Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, 3 months later

Three months after the release of id Software and Splash Damage’s Enemy Territory:Quake Wars, how well is it doing online?

Enemy Territory:Quake Wars, 3 months later

The first thing noticeable, somewhat curiously, is that the game didn’t manage to attract any noticeable slice of the current Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory audience – and that’s the game that, gameplay and intellectual-property wise, could be considered its only prequel, despite a different setting and argument. Apparently, the hardcore following of a free game didn’t want to experiment a slightly different – and commercial – game.

Also noticeable is the apparently immediate surge on the game’s popularity from October to November. What happened there?

This is an topic that’s bound to cause some controversy, so before I get to that, here are some numbers: right now, over at GameSpy stats, ET:QW has 5167 online players, distributed over 891 servers. Over at Game-monitor, it shows 1059 players, distributed over 1157 servers. ServerSpy.net shows 2815 players, over 871 servers.

The surge in player numbers also coincide with the release of a patch that takes the game to version 1.2, so this is probably the indirect reason for the surge.

The direct reasons is either that the developers have fixed some problem with server querying that existed before, or that they’ve added the bot count to general player count. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case, specially because other statistics seem to properly filter out those players, even if the number of servers they cover is similar. This would be a huge no-no – it would inflate the number of players unrealistically.

Additional note: while there have been rumors other games – specially Battlefield 2 – have been also doing it, it’s important to remember Battlefield 2 didn’t even allow bots on public multiplayer games when it was released, and even when it started doing so, there was no change on the online numbers.

On the other hand, other statistic sources might be completely filtering out servers that simply allows for bot play, removing legitimate players from the total count. I wish I knew more about the issue. Either way, I think it’s fair to believe the real ET:QW numbers are much lower than what the graph shows, so keep this in mind.

Despite all that, how well did the game do online, compared to its direct competitors?

Enemy Territory:Quake Wars, 3 months later, versus competitors

While it failed to attract Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory players, it apparently managed to grab a very small hold of Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142 players. Might might or might not be a good thing, given the fact that the typical Battlefield player is used to a gameplay that is not really similar to what ET:QW has to offer, despite some visual similarities (both features “vehicles” that travel over “large terrain”) and hyping a player to a game that offers a gameplay so different from what he expected is bound to cause online headaches.

No matter whether the current player count is inflated by bots or not, there’s also a visible downwards trend on the game’s popularity on the graph. It has also failed to take advantage of the Christmas effect – differently from what Battlefield 2142 did last year. The game will probably stabilize in the future as it grabs a niche of its own hardcore players, but right now, the future is not so bright for the game (again).

See more complete graphs on how well the game is doing online on the games page.

12 Responses to “Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, 3 months later”

  1. Zeh Says:

    “the future is not so bright for the game”

    Which is pretty sad, IMO. I mean, the game is good – I love it – but lack of critical mass or nearby servers can make a hell of a difference on the fun you can have with a game.

  2. Tom Edwards Says:

    If the surge was due to bots, wouldn’t the change be instant? The curve on the graph increases over what looks like the best part of a week…

  3. Zeh Says:

    The graph data is averaged by 7 days. It was /slightly/ more abrupt if you take the absolute values into account. Check it out:

    http://img245.imageshack.us/img245/9754/tempvc3.png

    It took around 4 days or so, which might be the time servers spent to be properly updated.

    The fact that the workday:weekend ratio don’t match relative to the newer player count might also be a clue that the player count was inflated by bots.

    But I really don’t have many reliable parameters to work from, this is just a theory.

  4. hahnchen Says:

    Interesting analysis, yes the troop surge can’t be natural. Have you tried contacting Splash Damage to find out what caused it?

    It’d be interesting to find out how well CoD4 is faring right now too.

  5. PseudoKnight Says:

    It released during a period where it had heavy competition, which is unfortunate. Something you may not know is that a lot of gamers (including my friend) who purchased the game on Steam have been unable to run the game at all for a month now. I now own the game and plan on playing it as soon as the Steam issue is resolved. It has a lot of depth and breadth to the gameplay which will potentially increase the player count over time as the price drops and people break into the gameplay. (the learning curve makes for a somewhat difficult entry into the game)

    I thought all games with bots on gamespy stats listed the bots in the player count. All the games I’ve played only list the player count including bots, as far as I know. I was assuming this was why CS:S seems to be closer in player count to CS 1.6 than indicated by Steam stats.

