While new titles compete for audiences, games such as Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V, and The Sims 4 are still some of the most-played games in the U.S., with each nearly a decade or more removed from their original releases. In fact, only three of the top ten most-played games (Madden NFL 22, Call of Duty: Vanguard, NBA 2K22) launched last year.
The data, coming from market analysis company NPD Group, ordered the top ten list by release year rather than player count. So it’s not insinuated Minecraft is the top played game of 2022 so far, just that it’s the oldest among the 10. This also makes sense as older games have already built up a sizable fanbases and have years of sales amassed. But it’s still impressive that these games are so compellingly designed that remain on players’ rotations alongside successful up-and-comers such as Elden Ring. That can change as newer games sell more copies and grow their audiences, of course. As of May 2022, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and Elden Ring are the number one and two best-selling games, respectively.
As Mat Piscatella of NPD notes, many of the mainstays are live service games with some sort of social component. Even if a game isn’t primarily based in online play like Fortnite or Among Us (I’m looking at you, Sims 4 and Animal Crossing), a robust social community can bolster its lifespan for years after launch. “Traditional” single player games face stiff competition for players’ money and attention, especially as the number of games available each year continues to balloon on every major platform.
Some games have gone harder on microtransactions as a result, but poorly implemented monetization can cause massive player backlash. Development studios have tried to ensure their survival by putting their games on subscription services like Game Pass or by signing timed exclusivity deals with the Epic Games Store in exchange for a lump of development cash upfront (a move so contentious that studios have to ask players not to harass developers).
Piscatella tweeted: “These services are another tool in the belt for trying to get games funded, released, and to help them break through the barriers of the big evergreen titles.”