I don't take Ul'dah area Behests being full as a sign that people are returning. 15 players is a really, really small amount considering this is supposed to be a major MMO. I think the reason for them being competitive is obvious - they give a lot of SP now. If 600 people are online, it's pretty reasonable to think 20 or 25 will be at Horizon, Nanawa, or Broken Water given how good the SP is.
I'm not seeing anything that would make me think the population has gone up much. I still run into the same players often - too often in my opinion.. I'd like the population to be going up, but I don't think that has a chance to happen until significant content is added or the PS3 players get to play.
Edit - To give an exact example, at the moment I see 8 players in the immediate vicinity of the repair NPC in Ul'dah. This is how it's been for a long time.. But I do remember when the area was comparatively packed like sardines, the month or two after release.
Edited, Feb 8th 2011 7:57am by Coyohma
I don't measure this with just the people I see...
I measure this with items and retainers that can be found in all Market Wards. You can find almost anything from there now and the wards are full of retainers to browse through.
Also, this could be because I just joined a busy LS, but I seem to find people online in my linkshell at any given time.
Maybe Besaid is busier server but there is always 20+ people near the repair NPC and I don't think I am far off to say that there are always 50+ people standing around the main stairs in Uldah as well.