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Call of Duty: Black Ops PC Numbers in Decline While Modern Warfare 2 Endures
Post by Dan @ 05:36pm 26/03/11 | Comments
Using graphed data from several months of steam activity, we analyse the downward trend of PC gamers playing Call of Duty: Black Ops versus the relevtive stability of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

One of the many great things about Valve Software’s coveted Steam online content delivery service is that they’re generously public with some of their player statistics. At any time, you can check out steampowered.com/stats/ and see what the day’s most popular Steamworks-compatible PC game is.

As a point of interest to our PC gaming roots here at AusGamers, we’ve been collecting and collating the published peak users per game data from the Steam site, several times a day, for the past four months.

Without exception in recent months -- as you’ll no doubt see if you visit the page yourself at any given time of day -- the combined weight of the mighty Counter-strike and Counter-strike: Source continue to dominate the tally, but that’s not what we’re talking about today. Rather, the trend that immediately caught our eye when we charted this scraped data was concerning the next most popular pair of shooters, Activision’s two annual best sellers, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (released November 2009) and Call of Duty: Black Ops (released November 2010).

Decline versus Stability




Now it shouldn’t take an advanced degree in graph theory to understand that what we’re seeing in the above image is the gradual decline in the peak number of Black Ops players since the holiday season, versus the relative stability of player numbers in the year-older Modern Warfare 2.

We only started collecting the data on December 13th 2010 -- just under a month after the launch of Black Ops -- but you can still see a hint of where both games were before heading into a slump as many would-be players likely spent Christmas day away from their desktops, followed by another dip on new year’s eve.

So what is the reason for the waining popularity of Black Ops among PC players when compared to it’s franchise predecessor? To tell the truth, we’re really not sure.

Modern Warfare 2 (Metacritic 86), was developed by the original CoD franchise creators at Infinity Ward, under the direction of the recently departed founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. Every game forged at Infinity Ward, from their original Call of Duty through to Modern Warfare 2, has found huge critical and financial success .

Whereas Black Ops was forged at fellow Activision-owned studio Treyarch, who’s (admittedly several years longer) catalogue includes a large portion of arguable mediocrity. Black Ops itself however, was well-received critically (Metacritic 81) and has reportedly now become the best selling video game in history, meaning there are now more players out there with a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops than Modern Warfare 2.

The singleplayer portions of each game aren’t too relevant to this analysis, as the separate executable files of the PC versions of both games mean their solo player stats are recorded independently of those of multiplayer. Singleplayer games also obviously die off much more rapidly than a successful multiplayer component.

Following on from Modern Warfare 2’s volatile, lag-riddled player-hosted network model, Black Ops brought back dedicated servers for PC players (frustratingly hamstrung by restricting it to a single global server provider, but a better option the player-hosted games nonetheless). Treyarch also went to greater lengths to offer a more balanced multiplayer game, stopping the perks from tipping the scale as heavily as some of the exploitable fury in MW2 (One Man Army with Danger Close and noob tubes anyone?). So those points considered and the supposed greater sales of Black Ops, you’d expect the stats to be tipping the other way.

Here's where they fit among the other top Steam PC shooters of the past three months.




So in an effort to make some sense of these figures, we reached out to several people that are still regularly playing either or both games and the main theme among the responses was that Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer is simply just more fun.

Some mentioned only playing Black Ops for clan and ladder matches (as the dedicated server support makes the game more suited for this purpose), but going back to MW2 for general play because it was more enjoyable.

The only real tangible criticism of Black Ops from well-weathered players was the “broken spawn system” (Example video). A glaring gameplay issue that the powers-that-be have not only expressed no intention of rectifying, but have reportedly been banning and resetting the accounts of some players that have exploited it.

Unfortunately we don’t have substantial player data from the console versions to offer a comparison there. Particularly since the Xbox 360 version of Black Ops alone is still (as of late March 2011) peaking at over 500,000 simultaneous players a day, it would be very interesting to see if the same downward trend versus a stable MW2 has also occurred there.

For lack of a more confident conclusion, we can only surmise that Infinity Ward just had the better recipe -- a tastier combination of level design and gameplay that simply overcomes the inferiority of Modern Warfare 2’s flawed network solution. Additionally, perhaps those oft-maligned balance issues actually add a greater degree of sweetness to players using them, than bitterness from those on the receiving end. Whether or not they’ll be able to retain that flavour in Modern Warfare 3 -- with several of their key staff having moved on -- will likely be more interesting still.



