Maybe some of you fellow HC players have noticed that the servers have been acting up lately, as also reported by others. Combined with the mixed reception of the seasonal theme (some people saying they don't like it; some clearly enjoying it), I was wondering how popular this season is. Of course we don't know any player numbers, as Blizzard isn't sharing them. So I thought: why not use the stats from a D3-related website that has been up and running for several seasons with no major changes nor announcements to compare the different seasons? I went ahead and did some very basic plotting of D3Resource.com. Here's what it looks like, annotated (click here or on the pic for higher resolution):
I thought it provided some interesting insights (obviously this is just me guessing based on crude, superficial data analysis):
The Triune season is indeed a bit less popular than LoN. Which is surprising to me, as I felt 2.6.6 has more in store than 2.6.5 (some set revamps, new legendary powers, an actually newly implemented mechanic as season theme). My guess is that the summer release timing and the upcoming WoW Classic release had some people skip this season.
I was very surprised that 2.6.1 saw more traffic than 2.6.0. I believe this is, again, due to the Necro DLC hitting in summer; also, the release of 2.6.1 fell together with Blizzcon, which has always brought people back (I always see a few spikes in traffic around Blizzcon).
Looking at the graph, it looks as if balance changes are almost as successful in bringing people back to D3 as large content patches (compare S10 and S16 to S11) - especially after a long drought.
A similarly interesting insight is that the introduction of season themes alone was not interesting enough to bring people back (S14) - but a set revamp was (S16). This sort of makes me question Blizzard's statement about the introduction of seasonal themes being highly successful. By what measure? Are my numbers so off here?
The last, really interesting insight I want to make is that of player retention. It seems as if two seasons in particular were able to keep players engaged for a bit longer than the rest - S11 (Necro DLC) and S17 (LoN theme). Which brings me to a point I made countless times: Diablo is a loot-based game. A new class gives you more new loot to hunt. A push for LoN builds prolongs the loot hunt, because it takes longer to get a full ancient set. Want players to play more than just the weekend? Give us something exciting to loot on day 2.
Ending on the obvious caveat - this graph represents visitors on my personal website. It's from the entire domain of D3Resource, but the bulk by far (>80%) comes from the Season Journey Tracker, and the graph looks the same if I sample only for that. Also, I did not account for anomalies (e.g., a sudden increase from some random website that shared any of my links prominently).
TL;DR: I looked at some graphs and determined that if Blizzard gives us a reason for a prolonged/new loot hunt, or shakes up some set damage numbers, more people play Diablo 3. #shocking!