Thought I would update on this, but didn’t want to resurrect the old thread.
My kludge for counting player population is to attempt to “Make Friend” with any toon I meet. I’ve been doing this for about 18 months now. I started doing this around the time I hit Blue Mountain (level 20 I think) with my current (and so far only) character.
Note that unlike other games this is one sided - the other player does not have to accept an invitation. Also the “friend” is only for the character, not the account. So I could be making friends with multiple toons and it’s only one player.
Eight months ago my friend count was at 2800. Current friend count = 3695. So I’m still meeting new toons.
Counter to this is that I look at the “online” count on my friends screen and it’s not too different from last time - it’s still in the 120-150 range. This is during an event, so it’s likely higher than at other times.
I’m doing about one Talos fight per day since it’s the Anniversary. I’ve only been on two Gatekeeper fights and three Padurii megaboss fights in the current event. On the Talos fights I’m still getting at least 3 new friends per fight. So either new people are coming in or old ones are making toons and I’m meeting them. I see very few (less than 10%) toons that are under level 50, so if these are new ones, they are committing to them (at $8-10 each, I would think so).