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Windows Central
Windows Central
Brendan Lowry

Destiny 2's player count falls to a new all-time low, and I'm not surprised

Destiny 2.

What you need to know

  • Destiny 2, developer Bungie's long-running space fantasy looter shooter, has fallen to the lowest player count it's had on Steam since arriving on the platform in 2019.
  • Specifically, in the last 30 days, it's averaged just 34,829 concurrent players, with the peak number of players during that time being 59,076.
  • The decline is likely due to a variety of factors, including poor reception of the Lightfall DLC, the game's various core problems, and the fact that 2023 has been home to tons of highly praised and popular games.

Between the exceptionally poor reception of Destiny 2's latest Lightfall expansion and the recent news that developer Bungie laid off 8% of its staff following reports that its revenue has fallen 45% short of expectations, it's been a particularly turbulent year for the space fantasy looter shooter. And as a result of both these struggles and a number of other noteworthy factors, the game's player count on Steam has fallen to a new all-time low since it was released on the platform in 2019.

At the time of writing, Destiny 2's Steam Charts data indicates that its average player count in the last 30 days has been about 34,829, with the peak number of players during that time being 59,076. Both of these stats are the lowest they've ever been in the game's history. And while many enjoy Destiny 2 on console, Steam users do represent a significant number of its fans, which suggests that there's been notable loss of player interest. And frankly, I'm not surprised at all.

Some of the gear obtainable from Destiny 2's ongoing season, Season of the Witch. (Image credit: Bungie)

First, there's the issues with Destiny 2 Year 6 to consider — and there are quite a few. The Destiny 2: Lightfall expansion was heavily criticized for having a terribly written campaign, and both the new patrol space Neomuna and the DLC's Root of Nightmares raid are widely considered to be mediocre as well. The Season of Defiance and Season of the Deep releases that followed it were fine, but seemed to fail to engage fans in a sustained, meaningful way.

Then there's the growing community-wide dissatisfaction with many general aspects of the game, including its new player experience, technical stability, aggressive monetization, and stale core playlists that haven't been meaningfully updated in years. These problems have barely been addressed, and have undoubtedly contributed to the recent decline.

There's all the fierce competition in 2023 to keep in mind, too, which certainly hasn't helped Bungie's live service shooter. This year has been absolutely chock-full of monumental releases such as Baldur's Gate 3, Diablo 4, and Mortal Kombat 1, as well as other big hits like Starfield, Armored Core 6, and the Resident Evil 4 Remake, among others. When there are all these new games to play, it's difficult to get excited for the rather stagnant Destiny 2, even though the soon-to-end Season of the Witch was actually quite solid.

In fairness, the tail end of a season is typically a slow period for the game. But even so, these record-low player counts show that Destiny 2 is struggling to retain its fans — and since it doesn't have good onboarding, it's likely that many of its new ones aren't sticking around, either.

Season of the Wish looks promising, but I doubt it will be enough to drive a lasting comeback. (Image credit: Bungie)

The upcoming Season of the Wish looks interesting, but I don't believe that it alone will be enough to help Destiny 2 bounce back. What it needs is an excellent new expansion to give the Light and Darkness Saga the satisfying conclusion it deserves, accompanied by some significant overhauls to its core. If Bungie ends up confirming the rumored delay of The Final Shape from February 2024 to June 2024, though, it'll be quite a while before the next DLC comes along.

Should that delay happen, things will likely get even worse before they get better, as a stretched-out season that adheres to a trite, timeworn formula isn't exactly going to turn any heads. But as long as The Final Shape ends up delivering the big changes that Destiny needs, I expect that the game will recover. Ultimately, though? Only time will tell.

Destiny 2: Lightfall, the looter shooter's latest expansion, is available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One consoles, Windows PCs, PS5, and PS4. In it, you'll take the fight to Emperor Calus, gain access to Strand subclasses and their unique abilities, and more. The Annual Pass edition of the DLC includes access to everything in all four of Year 6's seasons as well.

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