Calling Games “Dead” Kills Games

Deathgarden released two weeks ago, upon release the developer of the title, Behaviour Interactive, put the game up as free to play for a full week. The free week has achieved shockingly low player numbers, and this is leading a lot of people to believe the game is already dead, before it even has had a chance to live.

Just a few days after the free weekend ended

This free to play for limited time is a common tactic done on Steam to give games exposure and drive up player numbers. Deathgarden is a multiplayer-only asymmetrical shooter, so as you could imagine, having more people playing the game is only a good thing. This tactic has worked wonders for many games on steam. For example, For Honor is free for everyone right now on steam and look at how the numbers of that game have shot up.

Comparison of before the free weekend and after

Another example from earlier this month is a game called Insurgency.

Comparison of before the free weekend and after

Upon the low player numbers for Deathgarden many people online and in forums are already making posts about how the game is dead, urging people to not buy it, solely because of the low player numbers. While it is fair to consider the player-base when buying a multiplayer only game, spreading the obsession of player-numbers and making that a sole factor when deciding whether you want to buy a game or not is not the best strategy.

If people limit themselves to only be willing to buy games that already have big player-counts this will cause an awful rhythm of the big games only getting bigger, and the small games dying quickly before they ever had a chance to live. One example of when this happened was with a game that you can no longer play called Gigantic. Gigantic released on July 20th, 2017, and already the servers are completely shut down. While the game was not perfect, a big downfall for this game was the constant overstated comments of the game being dead despite it still having hundreds of concurrent players at any time of the day. Now, I recognize, hundreds of players are very little when we live in a world where games like PUBG can hit a million concurrent players. But consider this, if the game can be played, and has enough players to find a match relatively quickly, then even if it’s player numbers are below 1000 is the game truly dead?

I would say no, a game where you can launch it, find a match, and play with other people is far from dead. But when you spread the narrative online that the game is dead, it makes people not want to play it, it makes people believe nobody plays it, which isn’t true. Calling games dead is what makes them dead. Now I am not saying without a doubt that Gigantic being ridiculed for its low player-base is the sole reason it only got to make it to a year old. But it is possible that if the gaming community was more supportive to smaller games and didn’t write something off just because the numbers aren’t as high as they would like than maybe we would be able to get these games to a point where they could be that high.

Many games have suffered the same fate as Gigantic, and rarely are the comments about the games player-base the sole reason for their downfall, but it is a contributing factor. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying don’t take player numbers into account. I am simply saying consider how many people you need online playing the game to have fun with it, you certainly don’t need 1 million people concurrent online to enjoy any game. If a game like Rainbow Six Siege which is 5v5 instead of typically having between 70–100k concurrent players had between 5–10k players, it would still be very playable. If it had a few hundred even, it would still be playable. But once you get to that point you may need to wait a bit longer in queue or set up games through discord. If you are willing to do that, then you are helping that game grow. If you aren’t willing to do that, that is still absolutely fine. But if you instead go onto videos, forums, or sites surrounding the game and advise people actively against buying it under the guise that it is a “dead game,” then you are participating in the actual death of that game. Which is helping the big games get bigger, and pushing the small games down further.

Overall, the point of this is not to tell you to buy games just to help them grow, it’s just to think about how community driven multiplayer games are, and how a few viral posts or videos can take something that is trying to be successful and actively prevent it. Think about how much power words hold towards games when they are viewed by so many people that could help that game become successful. Decide if you want a hand in helping there be more multiplayer game options to play, or if you would rather just see the same 5 games hold all the players forever.

Deathgarden is not dead yet, it only needs 6 players for a match. Does that mean you should buy it? Not necessarily, but do you think you should contribute to it actually dying, or help it become a game many can enjoy?