The Most Played Online Games

Much media coverage praising League of Legends is the most played online game in North America, over the past year. The stats are not exact, as they’re extrapolated from a small percentage of players, but it’s a good starting point for debate. Note that this is for the past year, from July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012, so it’s far from even, since Diablo III only existed for 6 out of those 52 weeks. You could also point out that it’s unfair to compare paid subscription titles, paid purchase titles, and f2p.

That said, here are the stats with Xfire’s estimations for total hours spent online gaming over the past year, for North American gamers:

League of Legends: 1,292,502,456
World of Warcraft: 622,378,909
Minecraft: 371,635,651
Heroes of Newerth: 184,520,156
Diablo III: 172,907,605
Battlefield 3: 171,852,550
MapleStory: 165,503,651
StarCraft II: 163,980,293
World Of Tanks: 145,702,931
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: 126,754,082

Related info comes from an interview on the Forbes gaming blog of the CEO of Xfire. He talks about online gaming trends and answers a few questions about D3 and the typical drop in player hours for any new mega-launch title.

Forbes: There’s a corresponding decline in gamers playing other games when Diablo III released, followed by a steady rise for those games and a pretty steep fall for Diablo III. Is this similar to trends for other major releases?
David Cole: What we are seeing happen with Diablo III is typical of post-launch periods for many highly anticipated games. However, there is a difference between big retail releases such as Diablo III and free-to-play games such as League of Legends. Diablo III went after a big launch, whereas League of Legends is about building an ongoing user base over time. Diablo III was extremely successful at attracting huge usage from the start, which set it up for a fairly rapid decline.

Malcolm CasSelle: A launch like Diablo III’s is significant because it impacts the usage of other major products. Many games that depend on ongoing usage for a revenue stream were negatively impacted by Diablo III. The games that experienced the steepest decline when Diablo III was at its peak still haven’t fully recovered yet – League of Legends is making the most headway towards its original numbers, but other top titles such as World of Warcraft are slower in their recovery.

Do games tend to stabilize after the first few months? Is what we’re seeing with Diablo III in any way unique?
DC: All games undergo a contraction of their user base, but you see a big difference with games that focus on online play. Many games provide users with only 10 or 20 hours of total gameplay, and are designed that way so that users will come back for more products. Other games, including World of Warcraft and Starcraft II, provide hundreds of hours of game play and can maintain a user base for years. What is currently unclear about Diablo III is whether it is the type of game that will fall in the latter category, or just a short-term phenomenon. I think with features like Blizzard’s first-ever “Real Money Auction House,” the developers are clearly counting on having a product that users play for the long haul. However, I think the jury is still out on whether that will be the case.

We’ve seen a lot of rage and QQ about D3’s end game and early support, and obviously the game isn’t perfect at this point, but I continue to be surprised at how impatient a lot of the haters seem to be. Today is the 2 month anniversary of D3’s launch. We’ve yet to see any big content patches (one is coming soon in v1.0.4), the PvP system isn’t yet live (coming soon to redefine the end game), they haven’t yet patched in improved and reworked uniques and sets (coming soon), etc.

League of Legends was released in October 2009, and it’s been patched dozens of times and had a steady influx of new content and improvements over the past 2.5 years. How balanced was it in December 2009? How many of its current features were in place then?

Jinx the Immortal.
Diablo III was (rightly) held to a higher standard upon release as there was a huge and eager player base and it had been in development for longer than the life span of the average housepet. (Except for my Jinxie she’ll live forever!) And that greater fan anticipation is a double-edged sword, as it spurred the biggest launch ever, and yet led directly to one of the biggest fan backlash “the game isn’t perfect yet!” backlashes ever.

As the Xfire guys say in that interview, it’ll be interesting to see how the Diablo III player base changes over time, if the upcoming patches can retain or build on the player population we’re seeing now. I personally think we’ll see a huge change come the Arena patch, since every knowledgeable fan I know absolutely loved the PvP demo at Blizzcon 2009 and 2010, but the clock is definitely ticking on Blizzard’s baby.