Latest Comments
eski
Posted 06:54pm 26/3/11
So it appears that more people are into matchmaking than dedi's?
Whoop
Posted 07:03pm 26/3/11
Wouldn't it be similar for most games? Everyone buys the game on release, plays it for a while and then some move on to the next new game? It's not like BLOPS is going down while MW2 is going back up, more just the people who play MW2 cbf with BLOPS and a few of the day 0 release crowd who play BLOPS just found something new to play.
Trauma
Posted 08:05pm 26/3/11
That many ppl still play CS?

Also I attribute Black Ops' decline to s***** bugs on release. Also they could have done a much better job with the dedi servers, still better than matchmaking.
Superpiccolo
Posted 08:04pm 26/3/11
W.O.W.

I did not realize that CS and CSS where still THAT popular. That is friggn crazy. I knew people still played it, but that is insane. Also thought TF2 would be higher than that.
FraktuRe
Posted 08:06pm 26/3/11
Meanwhile, homefront has less people playing mp+sp than people playing mw2 sp
sleepy
Posted 11:04pm 26/3/11
i would have thought that the teen boy fan club and lack of 'christmas' money would have been it. but as the figures are related to pc i dont think so, so much.

my boy has an xbox360 with mwf2. he has 'access ;}' to the pc versions of both mwf2 and black ops.

he doesnt play either mw2 or black ops on pc. he plays mw2 often on xbox multiplayer. saying that there are about a bazillion of his mates still playing mw2 on xbox and ps3.


in a rash summary i think a sequel/hybrid of a game is never going to get the wow factor a new game in a series if released in short intervals.
afaik. the average age of gaming is declining so i saw on a qgl stat recently. im sure it used to be around 30 odd. not its round 27.

just wish the quake stat was a little higher. ctf and tdm was one thing but jeez i loved rocket arena.

to me its one of those 'pacman' games now :(

last edited by sleepy at 23:04:54 26/Mar/11
Eorl
Posted 11:28pm 26/3/11
I don't think the gaming age is declining at all sleepy. I reckon its still just as high as it was 5 years ago, 30-35. Especially with the 90's, like myself, having grown up with games, we will be ever increasing the average age.
teq
Posted 01:10am 27/3/11
So it appears that more people are into matchmaking than dedi's?


I would barely call what they are offering dedicated servers
I reckon if they had a black_ops_dedicated_server.exe out in the wild more people would play black ops

like the good old days of running CS servers from your s***** cable connection, except these days most residential grade plans offer significant enough bandwidth to make it feasible :]
fryzeegunner
Posted 01:40am 27/3/11
black ops ftl. cod4 ftw. or at least MW2 was a better success than black ops imo.
Ryan
Posted 02:32am 27/3/11
I can understand this. I got bored of Black Ops after the initial first 1 or 2 weeks. Don't know why, on paper and on disk it's one of the best multiplayer games to come out of the franchise but I just don't find it fun anymore. Same with all CoD games. Only one that's slightly entertaining is CoD4 (obviously).
Oh well. I've gone back to my RTS roots, thanks SC2 :)
deeper
Posted 04:21am 27/3/11
Matchmaking vs a s***** server browser with most running crap match rules I find is irrelevant - they both suck

However I prefer the feel and maps in MW2 and I also think it's slightly less spammy. Blops is a little bit overdone for my liking, there's only so much Ice T in my ear I can tolerate.

I'm pleased to read this, because I actually downloaded MW2 the other day with the intention of playing it but wondered if there'd be any games still running for it.

Perhaps I'll fire it up again after all
Crakaveli
Posted 04:34am 27/3/11
if i hear the word "blops" one more time i'll kill myself.
Whoop
Posted 05:08am 27/3/11
blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops blops

I'm pleased to read this, because I actually downloaded MW2 the other day with the intention of playing it but wondered if there'd be any games still running for it.

I've noticed getting an aussie host is pretty hard unless you're playing it at certain times of the day. Also as of late the whole invite to game/join game thing on steam/PC seems to be broken as all hell. A bunch of us get nothing but "unable to connect to host" error messages when we try to join each others games. Yet if you go find a random game sometimes we'll all end up on the same host so clearly we are able to connect to the host so why we're getting that error message I don't know.

That said, I've still been able to get a good few hours in most nights on a reasonable host.

