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New World Statistics Deep Dive

 New World Statistics Deep Dive

There has been a great deal of discussion by New World players about the state of the game after the June announcement. There has been a large amount of dissatisfaction about the plans announced and the type of releases of content and updates we’ve had since the game’s release. Current players look around and see what everyone is currently doing in the game and they are bewildered. They ask the question, how do any of these changes affect me and all the friends I play with? 

There is an assumption among those still playing on PC that they are the PC players that are and should be targeted by the developers with changes. Let me take you on a journey through the New World player base as represented in the Steam achievement statistics.

If you turn to your Steam Achievements for New World you can do two fun* things.  First, you can reconstruct your progress of your early time spent in the game by tracking when you accomplished certain achievements. Second, you can reconstruct a sense of the actual player base and who AGS has been attempting to reach with its updates by inferring from the percentage of players who have unlocked achievements. 

*fun if you are a nerd and like numbers.

My Journey as an example

My first achievement was reaching level 10 “Progress 1: Getting to Know My Way Around” and unlocked September 29, 2021, at 2:16AM. This was roughly within a few hours of the game launching in Australia, which, if I recall correctly, was late on the 28 September. Within the first 24 hours I had 11 achievements. I knew what I was doing up to level 20 as I have played the open beta. Unfortunately, I then had to switch servers as my friends from another game (Fallout76) were on another server and I had to create a new character and redo the first 20 levels or so. Within the first week and a half I’d reached Tracking & Skinning skill of 200. The next day I unlocked the achievement for defeating the boss of Starstone Barrows. I hit level 60 in just over two weeks. Within the first month I had reached max mastery of Great Axe, Warhammer, Hatchet, and Sword and Shield. I had the achievement for killing 10,000 enemies in groups. On October 26, I won my first war. Remarkably, on the same day I also won my first invasion. I unlocked 320 hours of playtime in just over the first month on October 31, 2021. This was during the pandemic lockdowns and playing a videogame for just under 80 hours per week was not unusual.

If you are looking at your unlocked achievements and reminiscing about better times, then you may notice that Steam provides the percentage of players with this achievement unlocked. When you start to delve these percentages they tell an astounding story and provides a context for why the AGS development team has been seemingly obsessed with revamping the player experience (i.e. fresh start servers or overhauling the MSQ). The fourth achievement I unlocked, early the morning of the second day of the game, was for opening my first supplies container “Supplies Looted 1: These Look Lonely. I’ll Take Them With Me”. Only 73.9% of players have this achievement. That means 26.1% of players who have bought the base game have not played the game long enough to get off the starting beach. How many millions of copies were sold of New World? Just over one quarter of these players have never opened a supplies container and therefore have not left the starting beach. The rest of the statistics tell a story of gradual player drop off, not from being exasperated with the endgame, but because they barely progressed at all. 

Where did players stop playing?

A simple way to represent the progression of the player base is to look at achievements for levels achieved. A remarkable 13.5% of players have not achieved level 10. Just over half of players have achieved level 30 and just over three fifths achieved level 40. 

We can discern the level range which players are most likely to stop playing. So before level 10 is 13.5%, 17.3% between level 10 and before level 20, 17.2% between level 20 and before level 30, 13.3% after level 30 and before level 40, 9.4% after level 40 and before level 50, and lastly 8.6% between 50 and 60. Unfortunately there are no publicly available statistics for achievements derived from the level 65 Return of the Angry Earth expansion. The rate of drop off decreases after the early game, which means fewer players stopped playing the more they played. Anecdotally this makes sense as we have all experienced a core group of players of friends and frenemies who have played since the beginning. 

