon level 800 are generally better than those dropped at 200 (and not just more). This would allow slower but more rewarding progression with less RNG, but I certainly don't think we are going to see any gameplay changes anymore for D3.
Clear illustration that Necro was not a big success for them and smart patch notes beats any DLC.
I think the recent blog post about the continuation of the D3 support (hinting at "system updates") means they are bringing the best Season Theme for Blizzcon. Will it include set items redesign, core changes to item hunt (new tier maybe?), changes to paragon system, redesigned item stats? We have to see.
But one thing is certain - they finally started walking in the path of understanding what their very own player base wants. Where this will lead us? We have to see.
WoW Classic is huge success - maybe they will analyze the data from it and apply the philosophy of prolonged item hunt to D3 also. This can't come without core stats redesign and punishing of old dedicated grinders, but let's not forget the majority of these grinders cheated at some point. If you have to sacrifice 1% of the legit grinders to get rid of all the nonsense in D3 and bring back all players who left in the past, I think that's a trade you have to make.
We shall find answers in Blizzcon. I expect they'll finally announce MTX (cosmetic, stash space) coming to D3 there.
Just want to chime in as a console player. Massive Diablo fan. Played D3 from the start and am ashamed at the hours I've put it in and how you can see it online. I should have finished a Masters or PHD in that time..... maybe 2.
When consoles came out, got hooked again. Necro again hooked. Seasons again. This season has me really going for abnormal builds with all the new additions. PS4 HC.
Anyways, awesome numbers and graphs! Would love to see more specific numbers, but this is really cool seeing that D3 is still very much alive.
D3 is alive and kicking again nevertheless all the people who tried to bury it.
Nobody tried to bury the game, that's some seriously paranoid shit - Blizzard was doing a pretty great job of that on their own by going into a developmental freeze and then announcing a mobile game to a predominantly PC gaming market at last years Blizzcon. I think from the uproar that Immortal caused, it should be obvious that nobody wants Diablo to fail/die; there are a ton of passionate ARPG players out there and the more ARPG's that exist, the better. Competition breeds creativity.
On topic: It is my hope that if they don't announce a Diablo 4 this Blizzcon that they announce some sort of expansion or revamp on the same scale as what Reaper of Souls and Loot 2.0 was for the game. No, I am not saying that they should streamline the game even more and I am not saying that I necessarily endorse the Loot 2.0 system, but they need to shake up the current state of the game by:
Allowing for more build diversity
Putting something else in the game to do that isn't just Bounties, Nephalem Rifts and Greater Rifts
Revamp the entire crafting system
I think in some ways, Blizzard's quality of life is amazing: a pet to go pick up your gold, picking up all nearby resources of the same type when you click on one (to avoid RSI), objective pointers on the map... but they need to come up with more engaging or enabling content, which is why I believe that 2.6.4 did so well in comparison to the seasons proceeding it. D3 is currently stuck in this rut where classes have 1-3 total viable builds at most and they have completely invalidated most other sets/legendaries in the game.
Yeah, like nobody scrapped the second expansion and turned it into a DLC. Or delayed the appearance of Themes with 10 Seasons? The reason why they placed D3 into maintenance mode for so much time was that they thought D4 will be enough of a cake for the aRPG player base. And now, suddenly, we get a blog post about incoming system updates - well, seems like D4 won't be a cake at all, and D3 has to be brought back from the grave.