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 holds...it 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 steam...it 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 X-Fire...is 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.
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 see...as that core audience is like me; a gamer.