From a strong 25,000 players on Steam at launch, Humankind has dropped to 4,300 average concurrent players in the last 30 days. Part of this could be down to the holiday period attracting eyeballs to other games, but generally a compelling, addictive, fully-realised 4X should be displaying more staying power.
By comparison, Civilization VI dropped from 86,000 to 24,400 in the first two months (also in the holiday season), and then dipping further before recovering to 41,000.
When it comes to concurrent player counts post-release, there are generally two types of game: Those that go up, and those that go down. Naturally there’s always a drop after the initial hype, but some games are engaging enough to have a staying power that allows them to grow through word of mouth without regular injections of marketing funds. Counter-Strike has it, Among Us has it, Splitgate has it.
I picked Humankind as having it, mainly because I believe Amplitude has been a leader in the genre, design-wise, ever since the first Endless Legend. I’m on record as calling the Endless Legend games (and Endless Space games) as better Civs than Civ. Logic follows that Humankind would be an even BETTER Civ than Civ.
I still think that’s true, but there’s no denying certain objections the community has had with the game’s balance post-launch. Some of these objections are just Civ players getting used to the Amplitude formula – regions set in stone, influence, a separate combat scene, etc. But some are objectively valid criticisms.
For example, two months after launch, there’s no excuse for having some factions just inarguably more powerful than others. The community has played thousands of games by this point, they have the data, and the balance fixes haven’t come in. If a player like me wants to use Assyrians, there should be a valid path to victory.
Pre-launch, a Chinese player had optimised a playthrough to win in 70 turns (Humankind is designed to finish in 300 turns). This was done via a space race victory in which, compared to speed runs in other games, only a few things need to go right in the early game. Here’s a player shortly after launch winning in 113 turns.
Humankind allows certain factions to convert all of their output to a single direction – science civs can convert all their food and industry to science, industry civs the other way, etc. It avoids the usual inertia inherent to these games, and allows an industrial civ to build swathes of industry before picking a science civ for the next age and immediately leveraging all output for a science victory.
You have to admire the audacity of a design that plays with such volatile elements. It’s just asking to be broken, and I actually love that. It’d be fine if there were just-as-broken elements elsewhere to compete with it, but there aren’t. Other systems in the game like religion or influence are side thoughts.
Extra content and DLC can sometimes revitalise a game’s playerbase, but 4X’s shouldn’t need it. What the community most wants is a balance patch so there isn’t one all-powerful way to play.