With Incursion giving us glimpses of what Incarna will have to offer (the the Character Creator), this month's topic, by @Minerpewpew, comes just at the right time. He asks "What are your thoughts on how Incarna will effect the current EVE Online social dynamic?" I'd like to see this questioning go a bit further. How will this affect EVE's player base? Who will Incarna attract? New players to the genre? Seduce old players back into the game? Will we see new players come in that will never leave their station? Please explore to the best of your abilities!
EVE has seen a lot of changes this year, which may make it more appealing to the more mainstream MMO players. Incarna, due (last I recall) this coming summer, is the crown jewel of these changes. The ability to interact in some fashion with others in stations makes a level of EVE accessible to those familiar with the 1st person MMOs, where face to face interaction isn't a static picture next to text. Many people feel that Incarna will actually attract more real women to EVE (not G.I.R.L.s). I think that may be true at first, but unless they are able to find a path and place to deal with the inevitable darkness that exists just under the shiny face of EVE, they will be quick to arrive and quicker to leave. The roots of EVE are a social game - so many players actually just log in to chat it's like a glorified MSN sometimes. That aspect, in conjunction with interaction brought about with Incarna, will open up a new world of EVE with a different class of players. The ability to remotely manage Planetary Interaction, manipulate markets, and other activities that can (hopefully) be run whilst meandering the halls of a station seem to be activities targeted for this class of player.
Incarna may seduce some old players to return, but I don't expect a larger return than any other major expansion, and I don't expect that Incarna itself will be an incentive for those players to stay. Those players weren't EVE players who missed the interaction of others - they are players for whom the game lost it's luster, or just got busy in RL. What Incarna may do for some small number of older players, is open up EVE to their spouses, and by extension open up play time for them again. I have one friend who is married, and his wife is becoming interested in EVE with the new character creator, which has given him the leeway in their busy life to re-subscribe and start playing again.
I don't believe Incarna alone will attract a large new playerbase. Like any expansion, it will attract some old, and some new subscriptions. The difference may be that the new subscriptions to EVE will be less interested in blowing up spaceship pixels, and more interested in building relationships and products in the virtual world we call New Eden.