Xfire is pretty much the gaming equivalent of blackface

How are people STILL confused by what Xfire represents? It’s not that hard, yet time and time again people get it so wrong it makes my head spin. So consider this the second blogging service post of the week. You’re welcome.

Xfire does not represent everyone. No shit. But Xfire does represent A LOT of people (LoL alone has 30k+ people reporting stats), at least compared to your choice of metrics (feel free to provide a link, thanks!). Not only that, but the top games on Xfire over the years have been the top games based on sales, so that large group of people who do use Xfire also seem to trend right along with other, more official metrics when we get them. Head-in-the-sand aside, how anyone can argue at this point that Xfire only represents some small special interest group is beyond me.

Furthermore, when people glace at Xfire numbers (sorting the list by ranking), you are looking at hours played, not number of people playing. Why is this significant? Because people play a fresh release a lot more than they do an older game. Even if the actual number of players stays the same, your Xfire ranking is going to decrease after the first month of release as people get over the “omg new game must play 24/7” feeling and go back to normal mode. This is especially true for MMOs, and doubly so for MMOs that flame out after a very short time (GW2).

Finally, I’ve yet to see an example where a game’s statistics on Xfire have been proven wrong in terms of trending by a different, official source. When WAR was dropping on Xfire, it was also dying overall. When SW:TOR fell like a brick after the first month on Xfire, we now know that it was falling like a brick overall. When LoL was climbing up the Xfire rankings, it coincided with Riot hitting the big time and LoL becoming the most popular game out. I could go on, but the point is that at least in the top 50 or so games, what Xfire has shown in terms of trending has lined up with exactly what is actually happening.

To keep writing the numbers off as inaccurate or only representing a unique subset of the gamers in the NA/EU at this point is, IMO, simply ignorant.

Also it might be racist. Because, um, racism.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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23 Responses to Xfire is pretty much the gaming equivalent of blackface

  1. I havent touched XFIRE in years. GO YELLOW GO RAPTR! SCREW THE MAN

  2. Ardwulf says:

    I’m not clear of whether your take-home message here is that we should ignore this kind of thing or embrace it. Still, the bit about new games getting played for longer hours is well taken; the corollary would be that we should take new games’ numbers as bloated and established games’ numbers are stable.

    As far as XFire’s validity overall, I (and I suspect a fair number of people) have abandoned it in favor of Raptr. But I do still occasionally peek at the numbers. Surely they tell us something but just as surely they do not tell us everything.

  3. brdweb says:

    I dropped xFire years ago as well and imported my stats from there into Raptr. Actually that brings up a point, I need more Raptr friends. Perhaps a thread where everyone posts their Raptr names?

    I go by brdweb on there.

  4. I think Xfire numbers are useful to look at, so long as you do not run off and start trying to apply those numbers to things outside of Xfire. Xfire numbers are indicative of trends that are likely happening in the population of a given game as a whole, but the absolute hours played numbers don’t mean anything by themselves.

    Like a lot of people, I switched over to Raptr. For me, it was a matter of Xfire just refusing to track some games. I could never get it to track EVE, for example.

    But the only reason I had Xfire in the first place was that, back in the day, it had a great use. If you played shooters like the Battlefield series, as I did about a decade back, Xfire would let see your friends, show you what game they were playing, and allow you to launch the game and jump directly to the same game/server on which they were playing. That was strictly awesome compared to the balky server UIs that such games had back then.

    Once I no longer needed that… MMO server jumping isn’t that easy, right… Xfire was just an excess IM client in a sea of such clients and a game tracking tool that wouldn’t track games I played.

    I do wonder if the origins of Xfire and its popularity with the FPS crowd skews its population. Are shooter players more likely to be PvP players, and so does something like EVE or LoL get over represented?

    Not that such things matter, so long as you are comparing like to like. It is just another factor in why you shouldn’t take Xifre numbers and try to turn them into something they are not.