The developers response in the early part of New World (2021-early 2022) makes sense as they framed their changes in terms of reducing friction points. The azoth travel system used to be based on weight and distance, which meant nearly every player had Shattered Mountain set as their inn to enable at least one relatively cheap fast travel location for essential Elite Chest Runs through Mines and Myrkgard. Other barriers in the early game (and where developers have made great improvements) were largely related to gear. For example, even the concept of an explicit Gear Score was a positive development (it used to be hidden) as it showed players their progress. Plus, the more general problem of access to gear that was good enough to enjoy different activities and modes was incredibly constrained. Named items from level 60 dungeons was one way to get 600GS gear, for example. 

How many players achieved endgame?

A simple representation of endgame, based on available statistics, is that just over 20% of players achieved level 60, with the percentage share of players achieving level 65 being unknown.  There are a couple of other ways to discern how many players achieved endgame, however. 

A basic requirement for endgame PVE activity is to have three houses for three relevant combat trophies. Similarly, for endgame crafters a basic requirement is for three houses to have three crafting trophies. We can see that only 5.6% of players have the achievement of owning three houses. The difference between the percentage of players with one house (22.4%) and three houses (5.6%) is 16.8%. This represents the number of players who played the game enough to navigate the house owning system and were therefore likely to understand the benefits of owning houses, but did not progress enough to own three houses. A huge share of the player base, just over three quarters (77.6%), did not ever own a house and therefore missed out on crafting and any substantial PVE-type activity that required trophies. (Major combat trophies actually used to provide a huge combat bonus at 10% each, but this was wound back pretty quickly.) One of the best memories I have of New World was the first invasion win on the fresh start server as we helped so many players understand the basic mechanics of near-endgame PVE that they apparently were not aware of (proper weapons for mob damage, trophies, basic weapon mastery setups, etc). How they get to that point without knowing how to min-max in effective ways is partially their fault, but it is also a massive problem in game design. 

One of the most remarkable statistics from the Steam achievements shows the percentage share of how many players have the achievement for killing different expedition bosses. Starstone Barrows is an expedition encountered at the middle of the levelling experience. Less than a third of players (29.1%) have the achievement for defeating the final boss. An inability to defeat the final boss of a middle-range expedition could indicate why there is such a savage drop off of players between levels 30 and 50. There are many comments to news stories about New World updates where players are expressing their frustration with progressing through this mid game.

Only 10.5% of players defeated the Garden of Genesis final boss and only 8.9% defeated Chardis in the Lazarus Instrumentality. Therefore, approximately 90% of players have not successfully completed these two early endgame expeditions and it shows why the developers have put so much effort into trying to get players to return. It is also possibly indicates why the developers were expecting to announce mutated expeditions later in the game’s lifecycle as they were expecting to release content for the 90% of players yet to complete these level 60 expeditions and not the actual endgame players. It also explains the frustrating timegate-based mechanisms of tuning orbs and the like (I remember paying 100k gold for an m10 orb), which were seemingly designed to slow the actual endgame players down, so the other 90% (or much more likely 95+% based on house ownership) could catch up.

On the PVP side, there are a few ways to represent endgame. First, there is an achievement for player kills that does not have the granularity to really show much except two tendencies. 

First, just under 10% of players likely took part in early game PVP and racked up 500 kills. They experienced it, had fun, but ultimately did not continue. The next two achievements are quite substantial at 5k and 10k kills, at least from the perspective of early game players. I achieved 10k kills in August 2022, so after 11 months of playing and not really focused on PVP. There is less drop off between 5k to 10k (1.3%) than there is from 500 to 5k (6.4%), which indicates that once players achieved 5k kills they were hooked. Therefore the second tendency is that the 6.4% of players that did not achieve 5k kills could’ve just stopped PVPing, but they are also a simple way to represent the share of players that wanted more and different PVP activities and modes but stopped playing because they were unsatisfied.

The second way to represent PVP endgame players is with the achievements for number of OPR wins. OPR had a rocky start in 2021, but most of the actual bugs with the mode were sorted out. Only 11% of players have achieved an OPR win, which drops considerably to 3.4% for 25 wins through to 0.5% for 200 wins. So just over a tenth of players played OPR enough to secure a win, but only a third of these (3.4% overall) continued playing to secure 25 wins. The gap between players who have enough experience to dominate and casual or new players is stark in New World PVP. Only with the umbral shard upgrade system was getting gear good enough to have fun made accessible.    

