GW2: Some Numbers, Apropos of Nothing

Yesterday, I became randomly curious as to the popularity of the Dragon’s End meta.

It struck me, while scanning the LFG periodically to see if there were any organized groups feeding my transient midcore addiction to 50 odd players gathering to attempt a dragon takedown, that there were still enough players to fill one map squad of 50 and maybe another.

(Failed thrice though – once through Captain Fa’s event bugging out early, and twice with barely 2-5% left on the health bar, which I’m convinced is due to unresolved, unsolved chaos at the 20% hp mark.

The current strat is to ignore whirlpools, which usually takes out 20% of the players over time, some of whom may have been really essential participants. All manner of targets abound, players are still undecided on whether focusing on the head or tail should be prioritized at this point, bubbles are incapcitating more players in the meantime… and effective dps on the dragon devolves to a fraction of whatever the squad was previously generating.

I randomly wonder if a small cc party focused on just breaking people out of whirlpools, a small ranged party focused on just breaking people out of bubbles, and half of the squad focused on “HIT TAIL when it pops up” instructions would work better than the current “yo ignore whirlpools, leave ’em to die easily and quickly, ignore tail and big deeps on the main target” strat.

Admittedly, the latter strat works VERY well in a super-organized group with enough big d–k dps to ignore mechanics, but y’know, not every squad, yadda yadda.

Seeing as I’m too lazy and lack enough motivation to organize anything, I’m content to just chill, even in failed runs, and observe and wait for the meta to shift and for some kind of new strategy to evolve. It usually does, over time.

But I digress.)

Thing is, squad building for Dragon’s End seems to coincide roughly at the same time as the Kaineng Overlook meta event.

So it was easy for me to observe that usually two map squads were filling quite readily for that at the same time. It’s ostensibly a much easier meta-event, though when I tried it for one round, it was infuriatingly annoying in how lost I was.

The events are scattered about all over a difficult-to-navigate waypoint-scarce city, the solution for which is usually ziplines and teleporters.

I have both masteries quite well unlocked at this stage (not everyone may be in the same boat) but I was still finding it difficult to a) figure out I should be using a teleporter, b) locate a teleporter, c) page through the teleporter options, d) realize I had no idea which province I should be going to, e) bring up the map screen and squint to try and guess at which dynamic event might be part of the meta-event, and whether that commander was at the meta-event or was the commander equally lost as to where they should be going, f) decide on a spot, locate the area name on the map, locate the corresponding area name on the teleporter option, and g) finally teleport there.

Obviously, there is a learning curve here that will also get better with time. Quite a different learning curve than Dragon’s End, but a learning curve all the same.

Seitung Province’s meta, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward and very well marked all around. Three groups in various areas in the map, do some events, all converge into a central location at the end. Echovald meta is somewhat similar in structure, though the early events are more scattered and the convergence results in a boss with slightly higher difficulty than Seitung (in that you have take personal responsibility to hide yourself behind a wall, or be instantly killed at certain points in the fight.)

My uneducated but considered guess would be that the easier meta-events might be more popular.

Was there any way to verify this, or at least justify it with some semblance of evidence?

Since dev numbers are very much not accessible to us lowly player peons, the closest thing we have that approaches some manner of objective data is to look at GW2efficiency numbers.

There are, of course, the usual caveats with this approach. The players who sign up for GW2efficiency are probably at least somewhat more committed than the stereotypical average casual, so it’s probably safe to assume that stats will lean in a slightly more dedicated player direction. Mentally adjusting numbers a little downward would likely give a better picture of the overall player population. Or we could just take the comparison at face value and say that we are only looking at GW2efficiency signed-up accounts and not extrapolating to the rest of the playerbase.

Hence, the apropos of nothing caveat in my post title.

It’s mostly just to sate my curiosity a tide.

On March 23, these were the numbers that had completed the corresponding achievement:

Mind you, completion of an achievement does not indicate “popularity” either. It says nothing about the subjective enjoyment of players, or lack thereof. It says nothing about how likely they are to repeat it, and how frequently they play it again. That’s for the devs and their magical metrics tools to figure out.

But it does give us an idea of the number of -unique- player accounts that have at least attempted the content once, and succeeded at it to unlock the achievement. And it’s all we have, so yeah.

There is surprisingly a very large amount of GW2efficiency accounts that have not touched anything Canthan related (more on that later) so the percent column is not exceedingly useful here. We’re better off just observing the absolute numbers for now.

With very little surprise, we can safely observe that roughly 10k less players (with GW2effciency accounts, I’ll stop caveating this now, insert your own from here) have successfully completed Dragon’s End as opposed to the Seitung Province meta.

