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Last year a friend of mine (MMO friend only) demonstrated with as much precision as possible that XFire was an accurate correlator of intraMMO populations: both in terms of those logged in and those subscribed.
The methodology was simple: A script pulled all XFire numbers over a period of 3 years for the top 20 MMOs that were out there.
Data was then assembled from separate posts that measured in-game populations from within the game.
Data was also gathered from companies that trade publicly and released subscription numbers, or from where subscription numbers could be directly calculated.
Ratios were calculated. Simple regression, least squares, was applied.
The result? R2 was .88.
So you can hazard guesses until the cows come home as to why it is correlated. But anyone with a statistics background who ALSO has a bit of common sense could likely figure out that SHOCKER...Xfire populations are a representative sample of a game's playerbase in so far as likelihood to play and subscribe is concerned. It does not matter if you get more hardcore gamers, it just so happens, fortuitously, that they tend to quit games as much as your less hardcore non x-fire gamer does.
Or at least, good enough to sneak out a .88 R2.
RexTerra aka Loicenick aka Leaky the Leviathan aka Litigator