I was recently reading an article on TheMittani.com about the upcoming winter changes for factional warfare. One of the things that got mentioned is how pilots will be motivated to join the underdog rather than the winning side for the appeal of having more targets.
Things are in the works to promote pilots not just joining the side holding more systems for obvious, economic reasons. Rather, as PVP is promoted more and more, having more targets becomes increasingly an appealing draw for new pilots. Less orbit the button, more shooting people in the face is always a good thing in Eve.
Everytime I hear this, I cringe. Not because the thought of having more targets doesn't sound appealing, but because its a false generalization. More targets doesn't always imply more or better PVP opportunities. You can have an overwhelming number of difficult targets that pick their fights wisely and experience much less PVP than fighting against a smaller pool of easier targets that die repeatedly.
When discussing factional warfare you quite frequently hear that people will join the losing side for the fights and the PVP, since they'll have more targets to shoot at. Meanwhile, new people will join the winning side of the ISK. This has been stated as a design choice by CCP regarding factional warfare.
Whats the problem then? The problem is this design choice completely misses the mark in regard to the implications it cultivates. It implies that the underdog has a uniquely inherent benefit to their faction, when as long as both sides have people still willing to fight you can join either side for the PVP, and find it. In fact, according to this graph, taken from Susan's FW site if you want kills instead of targets, you should join the winning side. If you look at the last few weeks of data, you notice that the dominant militias are getting twice the weekly kills, despite having fewer targets.
NOTE: Keep in mind that there is a 2-month data gap between July-September, so the actual numbers in between could vary wildly from where the line graph implies they would be.
The point i'm trying to make is that number of targets doesn't always mean more PVP and its bad logic to build game mechanics around that assumption, especially when its treated as a unique incentive. Its partially why CCP's war dec price scaling where you pay more ISK for more targets misses the mark. Just because Goonswarm offers more "potential" targets, the actual number and rotation of active targets in highsec might be much lower than you would get from a nullsec alliance half their size.
If CCP doesn't plan on incentivizing the underdog side with something more than the the promise of more targets, FW will continue down its slow path to stagnation. People will continue to join the underdog for the promise of targets, and then shortly leave when they realize despite having more targets they're getting as many kills, nor are they getting ISK either. Who would pick targets over ISK and kills, especially when the entire point of having more targets is having more kills?
Finally, lets look at how the upcoming changes will impact the warzone. One of the goals for the Winter expansion is to reduce the amount of farming that happens and force plexers to accept the possibility of combat rather than simply run away the second someone lands inside their plex. Assuming this works as intended, who is actually getting more targets in this scenario? Whatever side is already dominant, since they're the ones with more space for farmers to farm in. Assuming the status quo doesn't change much come winter, this means the Minmatar and Caldari, as they shoot each other's LP farmers. Feature working as intended? Hopefully not.