Lifetap Volume 1, Issue 23 – The Top Ten MMOs on Steam

For this special edition of Lifetap, we’ll be drilling down into some of the metrics associated with massively multiplayer online games on Steam. First we’ll be looking at the Top 10 MMOs based on concurrent user activity, followed by a sideways squint at the subtle disconnect between user metrics, storefront listings, and genre classifications found within the Steam client. All this and more in today’s spine-tingling issue of Lifetap!

Earlier this month, it occurred to me that I’ve never actually launched and played an MMO through Steam. Glancing down my games list, a few MMO titles may be associated with my Steam account, but have never been installed through that list. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer cutting out the virtual middleman to launch games whenever possible so have never found any value in launching a third-party client to launch an MMO when I can simply do so directly.

That got me thinking: what is the current landscape for MMOs looking like on Steam these days?

To find the answer to that question, I’ve begun tracking various bits of data over the past two weeks. Given the market position of Steam and the dominance of digital distribution channels for online games in general, it comes as no surprise that upcoming titles such as H1Z1 and Landmark (among many others) have targeted the platform as a means of growing or expanding an Early Access audience and revenue stream. But is Steam really any friendlier to core MMO gaming than consoles?

Taking the data I’ve been begun compiling into account, I’ve discovered some very interesting results. First, let’s take a look at the Top 10 MMOs on Steam based on concurrent users.

The Top 10 MMOs on Steam for October 15, 2014

The numbers listed below tend to shift slightly depending on the time of day a snapshot is taken for concurrent users. On the whole, however, the top ten has remained consistent for the month of October with the numbers below being representative of peak concurrencies. The Top 10 at the time of this writing consists of the following:

  1. Star Trek Online (5,489)
  2. Neverwinter (4,018)
  3. PlanetSide 2 (4,141)
  4. APB Reloaded (2,466)
  5. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (3,031)
  6. Wakfu (2,325)
  7. Marvel Heroes 2015 (2,549)
  8. Firefall (2,326)
  9. ArcheAge (2,513)
  10. Defiance (1,836)

RIFT should also be mentioned here as it has been a staple within the Top 100 games, but currently holds the 11th position overall. This can shift slightly depending on time of day, but I’ve also been tracking consistency throughout the day along with the peaks.

Another reason why RIFT is worthy of mention is due to the fact that both Trion Worlds and Perfect World Entertainment titles dominate the Top 10 MMOs for concurrent users on Steam. It could simply be coincidence, but both publishers have also shifted to universal launchers for their game libraries.

Whether Trion’s Glyph client and PWE’s Arc client have influenced gamers to launch their games through Steam is up for debate, but entirely within the realm of possibility. Years ago SOE attempted get its Station Launcher off the ground, but it went over with some gamers about as well as EA’s Origin client or Games for Windows Live. During that phase I couldn’t even access my EQII client at all due to bugs involved with running the game on a 64 bit operating system.

Digging a bit deeper into the Steam client, I’ve also discovered some additional funkiness that no doubt skews the overall metrics for MMO games.

Genre Disconnect

Pulling up the Steam store, users can directly “Browse by genre”, with Massively Multiplayer being among the main genres listed. This is where things begin to get very interesting.

Opening up the Top Sellers tab for Massively Multiplayer games, you’ll discover two very important things:

1. The majority of the Top 10 Top Sellers are not among the Top 100 actively played titles

Given the prominence of free-to-play games these days, it comes as no surprise that you won’t find games like Marvel Heroes 2015 on the Top Sellers list. What I did find surprising is the second point:

2. Only 5 of the Top 10 Massively Multiplayer Top Sellers are actually MMOs

According to Steam, Farming Simulator 15 is going to be one of the biggest MMOs on the planet when it’s released on October 30th. Who knew? Glancing back at the list of concurrent users, Farming Simulator 13 would actually come in 4th overall with 3,507 users at the time of this writing.

Side Note: Even more fun is the fact that apparently Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel shares things in common with Farming Simulator 15 since it’s currently featured on the FS15 page under “More like this”.

You don’t have to continue digging much further through the Top Sellers list to draw some simple conclusions. The big takeaways here are that a game doesn’t have to be an actual Massively Multiplayer game to make the list, and the Steam client does a pretty terrible job of pointing users to great free-to-play titles since the entire platform revolves around generating revenue (which most free-to-play games do primarily within the game client).

A Smarter Storefront?

The Steam Discovery Update has definitely been a big step in the right direction for the client, but still falls short of properly serving core MMO gamers. Given the fact that most proper MMOs do have dedicated launchers and don’t need a third party to help generate revenue from DLC packs, I don’t find this terribly surprising.

At the same time, Steam is very attractive to MMO publishers when you look at other metrics like the overall peak concurrent users. 6 to 7 million concurrent users is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to brand recognition and exposure. But is Steam really a good thing for MMOs in its present form? Or is it another area of untapped potential similar to current-gen consoles that is subtly influencing development and distribution methods for massively multiplayer games?

I’m interested to hear how many of our readers play MMOs via Steam, and your thoughts on the experience if so. I’m also toying around with making the Steam Top 10 a weekly staple of Lifetap, so be sure to share your thoughts on either point below, or you can also ping me on Twitter if you’re concerned that direct comments might give you cooties.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our H1Z1 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.