“You filthy casual.”
Common, pointless banter between gamers who prefer different genres. But really, who is the most casual and most hardcore about their gaming? It’s time for another research post to find out.
Today, I’m asking “out of the active player base, how frequently do the players actually play the game?” This is a PC only test because Steam Spy and Steam Charts makes gathering data easy, but console numbers likely follow suit.
Boring Sciencey Stuff
Skip to the next section if you just want to see the results.
Methodology: For each genre, select 3 popular games, limited to titles at least one month old if possible (to limit newness/hype influencing results). I’ll use Steam Spy to determine active number of players (calculated by those who have played the game in the last 2 weeks). Then I’ll divide the average number of players in the past 30 days on Steam Charts by the active player count to determine the game’s play rate. This ratio will be assessed alongside average and median playtimes on Steam Spy to determine which genre’s playerbases play the most/least frequently.
Flaws: Comparing average player count over 30 days to active players over 2 weeks will produce higher ratios for newer games. Major updates will skew numbers. As a solution to these two flaws, I’ll take the median results for each genre to assess dedication level. Free to play games may also exhibit different behavior compared to paid games. For the most part, each genre trends towards a certain pricing model. However, I will break down analysis further by payment type when appropriate (i.e. paid MMOs vs. free MMOs).
Many multiplayer games also include single player modes. I will only include games for analysis where I believe the vast majority of active players play multiplayer (hence why there are no turn based strategy games listed). Finally, some of the most popular games are not on Steam (Blizzard games, League of Legends, Fortnite, etc.) and thus will not be counted. Nothing I can do about that!
Now, onto the results.
Top 10 Most Dedicated Genre Fans by Play Rate
Play rate percentage in parentheses next to genre, determined by median play rate from the 3 games representing the genre.
- Paid MMORPG (8.22%)
- Open World Survival (7.71%)
- Paid Team FPS (3.62%)
- Free MMORPG (3.57%)
- MOBA (3.19%)
- RTS (2.71%)
- Free Vehicle Combat Shooters (2.66%)
- Card Games (2.64%)
- Fighting Games (2.18%)
- Free Team FPS (1.74%)
Top 10 Most Dedicated Genre Fans by Average Playtime
Average playtime in parentheses next to genre, determined by median average playtime from the 3 games representing the genre.
- Paid MMORPG (24:17)
- Open World Survival (16:42)
- MOBA (13:40)
- Free MMORPG (13:17)
- Paid Team FPS (12:02)
- Free Vehicle Combat Shooters (9:37)
- Card Games (9:14)
- RTS (7:35)
- Fighting Games (6:54)
- Free Team FPS (5:58)
Fun Numbers Stuff
Bolded games represent the median play rate within the genre (and usually the average and median playtime as well).
Paid Team FPS
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege – 83,035 average players / 2,080,536 active players = 3.99% play rate. 13:38 average playtime. 6:17 median playtime.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – 353,874 average players / 9,768,034 active players = 3.62% play rate. 12:02 average playtime. 4:24 median playtime.
Call of Duty: WWII – 5,113 average players / 172,488 active players = 2.96% play rate. 8:35 average playtime. 2:06 median playtime.
Free Team FPS
Team Fortress 2 – 35,949 average players / 1,317,755 active players = 2.72% play rate. 10:12 average playtime. 2:57 median playtime.
Paladins – 15,128 average players / 868,464 active players = 1.74% play rate. 5:58 average playtime. 1:35 median playtime.
Warface – 3,700 average players / 229,437 active players = 1.61% play rate. 5:17 average playtime. 1:06 median playtime.
Free Vehicle Combat Shooters
Crossout – 3,674 average players / 145,657 active players = 2.52% play rate. 7:36 average playtime. 1:12 median playtime.
War Thunder – 12,966 average players / 487,348 active players = 2.66% play rate. 9:37 average playtime. 2:35 median playtime.
World of Tanks – 8,612 average players / 251,340 active players = 3.42% play rate. 11:34 average playtime. 2:55 median playtime.
Open World Survival
ARK: Survival Evolved – 39,088 average players / 507,608 active players = 7.7% play rate. 20:59 average playtime. 5:38 median playtime.
Dark and Light – 676 average players / 8,761 active players = 7.71% play rate. 16:13 average playtime. 2:41 median playtime.
Rust – 29,188 average players / 534,166 active players = 5.46% play rate. 16:42 average playtime. 4:14 median playtime.
Elder Scrolls Online – 9,434 average players / 202,331 active players = 4.66% play rate. 14:50 average playtime. 3:21 median playtime.
Project: Gorgon – 199 average players / 2,418 active players = 8.22% play rate. 24:17 average playtime. 36:17 median playtime.
Final Fantasy XIV – 7,437 average players / 59,686 active players = 12.46% play rate. 42:01 average playtime. 20:14 median playtime.
Warframe – 47,354 average players / 1,017,133 active players = 4.65% play rate. 17:14 average playtime. 4:18 median playtime.
