The Nosedive

Here we go again. Some time ago I wrote two blog posts about statistics and numbers of geocachers:

• It's going downhill - Is geocaching declining?
• Quo Vadis Horreum Terrae? - Why is geocaching declining?

Since then a year has passed - oh man time flies when you're having fun - and I thought it would be worth revisiting these numbers. Actually I was tracking them for a while now and it's fair to say the game took a nosedive. However lets look at total numbers of 2015 and 2016 first since these years are truly gone by and whoever wanted to log a find would have done that by now.

Active Players = 1 find or more that year / Very Active Players = 100 finds or more that year 

Remarkably in both years the very active players make up 4.7% of the active players. This roughly 5% seems to be a reoccurring number as shown in previous posts. However there's a clear decline of 7% from 2015 to 2016 which was only 1% from 2014 to 2015.

Let's move on to some year to date (YTD) data which compares the time between 1.1.2017 until today with the same time-frame last year. This way we're comparing apples with apples and can see some clear trends.
First of all the numbers in Australia ditched from 48,000 last year to 33,000 this year which is a significant loss of 15,000 cachers or  minus 31% (green line in the chart). Unsurprisingly the total number of lost cachers globally is much higher - about 400,000 (red line) - however the percentage is only minus 23% which leaves 1¼ million active cachers YTD. 

Is this trend continuing?

At the moment it seems to recover a bit but I honestly don't know. In the chart you can see that the current loss (October) is less compared to August however that could be a seasonal impact - school holidays are on. Seasonality is very usual in Geocaching e.g. you'll see a spike around Easter every year although it is less pronounced in Australia compared to the northern hemisphere. Maybe this number recovers until the end of the year to minus 300,000 but that would be still a loss of about 18%. The global loss of cacher 2015 to 2016 was only 5.8%. 

Why is this happening?

I'm still standing by my assessment I made over a year ago regarding the low stickiness. In general the life-cycle of a new geocacher goes like this:
  • They hear/read about geocaching
  • Download the app
  • Go on a hunt close to home
  • Have an average experience because
    • It's a mint tin in the park because that's what's close to most homes
    • They can't find the cache due to lack of experience
    • It's all too much at once: guidelines, etiquette, creed, ...
  • Eventually they conclude it's a quirky hobby but not for them
Now obviously also people who used to play are leaving the game and the influx is less than the loss so the net growth rate remains negative. Technically I'm one of the cachers who dropped from "very active" to "active" because I only found 57 caches this year with no outlook to push that over the 100 mark.  I already mentioned a couple of reasons why players turn it down like me or leave the game for good in a previous blog post. Another thing which killed it for me is there's so much clutter out there. Caches which nobody needs and which do not add any value whatsoever. It has gotten so hard to find a decent cache, that I just don't bother anymore and go on my own adventures like hiking, climbing or mountaineering.

Does this have an impact on me?

To make it short: No, it won't. You're still going out caching, there'll be plenty of stuff to do and in your daily play-time you probably won't notice a difference. In the future you might see more abandoned and not maintained caches but the game itself is not dying at all and only slightly shrinking. Eventually it will stabilise at a steady level ... if nothing unusual happens.
However in case you're investing as a business or a volunteer into this, you should be aware it is not a growing market. The real tough gig is for Mega Event organisers who have to get across the fixed line of 500 cachers attending. Hopefully next years Australian Mega in Melbourne will be grandfathered so it can still run as a Mega from the start. Anyway, maybe the guys in Seattle come up with some changes which get the game growing again. Only time will tell.

I could keep on babbling forever but that's it for now. Let me know what you think either here or on the facebook page >> Geocaching Melbourne

Cheers 😁

P.S.: Fun fact > "very active" cachers have always been about 5% of "active" cachers, which means there are roughly 62,500 "very active" cachers on the planet.

All data for this post as been sourced from Project-GC using various queries


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