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53 thoughts on “The Most Played Online Games

  1. The issue I see is that Diablo 3’s problems are based on a few big things: items, PVP, end-game content (AKA the poll). And when they release those patches, if they don’t fix them in the right area that we feel better’s the game or fixes the problems, (and Blizzard agrees) then we’ll have to wait another 3-6 months for them come up with a better solution. League of Legends released lots of small patches and fixes and slowly evolved the game, all the while still being completely playable. The longer we wait, the more likely we’ll move to other games or not come back at all.

    • “League of Legends released lots of small patches and fixes and slowly evolved the game, all the while still being completely playable.”

      You mean, like D3?

    • Long live every kitteh. 🙁

      All I can really say on the issue is that I find it hard to have a full multiplayer game. A game where four people go in, stay, and complete at least the quest they joined for. There’s a lot of factors contributing to this, but it’s getting harder and harder for me.

      Sucks because when you have a good group, the game is three times better than solo.

  2. League of Legends is a great game with the worst game community I have ever experienced. Trolls/ flamers/ ragers/ quitters/ intentional feeders in every single match despite having a “Tribunal” system which is supposed to keep exactly that sort of thing in check. Their matchmaking system is also terrible. But its free to play so lots of low income countries frequent the games servers, namely those from South America, and having non-english speaking teammates was a near-constant problem as well.

    The results are not much of a surprise to me.

    • I didn’t believe there was any gaming community worse than the D3 one.

      But then again, I’m one of those fanboys who still really likes D3, so I probably notice the fact that it’s filled with whinging morons more than others.

  3. I actually think LoL and D3 have something in common:

    With LoL’s terrible community and matchmaking, you keep playing in the hopes that you finally get a team that isn’t terrible, or a match where you can actually make a difference rather than having trolls, griefers, or people who have no idea what they’re doing ruin your game. The gameplay itself is relatively entertaining, but that aspect of it ruins the experience. I was able to tolerate it for about a month or two before quitting for good as I was having negative fun playing it after a while.

    With D3, it’s that same “addictive” search function, but presumably for fun, good loot. You go through the motions but likely don’t get anything too worthwhile or great in the end. But you keep playing in the hopes that one good drop. The difference, for me, is that the gameplay in D3 is inherently more compelling. Even aside from the loot and whatever other problems, zoning out and killing demons is fun.

  4. Why would anybody continue to play Diablo 3 for the long haul?

    It’s not really all that random, with half the maps being basically fixed in their layout. It’s got a loot hunt aspect that basically broke itself with a searchable AH with the option of shelling out real money for items. There’s not really very much experimentation to do. The story is so horrible that it brought down the all-important Diablo atmosphere with it, and Blizzard doesn’t seem interested in even taking minor steps to fix it liking letting players turn off the irritating follower chatter.

    Oddly enough, after twelve years to ponder how to make a superior game, Diablo 3 was not designed with replayability as the primary design goal. It was designed with “epic story-telling” as the primary design goal, but obviously it failed catastrophically in that regard. They won’t be able to fix it, at least not without an expansion. Even if they could fix it, I don’t get the impression that today’s Blizzard has the required commitment to making fun video games. They’ll continue to pretend that the story is great, and that the Auction House is a really cool feature that players want.

    • Bingo.

      Oh yeah, thanks to IncGamers for the list of top played games. World of Tanks, here I come!

  5. ” I continue to be surprised at how impatient a lot of the haters seem to be. Today is the 2 month anniversary of D3?s launch.”

    and the 4 year anniversary since it was announced
    and it had a 8 month beta

    that’s why people’s patience is thin

    “one is coming soon in v1.0.4), the PvP system isn’t yet live (coming soon to redefine the end game), they haven’t yet patched in improved and reworked uniques and sets (coming soon),”

    yes, “soon”

    I really hope PvP is as awesome as it was in the demos years ago
    if so, then I can’t wait to play

    • PvP is gonna suck:

      -Class imbalance
      -Items multiplying your power far beyond what skill can cover
      -Blizzard bad reputation with WoW balancing and pvp overall.