Neverwinter – 2,724 average players / 76,114 active players = 3.57% play rate. 12:33 average playtime. 2:47 median playtime.
TERA – 1,742 average players / 56,401 active players = 3.08% play rate. 13:17 average playtime. 2:10 median playtime.
DOTA 2 – 435,488 average players / 8,281,350 active players = 5.25% play rate. 17:55 average playtime. 8:59 median playtime.
Smite – 8,703 average players / 272,696 active players = 3.19% play rate. 13:40 average playtime. 3:24 median playtime.
Battlerite – 6,320 average players / 548,951 active players = 1.15% play rate. 4:45 average playtime. 1:35 median playtime.
Dragon Ball FighterZ- 2,752 average players / 119,920 active players = 2.29% play rate. 6:08 average playtime. 2:31 median playtime.
Street Fighter V – 1,251 average players / 57,222 active players = 2.18% play rate. 7:44 average playtime. 2:18 median playtime.
Tekken 7 – 1,994 average players / 102,398 active players = 1.94% play rate. 6:54 average playtime. 2:20 median playtime.
Company of Heroes 2 – 4,569 average players / 151,680 active players = 3.01% play rate. 7:57 average playtime. 2:38 median playtime.
Age of Empires II: HD Edition – 9,692 average players / 357,571 active players = 2.71% play rate. 7:35 average playtime. 2:30 median playtime.
Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War – Soulstorm – 563 average players / 30,665 active players = 1.8% play rate. 5:21 average playtime. 1:42 median playtime.
Card Games (CCGs)
Duelyst – 163 average players / 10,404 active players = 1.56% play rate. 3:09 average playtime. 1:57 median playtime.
Shadowverse – 3,011 average players / 113,897 active players = 2.64% play rate. 9:14 average playtime. 2:02 median playtime.
Eternal Card Game – 1,083 average players / 30,391 active players = 3.56% play rate. 11:26 average playtime. 7:05 median playtime.
You might notice popular genres like Battle Royale and ARPGs excluded. Research showed that a lot of ARPG players play solo, and I can’t separate out the numbers. Battle Royale is basically PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS and Fortnite, and I have no data on the latter.
Dealing with paid MMORPGs is a pain. There aren’t that many of them anymore, especially when limited to Steam. Final Fantasy XIV’s higher play rate isn’t surprising since it’s a subscription service, not just buy to play. But even then, Black Desert Online actually had a higher play rate (around 13%) due to all of the AFK players. The AFK nature of that game rendered any analysis pointless. Thus I included Project: Gorgon instead even though it released just 3 weeks ago and on Early Access at that.
Analysis & Conclusion
MMORPGs reign supreme among the most dedicated, hardcore gamers. That’s not too surprising given how many genres have taken from what originated first in MMORPGs in order to hook players’ attentions for longer. Open world survival games and MOBAs join both paid and free MMOs as boasting the longest average playtimes. Open world survival games are essentially MMOs with a bunch of private servers so it’s understandable that their numbers are very similar. The progression in MOBAs is MMORPG-like so their ranking also feels logical.
Perhaps the most interesting note for MOBAs is that longer matches equates to longer average playtimes equates to higher play rates. While match times are fairly similar for other genres, there is a big disparity in MOBAs. Battlerite is a fast game, but it appears more people would rather play a longer DOTA 2 match than 3-4 short Battlerite matches. Additionally, Project: Gorgon and Final Fantasy XIV are more old school – requiring more time to get anything done. Their play rates and playtimes are both fairly healthy. Perhaps being able to login for a quick 10 minute activity isn’t best for a game’s optimal health?
On that note, the correlation between average playtime and play rate is fairly high. Designing gameplay around longer play sessions apparently pulls active players in more frequently. However, it could easily be counter-argued that casual length playtimes will draw in more active players total. So while a game like DOTA 2 may keep the active players around more successfully than Battlerite, Battlerite’s player count is probably boosted because it can more easily be played as a “side game”.
Games that are typically played 1v1 such as CCGs, RTS, and Fighters rank lower on the dedicated scale. The question is whether these genres attract players who seek one-and-done play sessions or that longer play sessions result from friends also playing (“Hey dude, just one more game/quest/etc?”) Perhaps the competitive nature of these genres brings people in as much as it repels them? Without teammates to blame, average playtime could certainly falter.
Card games are the key genre to look for in analyzing how 1v1 games affects player activity. This is the only genre that combines MMO-style progression (new cards, booster packs, p2w microtransactions) with duel-centric gameplay. I think it’s fair to surmise that due to card games ranking below RTS in player dedication that the 1v1 gameplay is a bigger factor than progression.
This leads me to my final conclusion – the number of simultaneous interactions and depth of those interactions are the biggest indicator of a genre’s ability to maintain active players. MMORPGs and survival MMOs dominate the charts and offer players the ability to interact freely and with dozens or hundreds of players at once. Meanwhile, CCGs and Fighters practically cut off communication between players. While developers fear toxic players and gamers certainly dislike them, maybe the potentially good interactions are worth the risk after all?