  5. Ettesiun says:

    Xfire does not represent so well the player population at least for one type of person : it does not represent well the single player game. Where are the millions of player of the Sims ? Where are the millions players of sports game ?
    What your data prove is that for most of MMO games, the gamer community follow the player community.
    You are speaking about 400k EVE player. But EVE is not in the top ten. GW2 has 3 time the number of the last ten ( 28,747 VS 9,931 ). The consequence is that there is more 1 200 000 players of GW2 ? ( 400k x3 )

    Yes you can predict a trend with xfire : when a game grow quickly on Xfire, you can predict the playerbase also grows. But you cannot compare game. You cannot use a 20% reduction to deduce a 20% reduction on player base.

    • SynCaine says:

      Skyrim was up there for a long time, as have other single-player games shortly after release. And who still plays The Sims? FIFA is also highly ranked atm, but those games are much bigger on consoles.

      I’d say the GW2 estimate is not that far off. They sold more than 2m boxes, I’d say its reasonable that half that number are still playing.

      But yea, those kinds of comparisons don’t work as well as general trending, but that’s kinda my point. When GW2 drops below EVE, I think we can safely say more people are playing EVE than GW2 at that point, and CERTAINLY say that more people are paying CCP to play EVE than Anet is making off GW2 players.

      • musik says:

        The Sims remains the most sold game title. Not that I know anyone playing it, but every expansion they put out climbs to the top of sales. There have to be people playing it and xfire is not representing that. If it cannot represent the most succesful IP based on sales, how can it represent gaming habits in general?

        Also, I know no one who uses xfire, so from my point of view it is safe to say it is not representative, since it represents no one I know. It’s utility seems to be based around tracking game time and coordinating in game friends that play different games, something that no one dedicated to one game really needs. This goes back to the sims: why would anyone playing the sims need xfire?

        What I dislike is people that use xfire statistics when they suit them and dismiss them when they do not fit the point they are trying to make. I do not see any relevance in their statistics, ever.

        • SynCaine says:

          http://beta.xfire.com/games/sims3

          Ranked 44th, which I’d say is reasonable for an old game. Maybe I’m reading you wrong, but you seem to be suggesting The Sims should be at LoL levels today? Because there is no shot in hell that is actually true. Also didn’t the Sims peak prior to the latest release?

          The “I don’t know anyone who uses it” aspect is mute. I use it, you don’t, so what? 30k+ LoL players use it, which is kinda hard to ignore if we are trying to track gaming trending, especially given the alternatives (read: none).

        • I don’t think you are making a valid point here. You seem to be arguing that unless Xfire numbers are valid data points for all games in all situations, they have no value.

          I would argue strenuously against that.

          For example, as SynCaine points out, 30K LoL users are being tracked by Xfire (perhaps confirming the PvP swing I noted in my own comment.), so it seems like Xfire might be a pretty good tool for tracking the ups and downs of the LoL community. If they release a patch and numbers drop, that seems like a pretty good indicator of how the patch was received.

          On the other hand, for EverQuest, Xfire is only tracking 12 users. That seems to me to be clearly too few to use Xfire as an indicator of population swings in the game. One person goes on vacation and the data gets skewed.

          Which seems to me to be a perfect example of Xfire numbers being valid in one case and not in another.

          So if SynCaine goes off the deep end and starts declaring LoL is clearly more popular than Sims 3, there are counter arguments to be made, such as the online gaming and general PvP bias of Xfire as well as the low number of Sims 3 players being tracked. (370)

          But if Sims 4 comes out and Sims 3 numbers on Xfire tank, it seems a pretty safe observation to connect the two.

          So Xfire numbers have validity as long as you use them carefully. And, as was pointed out, they beat the alternative… which is no numbers at all.

        • Mekhios says:

          Most of my guild uninstalled XFire and Raptr once it was reported they were suspected of tracking more than just games. We mostly use the Steam Friends list now. So yes that is 75 people who are heavily into online games who don’t use Xfire. ;)

  6. Stormwaltz says:

    Personally, I left Xfire for Raptr when it was bought out by the former owners of gold-farming outfit IGE, and most of the original developers quit en masse.

