Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Blogs are on X-Fire

Quite a few blogs have taken up my "explosive" discussion on Twitter about the use of X-Fire as a trending tool. From those who feel it tells us NOTHING, to those who think it is FUN TO WATCH, and of course those who see the MERITS such a system has been nothing short of great to see such an open discussion taking place.

First off, I really feel it is constantly necessary to point out that using X-Fire for hard FACTUAL data is next to a no-win situation. What I do believe though is using X-Fire to trend what games someone like myself are interested in and how they rate in gamers eyes, is valid.

Time and again I can see how when a game is advertised heavily, or a game has massive sales to start and loses reflects this on X-Fire. Launches of popular MMO's always seem to reflect the same on X-Fire. Examples of this would be Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, who both rated highly on X-Fire at one time, even getting into the top 10.
When Lord of the Rings Online went free to play and we saw the exponential jump on that to say that LOTRO may NOT have had a spike in new players in the real world?

Some believe this to be the case.

One notation that stands out in this regard from one of the blogs is that you cannot compare one game to another game evenly and across the board on X-Fire.
So, even though LOTRO had a jump and another game had a loss...say Age of Conan...this does not reflect real world value.

I disagree.

Tipa notes on West Karana that not all games are present on X-Fire, which throws out the ability to show real world trends. This is true to an extent. As an example, no Browser based games are tracked. This is disappointing, as we would see some major differences, I think, in what games are played the most..(and WoW would probably not even be the #1 game on X-Fire).

This does not mean that we cannot see a trend in games that DO exist on X-Fire. That is what interests me the most...thus why I play the X-Fire game.

I can go look right now at the charts and see how WoW is the most played MMO. Call of Duty is the most played FPS and Starcraft II is the most played RTS. On the PC, mind you...

Would anyone argue this does NOT match real world data?

X-Fire offers us a snapshot of the interests of roughly 17 million gamers. Not all are always accounted for, but that falls in line with polling rules.
I think of X-Fire as like an "Opinion" poll. We get a view of gamers opinions about games and can even extract some generalized data.
The continued argument right now is that Nielsen's data for TV viewing is more accurate. A random sample of the audience who watch TV, which is less than 1% of the overall population that watches TV altogether, gives us a smarter picture of TV viewing habits than say 17 million possible gamers playing games.

That is a closed minded view in my opinion.

Is it possible to believe that there are more gamers than there are TV watchers in the world? I do not believe so. Yet, the sample size in X-Fire is CONSIDERABLY larger than Nielsens. Why can't that be a good sample to look at?

Just like viewers on Nielsen's charts have different viewing habits, thus do gamers have different playing habits. Why can't this snapshot of gamers reflect what real world gamers are playing?

Nielsen and it's less than 1% RANDOM sample says that American Idol is the most watched show on TV. Yet, MY TV has never watched this show. So why did this chosen sample have the right to say that I would have a more than likely chance to watch American Idol above Fringe?
Yet, I have played WoW, and there is a chance I may play it again. I bet there are a LOT of MMO players who could say the same. Based on X-Fires data we can see more people are playing WoW than LOTRO or Guild Wars even. I believe that, because based on other data available, we can note this as a fact.

True, we do not know how real Blizzards 12 million subs statement is...but, I can pretty much agree with X-Fires listing that RIGHT NOW more people are playing WoW and are logged into WoW than say, LOTRO.

I truly do wish there were more data points we could look at (I have attempted to view Raptr's data to add a secondary source, but the information is wacky at best), or that more companies were forthcoming with info...but, they are not.

So, for now, I can look at this snapshot of gamers who use X-Fire and see what games are being played the most and truly believe what I that core audience is like me; a gamer.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me to be a wee bit like following stock market tickers, inasmuch as the trend data is interesting and useful, but mostly on a macroscopic level. It's almost certainly not the whole picture, but enough of an outline to be useful. (And like stock tickers, it's best to do homework outside of the trends if you're really serious about making money or studies.)

Scarybooster said...

The thing is WoW, LotRO, Call of Duty ect.. do not pick and pay the gamers to use Xfire. The gamers willingly choose the games. Just like Nielsen just records what people randomly watch. American Idol doesn't hand out free Nielsen coupons. There has always been a margin of error in statistical data mining. Just because it is not perfect, does not mean it isn't accurate for what is tracked. When Favebook games are tracked, yeah we'll see a skewed system. Browser games are exactly like people watching TV shows on Hulu or Netflix. You can't gather all the data, but you can be dang close.

Rob said...

I guess first off... I'm sorry I ruffled your feathers so much. I didn't mean to send you into a day-long tirade or whatever. Just some lively discussion is all I aimed for.

So, for now, I can look at this snapshot of gamers who use X-Fire and see what games are being played the most and truly believe what I that core audience is like me; a gamer.

This point we agree on. Of the gamers who use X-Fire, you can see who is playing what. If that strokes you as a Gamer, then it's a win-win. It's when you try to extrapolate that number to gaming as a whole that I get irky.

I'm glad we do agree on something, though!


Bhagpuss said...

Not sure how much congruence there is between "MMO Players" and "Gamers". I'm a bit out of the loop with guilds these days, but back when I was a regular guildmember in guilds in EQ, DAOC and EQ2 almost no-one ever talked about any game other than the MMO we were playing. It was next to impossible to get anyone interested in even considering looking at another MMO's website ( I tried on several occasions) much less actually playing one. The question of playing a game that wasn't an MMO pretty much never arose.

Of course, that was four to seven years back and largely before the rise of WoW so maybe the demographic has changed. I do find your XFire statisitics interesting, but what relevance they have to the MMOs I play I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

The question isn't only how big you sample is, it's equally important to know the composition of said sample. For me it's not immediatly clear that that xfire gives you a representative sample of "gamers" in general. For example it might very well be that xfire is used a lot more often by gamers younger than 25 coming to mmos from fps games or consoles that also mostly live in north america.

This would mean your sample isn't random. It's biased.
This is a good sample however, for gamers that are like xfire users. So the question we should be discussing is:

In what way is xfire biased?

Elementalistly said...

@Herb On
You do have a good point. I did take a closer look at the data for X-Fire.
We first find that many countries are represented...not just the USA or North America.
As to age, without being too scientific, I took the top 5 games and then looked at 5 players listed for those games.
Ages ranged between 18 all the way to 46 (and counting myself, I am 48).
When Nielsen gives data, the core audience that decides whether a show is cancelled or lives is 18-34. This is the group with the most disposable income.
Same for gaming. We would want a group that is more willing to part with their cash to play a game to get a better figure of variety.
So, this goes back to this not being a "random" sample, but an "Opinion Poll" based representation.
These X-Fire gamers of varying ages and from various regions of the world are giving us their opinion of what games they like.