The statistics for war wins are not super useful except to point out that a tiny percentage of the player base at 0.2% has achieved 50 war wins. Winning 50 wars means you have likely found a company (or three) that will slot you, so you have good enough gear and you are not a complete potato. Plus there is a social gatekeeping dimension of toxicity that most normal people want to avoid, but unfortunately seems to attract players heavily invested in the PVP scene.  

What conclusions can we draw from this?

There are two attrition or burnout curves for the New World player base, one on either side of the endgame divide. There are players that left before endgame after hitting walls in their progress before level 50. This is a substantial percentage of the player base. All the work the developers have been doing to revamp the early and mid-game experience has been for these players. The final changes to the main story quest in the level 45-60 range (released in early 2024) exemplify these changes as players now have a new experience of Ebonscale Reach and their approach to Shattered Mountain, which from a narrative perspective makes a lot more sense.

The second attrition curve is for players who have figured out the basic game logics for endgame but have run out of content. These are the most vocal critics of the June 2024 announcements about NW:A. They have likely invested thousands of hours into the game and felt short changed by being presented with very little. Some of this is acting out from over-entitled idiots, but there is a kernel of truth that has yet to be properly acknowledged by AGS.

One massively underdeveloped area of the game is the social side of the company and faction organisational structure.

Mediating between these two tendencies in the player base is crucial for any possible future success of New World. One massively underdeveloped area of the game is the social side of the company and faction organisational structure. Experienced players supporting other players to develop and progress is ironically not rewarded in the game at all, either through achievements or actual in-game rewards. (I find it personally rewarding to support other players to progress in the game to the point that they can have fun, but there is literally no benefit to me.) How many players would’ve benefitted from a simple chat with an experienced player about their builds and play styles, and therefore stayed on? This happens in good companies through VOD reviews of war performance, for example. How to reproduce some version of this for a wider cohort? How to make it accessible for players that might be shy and/or wanting to avoid the toxicity of many high-end PVPers?

Unless AGS targets the gap between existing endgame players and new players then whatever happens will be very short lived.

Similarly, there are not enough game-based mechanisms that help players get good enough to feel good about participating in endgame. Getting over the barriers from midgame (level 30-60) to participate in endgame is crucial. For example, why are houses not free after a certain level of territory reputation? What possible reason is there for pricing people out of the New World housing market? It is a meaningless barrier, because the house in itself is worthless, it is simply a container for things that are actually of worth. By making at least the first house free, it would encourage players to learn about the benefits of housing and eventually to have three houses and relevant trophies, and therefore enjoy casual playing much more. The constant dropping of tier 1 trophies from mobs is a version of this and a good idea but far too late for all those players that did not own houses and therefore did not benefit in PVE from the massive boost of trophies.

I am hopeful but not overly optimistic about the relaunch in October 2024. Unless AGS targets the gap between existing endgame players and new players then whatever happens will be very short lived. At best, new players will have a pleasant levelling experience until endgame and then get absolutely stomped by experienced players who have several weeks to enjoy destroying noobs. 

Limitations of this analysis

My basic assumption about Steam achievements reflecting the player base cannot be verified except by AGS. I am assuming the public statistics of achievements still hold true even after the expansion, which seems to be the case as I have continued receiving Steam achievements. Also, Steam achievements are achievements for all characters, but some players have multiple Steam accounts and installations of New World for more than 3 characters. These would be counted as separate players in my above analysis, but I don’t think there would be enough to seriously skew the findings. Lastly, I do not have access to statistics that would be interesting to delve into about the playerbase and progress after the Brimstone update or the ROTAE expansion respectively.  

Dr Hoon

DrHoon

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