  7. Ettesiun says:

    As you said, Xfire class game by total number of hours played, I am more interested of number of people who play a game by months.

    About alternatives (but not for MMOs unfortunately) there is the steam stats. http://store.steampowered.com/stats/ The result are globally consistant with Xfire (confirming its use for global trend) but the place and ratio between game can change greatly : Borderlands 2 VS CounterStrike source : Steam ratio : 2; Xfire Ratio : 6

    For a multi VS solo the comparaison is worse
    Xfire Civ5 : 260 VS Counter Strike GO : 3536 : ratio : 13
    Steam : Civ5 : 23000 VS CS:GO : 18000 Ratio : 0.8

    For 2 multi games, the ratio is more correct.

    So this is a proof that Xfire stat can greatly hide some solo players – by only showing number of hour or by not showing casual solo players.

    But, and this is very important, we do not have a lot of other tool for MMO number. And we can expect that for MMO, Xfire is a better tool, nevertheless, but its hides some class of player.

  8. saucelah says:

    I think people that deny that there is any validity with Raptr either do not understand statistics or are over-applying things they’ve learned about statistics.

    When talking trends, not distinct numbers, especially about online games, Raptr is useful.

    But some people learn about sample bias and skew and the like and decide that means you can’t take anything away from the data. That’s just not true.

  9. Noizy says:

    You might want to google “market research community panels” for some more info. And I keep hearing about Raptr, but if I can’t see stats for games without signing up for it, I won’t bother.

  10. silvertemplar says:

    Alot of people mention they moved to Raptr, i’m just flabbergasted that the people at Raptr are not making better use of their data! Why doesn’t Raptr have the same metrics? I know they have “some” graphs , but nothing as clear and easy to understand as what Xfire provided.

    Sometimes i just wonder what goes on at companies like this, Xfire is always brought up as the go-to place for these kind of trends, yet alot of players are now using Raptr for the -exact same thing- , yet no data there? Helllooooooo…someone is sleeping at the wheel.

  11. Kyff says:

    Neither x-fire nor raptr does represent me.

    I have never heard of raptr and only have a vague idea of what x-fire does. So I think that these applications do only represent a fraction of people buying computer games. Namely those who need someone to keep track of their time spent or those who wish to impress others with their stats.

    I do not argue that this fraction is not enough to depict trends in the industry. But I think it’s not apprpriate to say: “We matter more because we are online.” If your customer base coincides with the population not giving a thing about x-fire, you may still have a hugely successful title without anyone noticing it.

  12. Stratagerm says:

    There *is* an alternative to Xfire–Google Trends. I wrote about it in “Measuring MMO popularity with Google Trends”, see http://gamegenus.blogspot.com/2012/10/measuring-mmo-popularity-with-google.html

    • Erm… Google trends is measuring what exactly now?

      Oh, search engine traffic related to given search terms.

      So you are suggesting that measuring an audience that clearly goes beyond people who play the game is better at showing trends than measuring an admittedly self-selecting subset that can be confirmed as playing?

      According to Google Trends, WoW peaked in 2005 and has been going downhill ever since. Great data if I am doing SEO or Google Ads, but not exactly an accurate reflection of a game that peaked in subscriptions in 2011.

      • Stratagerm says:

        Yes, there are issues with Google Trends.

        But for example, today the Wall Street Journal declared “Zynga’s ‘FarmVille’ Era is Over”.

        Now go look at FarmVille in Google Trends and tell me that it has no value.

  13. Pai says:

    If only a tiny percentage of a game’s playerbase participates online in forums and such (I’ve heard numbers like ‘only 10%’ and such) why should anyone assume that a larger percent of a game’s total playerbase would be using Raptr or Xfire?

  14. truthism says:

    shut up bitches.

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