Helldivers 2 Is Facing A Numbers Problem

Helldivers 2 Is Facing A Numbers Problem

Helldivers 2 is crashing back down to Earth. After a meteoric ascent, and a lengthy tenure at the very top of the live-service market, Arrowhead Game Studios’ player count for its cooperative third-person shooter has been in an extended free fall the last several weeks. Now, player counts are trending downward, and Helldivers 2 needs to figure out a way forward.

Helldivers 2’s galactic war story—the metanarrative that enthralled its players in the first place and allowed them to roleplay as comically evil fascists—has depended upon its massive fandom to come through and complete mandates, such as the termination of billions of bugs at once. However, a recent series of major orders with similar extraordinary requirements have failed, and stratagems that were promised to the community upon their completion have been appropriately withheld, upsetting the dwindling playerbase, which is sitting at a respectable place of about 66,000 players currently. However, according to Eurogamer, this number represents a nearly 65 percent drop from the month before it.

Of course, that number is trending downward for a number of reasons. Live-service games tend to have heavy drop-offs after a honeymoon period and Helldivers 2 enjoyed a lengthier one than most. That was due to the fact that the shifting nature of the game seemed novel at first, with Arrowhead introducing new features, worlds, weapons, and enemies at an incredible and somewhat unprecedented rate. However, awe eventually gave way to frustration, as players felt that the game’s balance seemed to shift chaotically and accrued a number of bugs along the way. Now, the dust continues to settle after a PSN login requirement was walked back after a thoroughly damaging weekend, and the picture ain’t too pretty.

It’s clear that Helldivers 2 is bumping up against an ugly numbers problem. On one hand, its narrative and goals require that sometimes comically large numbers be hit in order to make progress. The game creates incredible story beats because it has been able to throw hundreds of thousands of players working in unison at fabricated problems, which has helped propagate word about the game. On the other hand, there once was an engaged player community that was more than happy to mobilize and try to meet the ludicrous demands, in part because roleplaying the whole affair made it a fun thing to do with other players. Now though, the recent kick-up, as well as several other unfortunate missteps, have soured a good deal of what’s left of the community.

There are some obvious solutions to this, like Arrowhead lowering the numbers for these major orders to adapt to the fluctuating player count. This’d be the easiest answer to Helldivers 2’s current situation and seems like a surefire way to ameliorate issues with the fanbase that’s ripping itself apart at the moment, and tearing the game a new one while they’re at it. It’d be unprecedented though, as Helldivers 2 doesn’t often throw its players a bone, and it risks signaling what the community has already become privy to: its numbers are going down. Had the studio been looser with some of its goals in the past, a tactic like this might go over without a word, but now it needs to hold onto the players who have stuck by it.

Players on the Helldivers 2 subreddit have been posting through some of their anguish. One user succinctly posted a meme of a vicious cycle where the studio locks new content behind major orders which are then failed which then leads to diminished player counts over less content and feeds back into the first point. In another subreddit, someone shared a post asking, “We’re really gonna fail back to back major orders??” These major orders are also simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Arrowhead’s ongoing issues, including the number of regions the game still has not returned to and its constantly shifting balance which has been upsetting players for months.

If the studio decides to hold, it isn’t impossible to imagine that the current major order won’t be completed, either. Though the playerbase does have the extended holiday weekend to complete it, so it’s just as likely that they come through with all that extra time, so it could really go either way. The completion or failure of this next major order could be a fortuitous sign of the times to come or a grim omen. At the end of the day, the numbers will spell out Helldivers 2’s future, and I really hope they bring some good news come next week.

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