Funcom executive producer and Age of Conan game director Craig Morrison weighs in on the perplexing state of MMO number-crunching on his personal blog, offering a bit of insight as to why hard data is, well, hard to come by. He cites a lack of context for the near-universal reticence of developers when it comes to publicizing their community sizes. "Without standard definitions everything ends up in that vague, murky and entirely subjective middle ground... and a middle ground that very few could reasonably be expected to accept as being worthwhile exploring in a business sense," he writes.
So what's his solution? In broad terms, he mentions a rating system, citing television's Nielsen metrics as well as cinema box office figures as semi-comparable standards. While such a system probably wouldn't stop the endless fan bickering, it might at least provide an answer to the question of how each individual company defines success.