      They are going to release a half-assed patch in a hurry, that sucks and it will probably be the nail in the coffin for every player that waits pvp.

      • In my opinion, they should allow “classic” PVP where you fight others with your regular D3 character, and then they should have another mode where you use prebuilt and/or pre-itemized characters. Then, the PVP will have a long-lasting MOBA element to it that will no doubt garner hatred, but would be more beneficial in the long run than only a “classic” PVP mode.

        Just my two cents.

  6. I read that article a few days ago and I found it interesting.

    The two take-home messages seem to be:

    1) The drop-off in the number of players we’re seeing with D3 is normal.

    2) RMAH or no RMAH, Blizzard’s business model for D3 is based around selling games, not around having large numbers of players play on an ongoing basis the way a free-to-play or subscription model does.

    Or as the final line in the interview says, “Diablo III has been the biggest success story of the year so far.”

    The point being that whatever some fans think of the game, from a business standpoint it appears that it’s done very well for Blizzard.

    • “Blizzard’s business model for D3 is based around selling games”

      No, cleary it isn’t anymore. Otherwise they would not have bended a proven gameplay to a business model that was not meant for it.

      Same thing happened to Hellgate: London.

    • Dont you think they just killed the Diablo franchise for all these disapointed fans and therefore lost customers for a next release ?

      Also this is a silly argument, if the game was developped in a rush, I would agree that their sole purpose was to make money. But the thing is it took them 5+years of development. There is no excuse to not make a good game, it would have sold the same but would have kept more customers.

  7. Haters are impatient only because it took fucking 12 years to release damn game. Yet it requires shitload of fixin. So no comparison here to the other titles. Not after decade of development. Game should be fixed by the launch if it took ages to release it. What everyone feels is that someone was just slacking since 2008 announce up until now. Grrrarrr. Rage.

  8. Every game has its problems and patching phases. That’s normal. Gameplay problems are fixable. The problem is that Blizzard managed to screw up the parts of the game that aren’t fixable: art, story, acting and music.

    Anyone would have been patient waiting for the gameplay patches if the game itself was good. The only good thing about the game is the gameplay and it is severely broken.

    That’s why people get impatient and revolted.

    • Indeed. Elly has blasphemed by accusing her of fatness. Jinxie is quite lean, relatively speaking. It’s all very fluffy furs. Softest kitteh ever. Etc.

      Just be glad I don’t have (human) offspring, or I’d probably find a way to work one of them into a post. Or perhaps not, as human young are quite unattractive, compared to representatives of the lower, furrier, orders of mammals.

  9. Xfire is based on a non random, fixed and non changing user base.

    It is like a closed club of PC users that doesn’t represent a scientific random sample of all PC gamers.

    Simple as that.

    That means that any game which is in its launching period is OVER represented and at the same time … The growth of “new” players after these first few weeks is UNDER represented…. Because you don’t include new gamers.

    It surprises me that the same idiot of Forbes manages to interview a representative of Xfire when Forbes as an institution itself ran a scientific sample of PC users in March this year, which showed that WoW was played 3 times more than LoL.

    The difference of course is because Xfire is based on a non random sample while a random sample ALSO includes PC players outside of the “xfire club”

    Some example: League of Legends is downloaded on Xfire …. Guess what ? This means LoL is over represented within the club of Xfire.

    Odd that the Forbes “journalist” in question doesn’t know his own site scientific studies of the past …

    Oooh I see it was the same Forbes idiot again that accused Blizzard for being responsible he was hacked …. AND who spread the (false) rumour of session spoofing.

