We won’t deny that Bungie’s recent managerial decisions have likely hurt the game’s player numbers but frankly speaking, reports about the game’s player base dipping may just be an exaggeration.
To showcase this we turn to Steamcharts which keeps a running tally of how many Steam users are playing a game at any given time. We should point out that Destiny can be played on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC via a variety of launchers so this data is really just one slice of the picture.
With that having been said, given recent dismissals at Bungie and alleged comments from management about the ailing state of the game, this data appears to be indicative of the game’s popularity.
As we can see above, the player numbers have plummeted since the frankly disastrous reception of the Lightfall expansion. Perhaps most concerning of all is the continued downfall since that expansion’s launch.
You may note a slight bump in September which we attribute to the launch of Crota’s End in Destiny 2 and the frankly spectacular Season of the Witch – even if Bungie missed a beat not using the song of the same name.
That irritation aside for a moment, we need to point out something of a trend we’ve noted in the data from Steamcharts.
You may notice that around November of each year, Destiny’s player count falls off a cliff before climbing back up as hype around the forthcoming expansion builds. The end of the year also gives players who don’t stream the game or create content about it, time to catch up on activities and achievements they may have missed over the course of the year.
Will 2023 be different? Potentially.
What differs this time around can be pegged to several different factors. The aforementioned dismissals at Bungie have soured player sentiment about the developer and many folks simply don’t want to support Bungie anymore. There are also several technical issues with Destiny 2 that lead to increased downtime during maintenance periods, technical issues that negatively impact player enjoyment and perhaps worst of all, Destiny 2 is kind of boring right now.
Bungie surely didn’t count on 2023 featuring a number of excellent titles being released back-to-back-to-back. Baldur’s Gate 3, Diablo 4, Remnant 2 and several other titles brought the thunder in 2023 and frankly, players found something Bungie seemingly wasn’t offering, fun.
The gameplay loop in Destiny 2 is boring. Ignoring the seasonal story which takes 30 – 45 minutes to complete each week, players have to engage with content they’ve been playing since the game launched and progression can often be timegated which tends to force players to engage with the game. This isn’t to say Destiny 2 isn’t fun, it can be, but the sheen tends to wear off rather quickly when the fun new thing becomes repetitive.
Once seasonal content wears thin, as you can see by the drop-offs in the graph above, players leave the game because the prospect of engaging with content they have engaged with for years at this point. Player versus Player content tends to keep some players engaged but this area of the game is so fraught with problems we can’t even begin to list them out.
At the end of a season Destiny 2 also has another problem that is often ignored. Content creators who depend on Destiny 2 news to earn a living tend to create content about how players aren’t engaged anymore and Bungie needs to do something to win players back, only for the new season to arrive and all of those issues have magically been solved.
Is the average player count lower compared to the same period in 2022? Yes it absolutely is but once again, 2023 has been an anomaly given how many great games have been released and in comparison, Destiny 2 just isn’t that attractive unless you’re the sort of person that wants to achieve 100 percent completion for as many activities as possible.
To our mind then, rumours of Destiny’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. People are still talking about the game and from what we’ve seen, hype for Season of the Wish is growing among the player base. What would be a sign of that demise though is if the player count doesn’t begin to climb as we approach the launch of The Final Shape and if the conversation around Destiny 2 descends into silence.