Kaineng blackout meta isn’t that high either, though we can only speculate on the reasons why. Not as importantly prioritized by most people to attempt, perhaps?

It’s not possible to track Echovald meta completion through achievements, unfortunately. Killing the final boss is only part of an extremely elaborate event chain that makes up one achievement – I’m missing one event on this too, and have killed the final boss twice – safe to say, there is going to be very little correlation of boss kill with finishing the achievement for most players.

(Forest Warfare, for those who want to look it up, is only unlocked by 4,883 players as of this time. So you can safely assume those are part of the achievement chasers cohort.)

On Mar 24, the time of writing of this post:

One day later, we do see some movement and activity. 500 more unique accounts managed to pick up Dragon Pacifier, 400ish for the other two metas.

The overall trend is still the same, but it’s nice to observe some visible changes in the course of one day.

One thing led to another; I was mildly disturbed by the low percent of GW2efficiency accounts that had finished the metas. How many of these total GW2efficiency accounts are basically inactive players that have stopped playing the game, or are active players that haven’t made it to Cantha yet?

Put another way, how many GW2efficiency accounts have access to and have accessed the End of Dragons expansion?

So I started hunting for as many obvious “gimme” achievements as markers, similar to how we might use those tutorial achievements in Steam when comparing player activity.

I tried to find something on the first Seitung Province map. And the achievement I hit upon with the most number of unique accounts was a mastery insight. It’s presumably the most obvious insight, along the way to where you’re directed by the story. And if you’re not unlocking masteries, then why are you even playing the expansion to begin with? (People do attempt to unlock masteries, don’t they? From hardcore to casual? Right? right? Beuller?)

Hmm, said I, maybe I can use this as a sort of stand-in for how many players might have reached the respective map.

Dragon’s End has notably less players picking up the most popular insight there, which I suppose makes sense. Some people are still very casually playing their way through the story and may not have hit the final map yet.

Is there something better though? How about story completion?

So I went hunting for story-related stuff. Chapter 1. The first story of the expansion. If you didn’t play through chapter 1, you can’t go to Cantha. I think. (On your first character anyway, subsequent characters can port to Arborstone.)

I think the Old Friends achievement is as good as we’re going to get as an indicator of the overall number of players with access to Cantha. So I’m fairly happy to compare all numbers against a rough total of 100k accounts.

8 out of 10 players did poke around in Gorrik’s journal, which is a fairly obvious item when you wake up in a particular room with the NPC. 2 out of 10 players didn’t – not sure what it says about them. Not interested in the story? Or more concerned with the immediate problem the story presented? Or the type that skips cutscenes and extra fluff content? Or just completely oblivious.

As to the general combat ability of your average storygoing cohort… about half managed to kill the chapter boss without being downed, and a little over half defeated it in the allotted time. So let’s be realistic here, yeah? Average means AVERAGE. Like, really, for reals, average. (Do I have to say this any louder for ArenaNet?)

And oh, did we mention we’re only comparing the people who bothered to make a GW2efficiency account?

And presumably there may be some who replayed it, or redid the chapter with another character and got the achievements then, on the second try. Probably a small number only.

As a side comparison, the current numbers, on the same day Mar 23, for the chapter 1s of the previous two expansions:

Interesting, huh? That’s a fairly hefty long tail.

Unfortunately, I don’t have day 1, or day 23 rather, post launch direct comparisons, seeing as this spate of aimless curiosity only hit me now.

But it’s interesting all the same. A hefty majority of GW2efficiency accounts have finished the chapter 1s of Path of Fire (for mounts, maybe?) and Heart of Thorns (gliders?). Are these latecomers to the game that haven’t made it to Cantha, or just expansion holdouts? Have some of them quit the game post Path of Fire and aren’t coming back? Who knows?

As an additional aside, there’s a pretty big drop in accounts that haven’t done the second chapter. There’s about 23k-30k of them. Are they alts? People who just wanted to unlock the mounts and glider and aren’t interested in the story, full stop, or just newcomers putting it off until they catch up with the whole story? Full on ragequits after chapter 1 felt too hard?

Next chapter:

Not as many drop offs comparatively.

Anyhow, this is another big digression. We could go on for the other story chapters, but I’m losing interest in ancient expansions. Back to Cantha.

It’s a new expansion. I think it’s reasonable to say that not every casual player will have had time to finish the entire story yet. (Heck, some hardcore players may not have done so because they’re prioritizing other things like strikes or playing with their elite specs, while story doesn’t interest them.)