    I see.

    • No. Xfire is not an unchanging sample. You’re assuming everyone who uses Xfire got D3 on day 1 and then
      nobody else ever got it. You’re also assuming nobody new is joining Xfire, despite a ton of recent publicity.

      Pretty bad assumptions, wouldn’t you say?

      As for being non-random, that really is irrelevant and the numbers you’d expect from such enthusiastic gamers would actually be higher than the true population mean.

  10. The PC list is wrong guys:

    Here is a correct on line list measured by NIELSEN buro in May 2012. You can also trace other months on that site.

    NIELSEN is a professional survey buro that uses scientific samples, not some commercial Xfire stats that can be manipulated with ease.

    1. WOW
    2. LOL
    3. LOTRO
    4. HALF LIFE 2
    5. …

    Their method of measuring is explained in the link.

    Further proof that Xfire data are statistically garbage.

    *** I think your article should be correcedt to reflect the clear discripancy between a scientific survey and those Xfire stats which are not representative at all for “pc games being played”.

  11. The backlash was not “the game is not perfect yet” but the game is not fun on higher difficulties, there is no character customization, itemization is bland/boring/uninteresting, players are forced into one method of play (farm 5 stacks and a boss), monster affixes are insane, most skills are not viable, pay to win, online only, failure to prevent hacks/bots/dupes, RMAH is not safe, accounts not safe, gameplay is tedious/slow/unrewarding, and probably a number of other things that I have not listed.

    Blizzard has a LOT of work cut out to make Diablo 3 a quality title. Obviously they did not playtest many skills on inferno. My guess is somebody forced them to release the game before it was ready, leading to lack of playtesting and cutting of many features.

    People have left the game in droves because of the current poor quality of the game.

    • Typical trolling post with generalisations all over the place.

      RMAH is not safe enough ? While millions of transactions take place without problems…

      O you mean ONE complainer had – perhaps – a not so proven case ?

      Oh wow what’s that ? a 0.00000001% probability and it you still mention it.

      Ok what’s next?

      On line only? really and you want protection against dupes and ? LOL

      Not one dupe made it life since the end of May…

      So all these arguments are VAGUE accusations without much SUBSTANCE.

      Typical hating troll post.

      I LOVE to play DIablo 3 and guess what ? Millions out there are still playing it dude.

      • I like it how you SPELL like THIS. I always read words written in caps as SHOUTING. It would be fun to listen to you in real life.

        “Typical hating troll post.”

        What a compelling argument

        • Well IF you still use arguments which were already debunked ages ago (Blizzard security, session spoofing, massive duping, rmah comments, pay to win (many play without a RMAH), “slow” speed (sic), …)

          perhaps it … wakes this guy up from his “dream” of spitting on my game every other day.

          If he thinks he represents anything other than himself he should be astonished Diablo 3 still tops all PC sales charts more than 2 months after launch.

          And as NIELSEN proved in this link:

          Diablo 3 is MOST played PC game in the US on July 1st.

          How about that for a change in TUNE.

          • If you start calling people trolls don’t expect to be taken seriously. Maybe if you presented your opinions/facts maturely you’d be taken seriously. As of now I didn’t even bother to read your reply properly, I just skimmed through it.

          • please explain where on that link it says
            “Diablo 3 is MOST played PC game in the US on July 1st”

            I only see it listed in the “top 10 games to buy next” at #7

  12. For D3, things will get only worse from now on. Torchlight II is coming, Path of Exile open beta is coming, Grim Dawn is coming and especially Marvel Heroes is coming. Torchlight II guys try to polish the working formula. Path of Exile guys try to innovate on customization, skill and item system. Grim Dawn guys try to improve Titan Quest formula. Marvel Heroes guys are simply Original Diablo I, II team.

    By the end of 2012, D3 will be a dead game full of bots.

