The sheer number of games on Steam is overwhelming, and more new ones come out per day than ever before. Despite that, Steam's upper echelon has calcified, with an Old Guard looking down from the top of the most-played list at all the peasants below.
GitHyp, a tool that tracks Steam's most-played games (among other things), posted an analysis of the most-played games of 2016. A few findings stand out. First off, if you look at average number of players per hour throughout the year, you get a top five list that looks awfully similar to 2015's, with zero games that came out in 2016:
- Dota 2 / 636,607 avg. players per hour (#1 in 2015)
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive / 360,600 avg. players per hour (#2 in 2015)
- Team Fortress 2 / 50,802 avg. players per hour (#4 in 2015)
- Grand Theft Auto V / 40,258 avg. players per hour (#5 in 2015)
- Sid Meier's Civilization V / 37,885 avg players per hour (#9 in 2015)
Steam users like Valve games. Shocking, I know. But it is surprising to see Civ V gain ground in the year that Civ VI came out. Meanwhile, Fallout 4 fell out of the top five and top 10, because it just never quite caught on to the same degree as, say, Skyrim. And because it really disappointed me personally. If Jason gets to delay games, I get to knock them off the Steam charts. It's only fair.
GitHyp's other list is arranged according to peak concurrent player count, and it tells a different story, with a few fresh-faced actors:
- Dota 2 / 1,286,617 peak players (#1 in 2015)
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive / 845,806 peak players (#2 in 2015)
- No Man's Sky / 212,321 peak players (new)
- XCOM 2 / 132,834 peak players (new)
- Dark Souls III / 129,922 peak players (new)
The No Man's Sky marketing campaign strikes again. XCOM 2 and Dark Souls III also attracted hungry hordes of players at launch, but Dota 2 and CSGO still reigned supreme. And despite strong launches, Dark Souls III came in 21st on the list of average number of players per hour, while No Man's Sky fell to #41 after disappointment set in, and XCOM 2 came in at #44. It's one thing to launch strong. It's something else to have legs, even when you have a thriving mod community a la XCOM 2 or a game-changing update slate like No Man's Sky.
The last part of GitHyp's analysis, though, might surprise you the most. "When looking at the average players per hour, it was actually the free-to-play team-based shooter, Paladins, that ended as 2016's strongest new release ranking in at #15 on Steam with an average of 22,809 players per hour," they wrote.
Calling it now: Paladins will outlive us all. And also Overwatch. Come at me.