It seems reasonable that Steam numbers mean very little because they represent a small proportion of the overall player numbers. However-- I suspect they represent a fairly accurate percentage of overall player numbers that have left the game because of the main issues Azorees wrote about. That should alarm the owner/s of RF4 and should have them scrambling to stop the bleeding. Instead, they offer a fairly feeble sale, tighten the screws on player progression and allow the technical problems to linger on. I've read a lot of doom and gloom posts in the last 2 years or so and the recent wave of complaints is worse than anything that's gone on before. Except perhaps during Boiliegate- that was a real low for RF4.
The Chiv's post perfectly represents the perspective of a new-ish player that is loving the game for all the reasons the game is so great. But it's practically a 100% guarantee that if he (or any random new-ish player) sticks around he'll experience the same frustration most of us old timers feel nowadays. I absolutely hate it that most of the friends I've made playing this game are gone. Hate hate hate that.
Regarding the bigger hooks/bigger fish topic- the "best" hook should get the bigger fish. Great feature of the game. But... better gear plus more experience should absolutely get a higher percentage of better fish too. Better gear means (usually) bonus points, more experience means better skill tree plus the use of the the best line, hooks, locations, times, baits, etc. The odds should be stacked for high level players that make good choices, as they would irl. I find this to be true for the most part but the devs have a little too much "tough luck" RNG to the game. Compromise there would be nice.