Brendan Greene was born in Ireland, a country of roughly 4.5 million people. Earlier this week, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, the video game that Greene created, recorded more than 3 million people playing at once on Steam. Greene doesn’t need Ireland any more — he has a country of his own, now, writes Ronan Jennings.
The staggering figure highlights just how popular Battlegrounds has become, but it also raises another interesting question: at the beginning of 2018, what other PC games have such persistent, dedicated players? Battlegrounds is the clear number one, but what about the best of the rest?
For that data, we looked at the top ten ‘concurrent players’ list on Steam on New Year’s Day. While Steam doesn’t host numbers for massively multiplayer games like Warcraft or Final Fantasy IV, it does represent a very large swathe of the PC gaming landscape.
In second place on the ‘concurrent players’ list for New Year’s Day was DOTA 2, with 700,000 concurrent players. This won’t be a huge surprise to those who follow eSports or competitive PC gaming. DOTA is one of the world’s most popular competitive games, a kind of ‘hyper chess’ that is both accessible and ridiculously deep.
In third place is one of PC gaming’s greatest ever success stories: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive had 580,000 concurrent players. Counter-Strike is the granddaddy of modern shooters. It’s the game that gave birth to Call of Duty’s popularity and even to Player
Unknown’s Battlegrounds. That Counter-Strike still has half a million concurrent players in 2018 is nothing short of amazing for a series that first surfaced 17 years ago.
Battlegrounds, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike have something in common — they are truly global games. They are particularly popular in Asia. In fourth place, however, is a game with an especially American flavour. Grand Theft Auto V had 168,000 concurrent players, largely thanks to Grand Theft Auto Online, the multiplayer component of the game that became such a surprise success in the wake of the game’s release in 2013. Once considered a single-player series, the popularity of Grand Theft Auto Online has transformed the franchise into a billion-dollar multiplayer property.
In fifth place was Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, another shooter in the vein of Counter-Strike, with the emphasis in this case on squad-based gameplay and teamwork. While the initial reaction to Siege wasn’t great — due to the removal of single player campaigns and a focus on multiplayer only — the persistent community suggests that the move has paid off.
Speaking of persistence, you’ll need it to succeed in Ark: Survival Evolved, the sixth game on the list with 81,000 concurrent players. Ark is one of only two ‘survival’ games on the list – these are a kind of adult Minecraft, where players stave off enemies, other players and the wilderness to succeed. Ark did some surviving of its own on this list, staving off two more
online shooters in the form of Team Fortress 2, in seventh place with 71,000 concurrent players, and Warframe in eighth place with a similar total.
Finally, while survival game Rust took the last spot on the list, with 53,000 players, we were pleasantly surprised to see desperate Irish football fans (probably) propping up Football Manager 2018 in ninth place with 63,000 players. Come on you boys on Steam!
Of the top ten games on this list, only two were released in 2017. Many were released years ago. Their enduring popularity reminds us that, in some cases, success is measured by the community you create, not the initial sales figures. If that’s the case, don’t expect Brendan Greene and Battlegrounds to leave this list for a very long time.
The evolution of gaming has led to a clear split between indie, triple-A titles and online gaming — but we’re starting to see signs of positive change. Last year’s Hellblade was a great success for Ninja Theory, who developed a ‘double-A’ game that fell short of a blockbuster budget, but was nonetheless slick and impressive. Now, one of the world’s best developers is getting in on the act. Platinum Games, creators of NieR and Bayonetta, are creating two ‘double-A’ titles with smaller teams of about 20 people. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.
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