But I was curious on how many players might have gotten to the point of accessing the Dragon’s End map, as based on their story chapter progression. (We already have one indicator of the number via mastery insight unlock, around 56k.)

I track so many story chapters here because it’s a little bit tricky. There’s a “True Ending” achievement which recommends players to complete the Dragon’s End meta, before playing through The Only One chapter. (It doesn’t actually appear to have any impact on the story per se, just sort of fills in the blanks on what happened in between one story point and another.)

Extraction Point takes place in the Dragon’s End map, and can be done beforehand. But some players might be afraid of progressing any part of the story in that map itself, and so hold off doing Extraction Point also.

I wondered how many might be holding back from completing the story, in an effort to finish the Dragon’s End meta first… and/or how many just couldn’t be bothered and decided to go ahead and finish the story anyway, because they felt there was no way in hell they were succeeding on a Dragon’s End meta in a reasonable amount of time.

Well, there are 35k accounts that did succeed at one Dragon’s End meta. So we can do some math. Approximate though it may be. (I suppose there are conceivably people who finish the Dragon’s End meta and don’t bother to finish the story.)

If we search for the True Ending achievement, by the way, it’s about 38k. You don’t need to succeed at the final dragon takedown. I think it will probably pop as long as someone attempted the meta and got to the end dragon fight?

So I guess 57k-38k = 19k players said “screw it” and didn’t try the meta. One in three players. (19/57 = 0.33)

And 38k-35k = 3k really cursed players who couldn’t find a win.

I’ll refrain from commenting whether it’s good or bad. I don’t know. I don’t really have an opinion. It could simply be they don’t have the necessary block of time to set aside for a meta, or interest in anything other than the straight story.

66% of GW2efficiency account players who have access to Cantha and have gotten to that point in the story did engage with the meta though. Is that good enough? Or not good enough? Who knows. You decide.

Or Anet decides.

Really, it’s Anet decides. But you can attempt to sway their decision one way or another, I guess, with feedback or with just participation or non-participation numbers.

The other bit of sleuthing I was perversely interested in was Canthan strike missions.

The Kaineng Overlook strike locks siege turtle mount gain behind its completion. Logically, we should see a higher rate of participation in that because people who may not have wanted to do any strike at all, get ever-so-not-subtly “encouraged” to do one. Was that the case?

Yep. I think it’s safe to say there is a noticeable turtle effect.

I’ve heard (but not yet tried) that there are at least two easy strikes in Cantha, Kaineng Overlook possibly being one of them?

Harvest Temple is supposedly the hardest, and I think the completion numbers reflect that. I skimmed a video of that strike, and well, I don’t feel like setting foot in that one in a PUG setting, I’ll tell you that.

Of the 100k odd accounts with access to Cantha, 25% of them did engage with Xunlai Jade and Aetherblade though. (I am not one of them yet. I am -thinking- very hard about it. It’s grounds for a whole ‘nother post.)

So, is this popular enough that Anet feels it’s justifiable spending development time on them? It’s less than meta-events, but not that very much less. I suppose that’s why they’re hard committing to strikes now, huh.

The strike rewards aren’t exclusive, as far as I know, so that immediately cuts out a large amount of protests on general principle. You can get similar skins via Dragon’s End meta or the TP (and ironically, the TP price has plunged below the 2 gold + map currency cost, presumably due to strikes providing said influx – something I only found out after I bought a weapon for 2 gold after DE success, of course.)

The rare chase rewards are the Aurene weapon precursor, which can be crafted and you get one for free after finishing the story, and some endless tonic or another, which are toys and also sellable and buyable on the TP.

Objectively, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the strike mission structure as it is currently, beyond the turtle issue. Engage with it as one chooses.

I do wonder, however, about the amount of uproar there might be when the now announced revisit of Season 1 story winds up filtering into yet another strike. Final boss and all that. Story progress locked behind a strike? That should be a fun popcorn-eating, sidelines-watching time.


I don’t know how I feel about that either. I generally hate “forced” anything. I like seeing new content. I don’t mind strike mission mechanics. I don’t exactly find them joyous. They are fairly profitable though. Learning a class and role is time consuming. PUGing is extremely luck of the draw – how much unfriendly behavior I can stand depends very much on my current state of mind. The very common suggestion of finding a guild or static to do them with is grounds for that whole ‘nother post that is brewing and simmering in my mind right now. SoonTM.

Before that deep thinking post though, something a little more lighthearted:

So there’s a point in the Canthan story where the player character runs up against the bureaucracy. You’re told to fill in your name, your race and purpose of visit.