Also out of curiosity, does anyone know how the lobby system works? I've noticed sometimes if one particular person leaves everyone gets booted out of the lobby. I always thought the lobby thing was run by IWNet and it just picked a random player as the host, but everyone being booted seems to suggest that it picks players to run the lobby and be the host. But why then, if the host leaves it can pick another host, can't it pick another player to be the lobby host instead of kicking everyone out?
Crakaveli
Posted 05:51am 27/3/11
blargh im ded
Suxsuxsux
Posted 08:22pm 27/3/11
The figures for Modern Warfare2 probably don't include players like me who only use alterIWnet servers
for this game.
sleepy
Posted 08:25pm 27/3/11
I don't think the gaming age is declining at all sleepy. I reckon its still just as high as it was 5 years ago, 30-35. Especially with the 90's, like myself, having grown up with games, we will be ever increasing the average age.


i always thought the average age of online gamers was about my age. 30-35.

i read somewhere it was now about 27.

dont have any source for this claim. thought i read it on here somewhere.

i have certainly noticed in recent times all my sons mates play mw2 or similar since it came out. as well as all the boys coach at cricket. black ops was a regular point of discussion during the last cricket season amoung the lads.

it seems strange for an increase of people at my age to start playing but it seems quite probable more and more younger people will take it up.
i think my demographic is the start point for real numbers to be playing games as it was around the 'cable era' it became more prevalent. we all used to play it on dial-up i know. since it became increasingly important and accessable to have a stable connection i think the numbers will/have increase as would the age average decline.

all hear-say and speculation i know. i havent searched the real figures etc cause quite frankly i CBF.

now anyone can get a good connection at a 'reasonable' price the accessabitlity seems greater for the reserve graders coming through.
trog
Posted 10:01pm 27/3/11
The next couple of months will be interesting. Will Black Ops keep declining, or has it hit its "stability" point?

It should be noted MW2 was wayyyyyyy more popular than Black Ops. At its peak it was more than CS! So it has come down quite a lot. The longevity in this new generation of games just isn't there - they're now made to be almost disposable as the focus is on creating a brand/franchise so they can sell you the sequel.
sleepy
Posted 10:40pm 27/3/11
i reckon thats exactly it.

the short turnaround until the next game be it, sequel or rival game releasing a new version.

black ops came around very bloody quickly if im not imagining it.
take into consideration the next one coming whenever it is.

not to mention the awesome looking battlefield.

too soon turn around i reckon..

another aspect is the middle skill level group never has much of a chance to 'catch-up' to the naturally gifted gamers (or those with disposable income to splash out on a new pc every 6 months.) with the format of the reward system with mw2 and black ops the system of having to go back to square one can be a bit daunting to some.
for me it is still a challenge getting through the prestige stages as something i actually enjoy. problem is it leaves me with a sense of what's next once you get there.

there doesnt seem to be a 'familiar' face anymore with the games now either. i remember with quake there was always a few guys (no matter what server you jumped on) you knew if not personally at least digitally.



ravn0s
Posted 11:24pm 27/3/11
i always thought the average age of online gamers was about my age. 30-35.

i read somewhere it was now about 27.


last report i read had it at 30 and increasing.
Eorl
Posted 11:59pm 27/3/11
i always thought the average age of online gamers was about my age. 30-35.

i read somewhere it was now about 27.

dont have any source for this claim. thought i read it on here somewhere.

i have certainly noticed in recent times all my sons mates play mw2 or similar since it came out. as well as all the boys coach at cricket. black ops was a regular point of discussion during the last cricket season amoung the lads.

it seems strange for an increase of people at my age to start playing but it seems quite probable more and more younger people will take it up.
i think my demographic is the start point for real numbers to be playing games as it was around the 'cable era' it became more prevalent. we all used to play it on dial-up i know. since it became increasingly important and accessable to have a stable connection i think the numbers will/have increase as would the age average decline.

all hear-say and speculation i know. i havent searched the real figures etc cause quite frankly i CBF.

now anyone can get a good connection at a 'reasonable' price the accessabitlity seems greater for the reserve graders coming through.

