For all its popularity, Elden Ring is nowhere near the most played game of the year and likely won’t win the title until the end of 2022.
So says Mat Piscatella, executive director and video game industry advisor at market research firm NPD. Elden Ring’s commercial popularity was thrown into stark comparison when Piscatella released a list of the top 10 most played games in the US in the first quarter of this year Twitter (opens in new tab) (Thanks, GamesRadar (opens in new tab)).
The list includes several mammoth titles that have dominated the gaming industry since their release, such as Minecraft, GTA 5, and Fortnite. There are also huge franchises and household names, including Call of Duty: Vanguard, Warzone, The Sims 4 and Among Us.
Aside from Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a couple of sports games also made the top 10 – NBA 2K22 and Madden NFL 22. As Piscatella points out, half of the top 10 most played games of the year so far this decade have not been released, and Elden Ring belongs not to.
Elden Ring is reportedly number 20 on the list, behind multiplayer games like World of Warcraft and Rocket League and big single player titles like Skyrim. Piscatella’s list does not include absolute numbers of the game’s estimated player counts, nor does it disclose the sample size used to generate the results.
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Do not be surprised
Elden Ring may have sold over 13 million copies, fascinated critics and taken the world by storm, but it’s hardly surprising that it hasn’t secured a top spot on the most played games list. Not only was it only released in February of this year, but the best-performing titles are those that cement themselves in the gaming zeitgeist while also reaching a wide audience.
“The big evergreen games and the huge live service games with deeply embedded social hooks are gravity sources of player attention, time and spend,” says Piscatella. (opens in new tab) “New games big and small face a daunting challenge trying to assert themselves.”
While Elden Ring’s reputation could increase by the end of the year, it’s unlikely to make the top ten. As a primary single-player game intended for an adult audience, it will never have the cross-audience appeal that Fortnite or Among Us enjoy. And while its invasion mechanics are a novel approach to social gaming, the lack of live service elements that allow players to regularly retire through seasons of new content means its peak sale period is over.
However, there are a few unexpected entries on the list. Call of Duty: Vanguard made the top 10 despite Activision previously expressing disappointment with the game’s sales, which were down 36.1% from 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
The popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is pretty amazing too. Although New Horizons is a popular series that resonates with people not typically tied into a broader gaming culture, it was released over two years ago. That it’s still able to reach such a high player count says a lot about the appeal of social simulation games, as well as the commercial boost it received in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Keep in mind that this list includes only the most played games in the US. The popularity of games in other regions would look very different, although we expect Elden Ring still won’t be in the top 10.