    • On the contrary. Once these amateurish duds launch, people will see the engine and graphic differences with Diablo 3 and D3 will dominate the [email protected] genre more than ever.

      Seriously: just download TL and see for yourselves. It is amateurish trash compared to D3.

      In both TL and PoE there isn’t even a destruction of world objects. These games are dead on arrival when you compare them with the dynamic settings of D3.

      • I can accept PoE devs in general are ameteurs. But Torchlight and Grim Dawn devs have more experience in making aRPGs than Diablo 3 team. I can also accept Torchlight and PoE engines are not that good. But Grim Dawn’s engine is an advanced Titan Quest engine. So it’s good. However, the real thing is not the engine or graphics. It’s all about deisgn decisions and the atmosphere.

        As for Marvel Heroes team, it includes the creator of Diablo and a lot of D1/D2 devs along with devs from famous studios such as Maxis, Crystal Dynamics, Shaba, Wizards of the Coast, etc. And the engine is Unreal Engine 3. It also has the huge MARVEL IP. D3 team or engine is absoluetely nothing compared to Marvel Heroes team or Unreal Engine 3.

        • From what I heard, PoE was designed to be a D2.5 for people who hates D3. That, plus the other stuff I have heard about it really makes me want to pass that one. I might check out TL2 though. Amateurish graphics is not a problem for me. Besides, I heard Jay Wilson approves of that game too. 😛

      • Totally agree with you Thrall,

        I paid $10 to join the PoE beta, and it’s not bad. Though the graphics and world get boring fast. Seems like the same areas for too long (especially if you want to explore every nook and cranny) and they are TOO dark. I like PoE, i really like the skill gems idea, but it feels like this game would have been great back when D2 was released. Can’t really judge Grim Dawn yet, but it almost looks like I’ll get the same feeling.

        TL2 is .. is .. is just awful. Not even REMOTELY in the same league as D3. Incredibly childish looking (just look at the flat kiddie anime chars), some areas are way way too colourful(think whimsyshire) and it has a cluttered/ugly UI. Glad I tried the beta before making the purchase!

        I think D3 has a perfect medium, and i F**ken love the game still. Add a new expansion with more areas later on and I’ll be even more happy.

  13. “I continue to be surprised at how impatient a lot of the haters seem to be.”

    Yeah, sorry to be impatient to have the fun game I thought I was buying. Maybe in 2014, when Blizzard starts working on the real issues ?

    • Thank you. Although the Nielson rating system is still not quite caught up to 2012, it passes the BS test by successfully having WoW playtime being almost three-fold that of LoL. To suggest otherwise displays poor judgement, and is just silly.

      This is why the current article and the Forbes article are laughable and display ulterior motives – using xfire for metrics…

      Now, if only 90% of those commenting on this site didn’t hate you, they might actually listen to what you just said. 😀

  14. ”We’ve yet to see any big content patches (one is coming soon in v1.0.4), the PvP system isn’t yet live (coming soon to redefine the end game), they haven’t yet patched in improved and reworked uniques and sets (coming soon), etc.”

    That the PVP system wasnt launched upon release is an absolute disgrace. That the uniques and sets were such thrash at launch was something that even a toddler could see. There is no excuse for the disaster that D3 was at launch, in the state it shipped, they had the best of 7+ years on that game … Dont compare it to D2 at launch, it had far less resources staff and time at hand than D3 had, and D2 classic was way better than D3 at release.

    I hope they buff legendaries, add PVP and fix these bugs like the colossal golgor bug sooner than later (they admit themselves that its not on their importance list atm) instead of giving importance only to fixing issues related with milking their cash cow, ie the RMAH. The fact that the player base has dwindled so much after release when you have such a faithful slew of fans says it all …

  15. This article is basically troll bait, and comments so far seem to support my hypothesis. Who the hell holds xfire up as the gold standard of measuring online gamers, especially given the timeline and the xfire bug that existed at the beginning of D3?s launch!?

