According to ‘sources‘, 51% of all new EVE player quit within the first 2 hours. I suspect that two hour timeframe is generous, as my guess would be a lot actually quit sooner. If you go into the game totally blind (no friend asking you to play, no established group you are joining, no real pre-work before you load up the game for the first time), EVE is a really hard game to get into and find the fun, and clearly a lot of people aren’t willing to push up that initial hill.
On the other hand, we are talking about one of the longest-running and most successful MMOs ever produced, so clearly for those that do get into it, EVE has a lot going for it that make it a game people play for years and years (and now for some a decade+).
As a returning player myself, I’ve recently gone through somewhat of a ‘new player experience’, only I did so by joining up with the lovable Goons right away. In a way, the Goons have their own ‘new player experience’ program, and its rather amazing. Offline you have countless wiki pages, a giant section of the forums, and plenty of intro and tutorial videos. In-game, there is a dedicated help channel, and almost to a man everyone in the group is very helpful and understanding towards new players.
On top of all that, the Goons make it very easy to fly the correct ship at the correct time. Every fleet has a clear doctrine, and all ships part of that doctrine can be found in contracts in our home station. What is especially helpful about the contracts is that they are not only clearly labeled, but once you buy one, you just jump into the ship and are good to go, without needing to mess around in the fitting tool. Add the ship replacement program on top of all of that, and Goons do everything but push the ‘fire weapon’ key for you when it comes to making it easy to join a fleet, which takes a lot of the pressure off a new player and just lets you jump right in and help out.
Now imagine if CCP had something like what the Goons have? That number wouldn’t be 51%, that’s for sure (I’d love to see what the Goon retention rate is, as I suspect is insanely high compared to a general EVE player). And while CCP can’t do everything that the Goons have done, the most important being a strong social group, I think they could do some of it.
It goes a bit against the sandbox guidelines, but what if CCP put up new-player contracts for basic ships? Want to see what missions are all about? Here is a mission running ship in contracts, just grab it and off you go. Want to mine? Mining ship in contracts, go shoot that mining laser! Care to try out market hauling? Entry-level hauler and some help knowing what to haul and where, enjoy! There would have to be very clear limits on all of this, but I think the core idea is sound. The game gives you a rookie ship for free, and its long past the time to expand on that IMO.
Another huge bonus to the Goons, especially right now, is that action is available to use almost 24/7. Again, this is awesome because I can log on, grab a ship, and in minutes I’m in a fleet of 50 or so and we are off to shoot bad guys or do ‘stuff’. In contrast, a new player today is tossed into the universe and basically told ‘go find something to do’. If instead a totally new player was able to get just a taste of a fleet battle, or be part of an incursion simulation, they will likely see enough to make it beyond two hours. Again some of this goes against the sandbox guidelines, but if done in a controlled and limited way, it would accomplish the most important goal in the game; getting a new player into the meat of what EVE is all about.