  6. Zeh Says:

    @hahnchen: No, I haven’t tried contacting them. I figured I could have spent some time looking for clues on ETQW’s forums, but I wanted to just do an analysis on the data, not an in-depth investigative report. Hopefully some more clues on the subject will appear now.

    @PseudoKnight: thanks, I didn’t know about the Steam thing. I got my copy as a normal retail package. And I agree with you about learning curve and the competition. Never thought otherwise. My post is just an analysis of the online numbers with no direct relation to whether the game is good or not.

    The thing about bots is pretty complex, but let me guarantee you there’s a lot of assuming that’s fundamentally wrong about it. People like to think some game is popular because of bots and shrug it away, that’s why I was pretty skeptical at first to attribute ET:QW’s sudden jump to that, but most of the times that reasoning is completely unfounded. I’ve seen people saying this about games that didn’t even allow bots online – see the BF2 bit I mentioned, I specifically saw that on the old SD forum – and I’ve seen people saying this to games that excluded bot count from server count altogether. I’ve even seen people completely attributing CS’s online numbers to bots. But the reason I decided to do go with that theory for ET:QW is because the other statistics pages show a much lower player count, but with a similar server count; they may just be filtering bot- or bot-only servers. With that said, I may still be wrong.

    Finally, CS:S seems to be closer to CS 1.6 on GameSpy stats because GameSpy stats seems to user server querying (like it does for all games), while Steam stats *probably* use internal data which includes local/lan play. If you look at the numbers you’ll see CS 1.6 is much, much higher on Steam stats, while CS:S is closer to what it is on GameSpy stats (because it’s less popular on old cybercaf├ęs?).

    Anyhow, if you – or anyone else – have a theory about why ET:QW had that sudden rise after 1.2, please, just post away. I don’t know more than the regular player, all I write about here is ideas and theories after having a look at the data, so different points of view are always welcome.

  7. Zeh Says:

    Follow-up: Splatter-ladder seems to have a more in-depth statistic view focused on ET:QW servers:

    http://etqw.splatterladder.com/?mod=statistic

    The numbers show that the number of bots online right now (2,003) is very close to the number of real players (2,080). This varies from country to country, with some countries having a very low bot percentage (UK), while others having more bots than players (USA).

    SplatterLadder player and humans totals (~4000) are much lower than what GameSpy stats show now (~7000). But since ServerSpy shows ~3700 players (around half of gamespy) and that is what Splatterladder relative count is indicating, I think it’s safe to assume the actual /human/ player numbers for ET:QW is half of what GameSpy is currently indicating.

  8. PseudoKnight Says:

    I was merely saying that it has good long term potential like its predecessor. It’s always going to have a good following in Europe, at least. US players seem more interested in realism these days. UT3 is hurting much more than ET:QW it seems. But like QW, I think it will get more popular with time. It’s a perennial and gamers will get back to it once they get bored of the next big thing.

    The bot situation is unfortunate. I support your method of consistent data tracking rather than tampering with it to make it a more valid comparison.

  9. hemostick Says:

    Regarding the second peak in players :
    The peak happened when a point release came out which apparently slightly changed the server query protocol, breaking the results. Gamespy likely hasn’t adapted since.
    AnthonyJ updated his ETQW handling in MAXBrowse when that happened and told me about the issue. Sure enough, the numbers I had with the updated Maxbrowse didn’t stray too significantly from the pre-patch numbers.
    Geez, I sound like an infomercial :)

  10. hemostick Says:

    Addendum -
    That week end, there was also a decent rebate for ETQW on Steam, so I thought that was it at first. But then the trend continued for a bit longer and it was obvious that could not have been it. Especially with the info from AJ right as he patched his browser :)

  11. PseudoKnight Says:

    Funny little update on the Steam version specific QW’s problem. Someone found out that if you replace the exe from the Steam installed version with the retail version, it works. I’m not sure how something so simple could go ignored for so long by the developers.

  12. =DiG=DrKevorkian_OG Says:

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    I created a post linking to it on our clan site (members section) at http://www.doormanisgod.com and the folks there are finding it really interesting and surprising also.

    Thanks again, great project!

This website gathers data for various First Person Shooter games for PCs, and then build graphics with those numbers. This brings no answers, just questions. Where do we go from here?