Inside TradeWars - Impact - Statistics

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When TradeWars was at its peak, around 1994, the online world was a much smaller place. At that time, for the majority of users, "online" meant Bulletin Board Systems, CompuServe, or one of the other commercial services. In 1994, Compuserve had nearly 3 million subscribers. That's about the same number of users actively calling BBSs that year. TradeWars was running on 1/3rd of all BBSs in 1994, meaning that an estimated 1,000,000 players had access to the game at that time. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say with any certainty how many actively played the game in 1994, much less over the entire 31 years since it was first released. The best that can be shown is the reach and longevity of the game. Approximately 24,000 TradeWars sites have been hosted in 59 countries from 1986 to the present.

In 2011, EIS added player counting to TWGS v2. Between 2011 and 2016, there have been 34,256 unique players in TWGS v2 games.




This graph shows a comparison of the total number of active BBSs and the total number of active TradeWars games per year. As you can see, TradeWars activity between 1990 and 2000 (the year TWGS was released) follows the same general trend as the BBS market. Keep in mind that this graph shows only legitimately registered games, and does not include unregistered or pirated copies of the game. The actual number of BBSs running TradeWars is probably much higher.


This graph shows the direct ratio between active BBSs and active TradeWars sites. The ratio is on average about 1/3rd of active BBSs, and is consistent between 1992 and 2000. After 2000, TWGS (the TCP/IP hosting application) allows TradeWars to break free of the BBS market trend and hold steady into the next decade.


This graph shows the total number of registered TradeWars games from 1990 to 2011. The two dominant regions are the pre-1994 boom, followed by the more modest growth of the post-1994 transition from BBS to Internet-based games.

Total as of May 29, 2017:


NOTE: In 2011, TradeWars switched to a free-to-host version where activation is required, but registration is optional. The above total includes all registered and activated TradeWars games since 1990.


This graph focuses on a 10 year window, from 2007 to present, of active TradeWars game sites. This demonstrates that even after 31 years, the game still enjoys a moderate following. The uptick in active TW sites at 2011 corresponds with the release of TWGS v2, the 25th anniversary edition, late in 2011.



The above interactive map shows all US states, Canadian provinces, or other countries where TradeWars games have been hosted. Click on a balloon for a count of sites at a location, and click on the location name to browse to the site list.


  • In 1995, there were a total of approximately 400 active MUDs [1]. There were approximately 14,000 active TradeWars sites in 1994.
  • LambdaMOO, a popular mid-90s MUD, had approximately 10,000 active players in 1995 [2]. It is estimated that TradeWars had as many as 70,000 active players in 1994.

Notes about Graph Data

The preceding graphs were generated from the best data available. Active BBS numbers were drawn from Jason Scott's BBS Documentary. Active TradeWars sites were compiled from the Martech and EIS registration database. Because, in most cases, hosting duration is unknown, I assumed that all games registered prior to 1994 (the year the BBS world collapsed) were active until 1994, after which I use a three-year window (e.g., a game registered in 1997 was assumed to have been active until 2000). Also, because player activity is unknown, I proposed a conservative estimate of active players in 1994, the peak of TradeWars popularity, as 70,000, assuming an average of 5 unique players per active TradeWars game. Though the number of players per game site was certainly higher, there would have been crossover, with many players playing at multiple sites.

Missing from these numbers are all HVS TradeWars registrations, as well as the undoubtedly high number of unregistered and pirated games (a TWv2+ code generator was released the same day as the game itself, and often accompanied it in distributions). Because of this, I am confident that these numbers provide a conservative estimate of TradeWars activity.

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