Estimating numbers

An interesting argument that the IF-playing community is much larger than we usually estimate:

Gargoyle’s last release had over 12,000 downloads – double counting some folks, to be sure, but also omitting anyone who installed the Debian packages. In the last 45 days, with a single announcement on raif mired in negative feedback, the new release has been downloaded 1800 times.

These are not huge numbers on the scale of global populations, or indeed more than a footnote on Activision’s balance sheet, but they also represent only a fraction of the overall market in IF interpreters: the players passionate enough to download a dedicated interpreter and willing to use Gargoyle for this purpose. I doubt this amounts to more than 25% market share, all told, which gives us around 50,000 interested players. This is a couple orders of magnitude above the pessimistic estimates I routinely encounter. (The first approximation of community size I saw was in an article that suggested there were a few dozen authors and a few hundred players in the field.)

Ben Cressey

3 thoughts on “Estimating numbers”

  1. A few hundred is obviously a huge lowball; Emily, in Google Reader, I can see that you have 930 subscribers to this blog alone. The attendance at IF events is another indicator, as well as Andrew Plotkin’s Kickstarter results.

    50,000 feels like the right order of magnitude to me. It certainly largely depends on what you count as the “IF-playing community.” I’ve personally introduced a handful of friends to individual games like Photopia, Shade, So Far, and others, which they enjoyed, even if they don’t go on to seek out new IF on their own. If you’re counting people like that, I expect it’s quite upwards of a hundred thousand.

  2. I think a few hundred is an accurate assessment for people who, like you, spend every waking day touching interactive fiction in some way, be it talking with other authors, making IF, or working on some IF-related issue.

    That’s a silly number, though, because the people living and breathing game development in general is rather small, compared to the degrees of interested audience. Fifty thousand is low number.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I’ve been planning to request that the few distros I use start including various IF programs in their repositories, but I wasn’t sure what might convince them there’d be interest. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask them about their numbers, and while waiting for answers I can make use of the ones the Gargoyle team has posted. *grin*

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