    I get the intent of the article, I really do.

    However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. These are the types of articles (and WoW bashing articles) that pushed the “fans” away from this “fansite”.

    I love the site, and probably come here more than I go to google, but trying to draw correlation between D3 based upon LoL data collected from xfire of all things is bound to draw the “D3 suxxors” comments, while never drawing people to the hinted at point of “LoL had a crappy launch, but look, according to xfire it is beating the pants off of Warcraft! There is hope for D3 after all!”

  16. The stats are from XFire, maybe I am a minority but I hate that program and I think most of my friends don’t use it either. So I still feel that the results are skewed. And please correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there some cross promotion between xfire and LoL to promote more people to use Xfire with it? I don’t play WoW anymore but I’m hard pressed to think that the game w/ 10 million (pretty sure that’s still an accurate figure) active accounts has less playtime than one that has just recently reached 12 or 14 million total accounts.

  17. What content patches exactly? Blizzard confirmed there will be only one “content patch” and it will be PvP only. Not to mention, everyone loves to defend D3 how it’s “not an MMO” and “it has an ending” and so on, yet expects MMO like updates – which won’t be the case. So unless you want to treat game balance patches as new content, there won’t be anything new on the line.

  18. I wonder about those statistics regarding the rest of the wourld where people actually have brains. *cough*

    No disrespect to those within exceptions.

  19. i think i’ll just stop reading comments. not worth the effort anymore. btw, pardon my ignorance but whts a jinxie?

  20. “Every knowledgeable fan I know absolutely loved the PvP demo at Blizzcon 2009 and 2010”

    Really? Well, count me as one who disliked it greatly (mostly the 2010 version).

    Overall, I thought the 2009 version was a fair 3v3, mostly in the same scheme as most PvP arenas. I was still upset that Jay Wilson didn’t want any sort of ladder ranking/rating system in the game, making PvP somewhat pointless, but I was fairly satisfied.

    I also really liked when there was only 1 person on each side left, how it would sort of act like how dueling was back in D2. It was very tense, and the dead onlookers rooted for their side to win. It was very rewarding being the only guy left, and winning it all for you team.

    Then rolled around the 2010 version, and boy did it suck. Not only did they take away the competitive round based structure, but made it so you respawned immediately when you died. Matches were set with a time limit, and it was a LOT more chaotic with people just wanting to kill as much as possible before dying, then respawning and doing it again. There was no strategy, and people just rambo’d in over and over again as death didn’t have much consequence (other than giving kills). The whole thing felt like a joke, and really unsatisfying.

    2009 version felt like Smash Bros 2v2, stock, no items.
    2010 version felt like Smash Bros 2v2, timed 5 min, with items.

    Two totally different play experiences…

    Since PvP was the biggest concern for me even way back when I was still a hopeful idiot that thought D3 would be amazing, I have very little faith that the way the dev team implements PvP will do anything to help this game.

  21. Major problem here are
    1: they are assuming that xfire users are a representative cross section of gamers. <- This a biggie if they turn out to be unrepresentative of games as a whole it meaningless.
    Assumption 2: That these xfire users run all there games in such a way that they can get the true stats, IE if some of the stats come from some people who only launch xfire when the play LoL but not when playing WoW etc it falls apart.
    3: From what I read its from a DFC Intelligence report but when I try and find said report it dont seem to exist the only one I can find are forecast reports on there site. <- With out details on how they produced the D3 played time on a comparable footing the D3 time is meaningless.
    A better comparison would be to release data stats for a one week period.

    BTW based on my observation of Steam numbers these games are bigger that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, DOTA:2 Team Fortress 2 and Counterstrike (when ever I check the stats they got easily between 2-4x the numbers of players).
    This seems to prove that assumption 1 xfire is representative of the gaming community is wrong and as such the whole thing falls apart, taking the 2x number of players these games should all be in the listing just behind Minecraft at lest.

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