I believe the average age, as I said above, is increasing due to the people who grew up on said gaming, ala MUD's/Quake/Doom etc. I'm turning 20 this year, and I know for sure that I'm not the larger demographic of gaming. I know there is a lot of us, but definitely not the average.
3dee
Posted 09:45am 28/3/11
My Xbox Live ran out and even then I hadn't played BLOPS for a few weeks. I haven't even booted up my Xbox in that long too.
paveway
Posted 09:52am 28/3/11
they're now made to be almost disposable as the focus is on creating a brand/franchise so they can sell you the sequel


that's exactly what they're doing, you buy it play it for a year buy another one

it's the FPS games answer to MMO monthly subscriptions almost

unfortunately they're going to run it into the ground very soon, i'm off the bandwagon when bf3 comes out
trog
Posted 12:33pm 28/3/11
This is what I've been crying about for years - since BF2 - trying to get PC gamers to resist the lure of buying these games! I understand that they are fun games, but when you compare them to the games of yore - Half-Life, Quake, original CoD series, BF1942 - and what those games offered to you the difference is just incredible.

Servers, mods, maps, e-sports - none of these new games have that.

Servers are gone because they're just borrowing the console model of p2p, so instead of getting bigger games we're getting smaller and smaller ones.

Maps are gone because they want you to pay for DLC.

Mods are gone because they don't want you playing the same game for years and years, they want you constantly 'upgrading' to the next game.

E-sports are gone partly because none of the games are designed from the ground up to really support them (SC2 being an obvious exception, and I hope to write more about this soon based on an awesome Blizzard lecture at GDC I went to on this subject), and without mods there's no real chance to extend them. But the main reason e-sports are out of the picture for these games is the longevity isn't there - big chunks of the population of the game 'peel off' when the new version is released and the core group won't be large enough to attract the sort of numbers you need.
Sc00bs
Posted 12:37pm 28/3/11
yer i miss the days of mods and free map updates =(

they need a new bf1942, that was probably the most fun ive had in an online fps apart from the early CS (before 1.3 when you could bunnyhop etc)
Eorl
Posted 12:59pm 28/3/11
So I guess the winning formula is to make it old school. I'll keep that in mind when I decide to make an FPS.
Kamu
Posted 01:11pm 28/3/11
As I say in each similar news post. I am not buying a FPS if it has no mod tools or dedicated server files. I shall not spend $60+ for a disposable month or two game.
Ogahr
Posted 07:49pm 28/3/11
I still havent got over L4D being killed for more money.
Raider
Posted 08:38pm 28/3/11
i miss DoD :|
V3rT
Posted 10:19pm 28/3/11
I see that a few of the earlier posters are also from the golden era of online gaming (QUAKEWORLD, HL,TF,CS) as I too like to call it. Pretty sure I remember the name TROG from conversations with an old friend who used go by DETHON (DETHONLEGS). I remember things like, in brisbane quake was played mostly via the IPX client at LANS whereas in sydney and melbourne the quake-world client was the go. Good times :)

Yes...seeing some of the posts in this thread has dragged me out of lurkerville but, I digress.

I think TROG pretty much nailed it. I agree 100%. It's all about franchises nowadays. Build a brand, charge for DLC. Give less and charge more...often. I mean we can't really blame developers for making money can we? That's business.

After all, it's good AND bad. We get new toys more often..no?
I still can't decide which outweighs the other, good vs bad wise. All I do know is, that I miss the old days. Maybe I'm just nostalgic..I dunno...sue me.

Back on topic though...has anyone considered the difference in the stats might be due to the HACKABILITY of the titles. There are still a ton of 10th lobbies being banged out everywhere and also infections are as popular as ever in MW2 .Whereas I know cheaters in Black Ops are short lived due to the rigid rules of treyarc with their updating and monitoring of the game. Could this factor into it. Is the longevity of MW2 being aided by it's hackability?
kappa
Posted 11:34am 29/3/11
i miss DoD :|

+1
Enska
Posted 12:48pm 29/3/11
F*** yeah, DoD was/is the s***. That's why I reckon they should make a new wwII game with todays tech, Maybe something ala Enemy At The Gates style in the middle of a f***ed up stalingrad or somethin.
Crakaveli
Posted 01:45pm 29/3/11
kappa
Posted 01:50pm 29/3/11
Valve should port DoD to the 360. Like Dice did with 1942/43.
Enska
Posted 01:52pm 29/3/11
^^ Ahaha f*****g cool. ta Craka
teq
Posted 09:42pm 29/3/11
Pinky
Posted 12:52am 30/3/11
There is a clear trend showing in TF2, Black Ops and BC2 that there was a fair bit more daily usage in the holiday period.

I think the next quarter will be more interesting since it's a 'normal' quarter rather than a Christmas summer holiday period.
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