I have my own selfish reasons why I would like the online population numbers to be made public one way or another.
However, in practice it might not be nearly as useful for players as they think it is. While it's technically true that it might help you from wasting your time, on the flipside, it makes you predisposed to not even try playlists you might otherwise have happily played. When you don't know the playlist populations, you will make the choice purely based on which seems like the most fun at the moment. Presenting players with playlist populations, on the other hand, biases their choice towards the most popular playlists, which makes the player distribution among playlists less even. It's a self fulfilling propechy where players thinking "this playlist is too unpopular" makes the playlist less popular, and thus will cause players be even less inclined to play it.
Not telling you the playlist populations is wagering on the idea that you won't actually mind a bit of additional search time compared to the most popular playlists once you find a match, and you are probably going to have more fun in the playlist you actually wanted to play. Guaranteeing that players actually find matches in a reasonable amount of time is of course important, and is a matter of good playlist management.
I'm personally inclined to agree with the above argument. How much fun you're having is a hard thing to measure, but it sounds intuitively appealing to me that I'd be happier doing what I actually want to do rather than trying to optimize my playtime by gaming with population numbers.
Well, selfish is pretty much the name of the game when talking about entertainment, no matter which side one represents. It's pretty much about the priorities in life & the design chose likely will be choosen by what is seen as the dominant opinion, depending ofcourse is some people think it will cause a hit on sales.
The part of it's usefulness, id say it's true that it's not as important as a number of other aspects of the game it still has more positive effect in the long run with the risk of the initial impact being mocked on.
I'm not a mindreader so I cant really say how useful people think such feature is but the thing I can say is what I think & that is that it's positives to the general consumers will be greater than the negatives caused to the variety of playlists & possible reviews, which basically is just talk that possibly has an effect on people following such "reviewers". Though people should always keep in mind when seeking knowledge about a product they are about to buy, I would suggest seeking varying opinions for people, at least in most cases, have their mind set when making a review so having multiple sources to add the pool of positives & negatives is usually a good idea before making a call for everyone has their reasons to think as they do.
But the thing is about "dying" playlists, player population counter really could make some playlists emptier somewhat quicker but it's still the people, the players, that decide which playlists will remain lively possibly long after the release, sort of generally deciding the good from the less optimal modes. No multiplayer lasts forever & it should be taken in account when designing a game. Some playlists will die along the way, which is unfortunate, but hiding the facts wont solve a thing. What aspect could help some less populated modes to survive a bit longer could in theory accelerate the abandonment of the whole game itself when most of the time people could be spending on a match is spent navigating menus in the time of last fading of the light before total darkness.
And obviously deciding about search time & whether to reveal the population is wagering but I simply think the wager & the decision should be up to the consumers, the players, themselves rather than people that possibly know more about making money than experiencing the games themselves. I far prefer the idea of people having the data to decide for themselves whether something is worth their time, their life, to what would be the decision of certain individuals in publishment/development.
And factor of how much fun one is having is a factor with too many variables to start calculating whether something is good or bad for it's so much up to the person observing the product.
But I still go with my former statement, if a bit modified for this bit, it should be up to the player whether they want to trade their time in waiting for some rarer playlist to have matches rather than hiding the facts & delaying their decision making to move if there are no matches.
It could be sad that some playlists, even rather original ones by design, die out. But it's simply up to the players themselves, the industry caters to what they assume people want & some things are simply left behind to perhaps reappear years after, who knows, but meanwhile it was just a bygone moment of life that didn't quite made it to trend, left in memories of those that were there to witness it rather than being milked to death.
I doubt that many people wont make it this far, but as for many things in life, this too is simply a moment passing by for those that are here to observe this, even if this is more prolonged form of expression than many others.
Everything in topic, so far, have been something that I have weighed before and found outweighted by the goods the feature would bring in. Though that is definitely my opinion as is any other. No person is without "their point of view".
"Those who built this place knew what they wrought. Do not mistake their intent, or all will perish as they did before."
Lord of longposts, quaestor of quotes.