What Happened to Helldivers 2?

It seemed like Helldivers 2 was unstoppable but midway through 2024 it has fallen down to where Bloons TD 6 and Fallout 76 rest on the charts. This fall from the top wasn’t really from any single incident, but a collection of decisions that consistently drove player counts down from the unexpected hype of its release.

You may think the account linking fiasco is what destroyed the player counts, but the game was actually in free fall long before then: HELLDIVERS™ 2 – Steam Charts. The problems were not only fundamental to the game’s design but the developers and publisher both didn’t rectify the obvious game issues rapidly enough before they lost the vast majority of players due to attrition.

Note: This is only notable due to the anomalous nature of Helldivers 2 holding a strong player population for an extended period of time and then losing it, not specifically having a lower than launch play count. All games should have an expected “settles down to their core players” moment, but Helldivers 2 has had a bit of an interesting road which we’ll explore.

The key theme is that it’s not the PSN requirement or even the countries that Helldivers 2 was blocked in. It’s a core theme of content, which we explore below.

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Helldivers 2 and Operation Swift Dissembly

The game launched and within several days hit a 458k player peak meaning that a considerable number of players bought the game and immediately began playing it. This was good for Helldivers 2 in theory, but as you can see it would rapidly lose players until the weekend.

Each peak through March from the weekends were fewer until a recovery in April during a rather active social media campaign about the destruction of the bots:

This would be the last time the game maintained relevancy as after the bots were destroyed, the game itself would then die off into oblivion. Sure the account linking nonsense hit in May, but as the chart shows clearly that after Operation Swift Disassembly, the game was mostly over with.

Content, Not Controversy

A lot of articles argue that controversy and the account linking was what caused the decline, but that’s just not true. It’s the game itself and the content. There’s only so much content you can do and so many weapon combinations to play. There is no PvP and the endgame consists of the same content as the early game, just harder and requiring you to group up with other players.

There’s no single player content that’s satisfying. There’s no gear that you can really obtain while you’re on missions that aren’t currencies that are less skill based and more patience based. All of the weapons in the game come from either grinding premium currency in the game or paying for the premium currency yourself.

What do you expect players to do? Repeat the same few maps over and over forever? You can go from 200,000 concurrent to the current 14,000 concurrent rather easily if there isn’t content to support them.

From the chart you can easily tell the game’s playerbase was active on the weekends, when the work week ended and the game was flooded with the exhausted workforce looking for some end of the work week fun. After Operation Swift Dissassembly, the vast majority of players felt accomplished enough to call it a day within the game and it then sunk to where it’s at now.

Palworld Fixed Its Issues Fast

Palworld was on the same trajectory, however after the launch and the rapid decline thereafter, Palworld quickly began releasing content. So much content that it has flung its game from 20,000 players online average to 100,000 average by releasing expansions and lots of quality of life updates.

Helldivers 2’s content releases consist of weapons (premium warbond locked), maybe a new enemy type. Maybe a new mission type. Some kind of story that is really cool and social, but not exactly compelling enough by itself.

Meanwhile Palworld releases new maps, new pals and more. With the release of Sakurajima it has revitalized the game and given the players what they wanted. The developers even encouraged players to take a break and play other games while they continued to work on the game.

Whereas Helldivers 2 paused releases while Destiny 2’s expansion came out… which meant that the audience that likes these types of games rapidly went back to their other games.

Endgame is Everything

You have a few options when designing a game that has lasting power but all of them boil down to the endgame. Some games gate the endgame behind the game’s content, like MMOs and a lot of co-op games do. Others, like Helldivers, launch you directly into the endgame content with the only thing changing is difficulty.

Warhammer 40k: Darktide is a very analogous game to Helldivers 2, you drop in and have to accomplish the mission then extract. The mechanics and gameplay are a bit different, but same principle. It launched and quickly lost its playerbase sticking to about ~10k daily players because the endgame was satisfying to about that many of the players who bought it.

Helldivers did something a bit different. It targeted a social media savvy group of folks who all got off work on the weekends and played. It used social media campaigns to keep the game in the mindscape of the playerbase and offered up new story content in this sort of “living world” environment. Yet at the end of the day, its endgame is what it is: the same maps, enemies, tactics with just some RNG and after awhile you optimize to a wall where there is nothing to do but launch out, play and extract.

Fixing Helldivers 2

What can they do? Well, no one should expect them to maintain their former glory numbers forever. That’s just obnoxious to think about. They can however get out of Bloons TD 6 (which isn’t a bad game mind you) on the steam charts by updating the game with more content. A free expansion should likely be highly encouraging to bring players back and a great time to update some of the core mechanics of the gameplay loop.

Gate some of the content off based on what you’ve done before, add in more enemies and more maps and look to add even PvP or PvPvE. Give players some variety, give them the vehicles and nerf down some of the older content so it feels “completed” and release lots of fresh new content.

Increase the super credit drop rate too, to keep players happily grinding without feeling like it’s a chore considering how often warbonds are released.

Focus on the game too, make the game even better and make the endgame more satisfying. That or set the expectation that the game will sit at the bottom of the charts until it drops off due to lack of interest in just loading into the same maps over and over.

Appendix: Destiny 2, Palworld vs. Helldivers 2

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From the above chart, you can see that Civ 6, Destiny 2 and Palworld hold a higher audience than Helldivers 2 currently.

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David Piner, an accomplished video game journalist since 2001, excels in developing comprehensive guides and engaging content to enrich the gaming experience. As the esteemed former Managing Editor at TTH (as David "Xerin" Piner) for over a decade, David established a strong reputation for his perceptive analysis, captivating content, and streamlined guides. Having led skilled teams of writers and editors, David has been instrumental in producing an extensive collection of articles, reviews, and guides tailored to both casual and hardcore gamers aiming to enhance their skills. Dedicated to player-centric content, David meticulously crafts guides and articles with the players' interests in mind. He is a proud member of OUT Georgia and fervently champions equity and equality across all spheres.