If you answer truthfully and relatively sensibly, you get one achievement “All to Code,” and if you answer along the lines of “Hi I am the Joker and Harley Quinn all rolled into one,” you can tell the bureaucrats to stick that red tape where it belongs, with another achievement “Take That Bureaucrats.”

Guess a fair amount of people are pretty orderly, law-abiding people, even in a game.

There’s about 13.8k extra counts, presumably due to people running alts through the story and choosing the other option for achievement unlocks.

Thought that was fun to peek at.

4 thoughts on “GW2: Some Numbers, Apropos of Nothing

  1. Thanks for doing all that. I found it fascinating although I suspect I may be one of a very small percentage of your readers who did. I might use it a basis for a post of my own so I won’t go on and on in a comment, even though there are plenty of hooks.

    I would say a couple of things. On the kind of player who signs up to GW2Efficiency in the first place… I haven’t, but not because I’m not interested in the data it would provide. I just don’t trust them. I have no idea who they are or why they provide this service and no understanding of what they could do with any information I open to them, either maliciously or inadvertently, should they be hacked, so I steeer well clear. I imagine a lot of people would be equally wary and more don’t even know the service exists. For that reason, I suspect the number of people who haven’t done the things you looked at will be significantly higher than you might think.

    Given that the data your working with necessarily represents only a portion of the playerbase and that by implication that portion is more likely to be the better-informed, more committed and more risk-taking, the relatively low participation and success rates look very damaging. I don’t see how it can be justified to focus so much development time on an activity (Strike Missions) that looks like it appeals to maybe 5% of the general population at best. It’s only the turtle that’s bumping a single strike mission close to 10%.

    I like the nice, clear 100K figure for those who’ve completed Chapter 1 of EoD. That’s a solid figure. All we need is for ANet to crow about how many copies of EoD they’ve actually sold and we’ll really be getting somewhere. Companies usually do that at some point. I’d have to say that 100k as a sales figure would sound pitifully low for a game of GW2’s stature, especially given all the talk about how the playerbase has “more than doubled”. I’d have expected sales in excess of a quarter of a million at least. Evern if they don’t anounce it, we ought to be able to work out a ballpark figure from the relevant Quarterly report when it comes.

    If 100k is a majority of the boxes sold, that’s a poor result. If the box sales are a lot better than that, 100k is a surprisngly low number of people who’ve even done the first chapter. Obviously ANet would prefer people bought the expansion even if they didn’t use the content but either way it’s a disturbing statistic.

    I should mention, however, that Mrs Bhagpuss bought the expansion and has been playing GW2 ever day since it launched, often for several hours at a stretch, but she has expressed absolutely no interest in using any of the content she’s paid for. In fact, rather than bother with the content, she’s spent more money buying one of the Cantha outfits from the Gem shop. From her point of view I think they could just have released the outfits and not bothered with the expansion.


    1. No worries, I did the number collecting mostly for myself, because I was curious. Just shared it for people who might find it as fascinating as I did.

      My bullshit radar immediately went off when they bragged about doubling their active player count across the three years. Without a doubt, it’s been more active recently when End of Dragons launched. My friendslist has like 8-10 players regularly online, when previously, during the slump and boredom of the last few bad years of layoffs and what not, it was 0-3 online. Isn’t that obvious though? Launch new expansion, garner new interest in people checking it out.

      It sounds good though, and I guess the game is better off with players with good morale and in high spirits, because it’s self-fulfilling prophecies both ways.


  2. Oh my, what a dizzying amount of numbers 😛

    Just one data point, I just started playing again after like 5 years (or whenever PoF was released). I finally finished Act 8 of the Personal Story for the first time yesterday, I am 2 chapters short of finishing HoT and I never completed chapter 1 of PoF. I have 600h played – I’ve never done a fractal or a raid or joined a guild. I was on gw2efficiency (again, with a new api key) on like day 2 after restarting, so I guess I can be hardcore and stats-focuses in my casual play as well.
    Will I buy EoD? No immediate plans, I’ll see if I keep playing after 1-2 weeks and if I manage to actually finish HoT and progress in PoF first…

    To the numbers: No idea if they are a good represeantation (I think the percentages shouldn’t be too bad) but still interesting. I just don’t know if I feel represented well, as I’m also not big on doing meta events. Surely not seeking them out actively, but I remember using the tracker thingy for the big events like Tequatl quite a bit last I played.


    1. Welp, you would be part of the proud long tail of the 20k GW2eff accounts who finished chapter 1 of HoT (320k total) but not chapter 1 of PoF (300k total).

      Just not counted anywhere with respects to anything Canthan related, since only 100k accounts or so started in on EoD. 🙂


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