Elden Ring sold 16 million copies to this date. Because this game dominated social media, with everyone and their grandmas either talking about it or making videos and posting them on YouTube, you would assume that FromSoftware has created an undying beast. But the number of players currently playing this game regularly would state otherwise.
Elden Ring is certainly not DEAD, but according to Steam, the player count has drastically fallen from a near million players at its peak to now a measly 30,000+ players. Of course, this trend is true for any new and hot game release, but there are some reasons for this rather rapid decline of Elden Ring.
No, Elden Ring is not dead. However, the player counts have fallen drastically from their all-time peak. Elden Ring is “DEAD” because this game has issues that impact its longevity and power to stay relevant, like its open-world design, reusing enemies/bosses, PvP issues, and replayability.
When Elden Ring first came out in February, we all thought we would never stop playing it, considering how much replay value previous FromSoft games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls gave us. We could only imagine how long it would take us to play and discover everything in Elden Ring, with its vast open world and hidden secrets.
But to my surprise, it wasn’t that long. To be fair my first playthrough of the game (and surely for others too), I clocked in around 190 hours discovering every nook and cranny of this game, which is way more than I played the best FromSoft game, in my opinion,, Bloodborne (it took me 5-6 playthroughs to reach this kind of number).
Playing Elden Ring again/new game+ felt much different than the previous entries, and the problem lies herein.
FromSoftware has created one of the unique open-world experiences and is a major factor in Elden Ring’s success, although it came at a price. It sacrificed the replay value of other souls games due to its layout within the open world.
To be fair, this is how most single-player games are; you play through the game once and end it right there, and that’s fine with the amount of content Elden Ring brings to the table.
One play-through is more than enough to get your money’s worth, so you can not downplay the game, especially compared to other AAA titles. The problem lies within the expectations of a FromSoftware experience with how the world is structured.
Once you’ve been to an area already in Elden Ring, it’s hard to feel the need to do anything there again unless you need a specific item. Once you know what an area such as Caelid has to offer, are you going to go through it again and willingly fight every single enemy?
The freedom that the open world gives you is supposed to allow for smoother playthroughs once you know where you’re going, but what it really does is cut out tons of content for you on your future runs. A more linear experience is stronger for these types of games, even though the open world is a nice change of pace.
The enemy design and variety here is top-notch, but in essence, they are roadblocks to your objective, and if the road is so wide that these enemies hardly block anything, then why even bother facing them?
Most enemies drop an incredibly low amount of Runes, and the only real incentive for fighting them is, well, there isn’t any. There’s little reward for fighting enemies instead of just running past everything to the next Site of Grace, which puts a huge dent in the replay value of this game, considering that that’s the core element that made these games successful.
One of the biggest selling points for Elden Ring was that you could go anywhere and explore to uncover hidden secrets within the world. The problem with this regarding replayability is that most of the things you uncover within the world are dungeons with reskinned enemies and bosses or unnecessary items that you will never use.
Realizing this in the first playthrough puts a damper on your excitement for exploration. Finding new areas or dungeons was fun, but once you knew how to get to the main areas, exploring the world felt kind of pointless.
Using any build, in my case, a melee build, you would know that most of the rewards you will be getting would be useless, but it would still be fun seeing what items you might discover after about a hundred hours of doing this, it will become clear that the biggest reward you would likely to get from exploration was either a reskin boss or a mediocre spell/item that you would never use.
It does seem absurd to even complain about this considering the amount of content that there is in this game without including these side dungeons, but the other FromSoft games never felt like this. Also, it’s obvious that exploration isn’t be as exciting in your second playthrough, regardless of how great the items or bosses are since you already know what’s coming.
If you are a FromSoft game fan, then you know the value we place on the bosses, and this game truly has some amazing bosses. In the beginning, the incentive in Elden Ring was these bosses; if you are like me, then you must have been determined to beat every single one of them.
The boss fights are, without a doubt, the biggest reason why people are quitting Elden Ring. We do appreciate that the developers tried to approach the bosses in a different way to appeal to newer players while also throwing veterans off but in my opinion, I just don’t think they executed this properly.
First of all, some of the movie sets of these bosses were so insane that the fights just didn’t even feel fair, especially with bosses like Malekith or Malenia. It sometimes doesn’t even feel like you have a chance to fight back and this game very much wants you to be aggressive, so it doesn’t make much sense.
There are bosses where it feels like you either had to fight them until you got lucky with their moveset RNG or you had to use Spirit Ashes to share the punishment and provide distractions. Some bosses give you no time to heal or even attack for more than one hit at a time. Going back to Dark Souls 3, you will be shocked to realize how many hits you could get in at once.
Instead of making the bosses do modest damage with larger health bars like in Dark Souls 3, Elden Ring made bosses have smaller health bars but can easily one-shot you if you’re not careful. This is actually a huge problem with Elden Ring and is similar to games like Nioh.
No matter how far you are in the game or how upgraded your character is, you are always either one or two hits away from dying at all times. All this kind of feels like artificial difficulty. If Elden Ring had adjusted this a tiny bit, it would have made the bosses much more enjoyable rather than dodging a 15-move combo just to get one hit in every time.
On the other hand, minor bosses and even some major bosses are sometimes so weak that the fight ends in a few seconds. This removes the satisfaction you get from learning about their attacks and creating strategies to fight them. There is a huge boss balancing problem in Elden Ring.
Aside from the issues mentioned above. The reskin bosses also add a bit of frustration. We would rather have more bosses as long as it doesn’t hurt the quality of the main story, but some of the reskins devalued the main bosses.
Having Astel appear twice ruined the experience of fighting him the first time, and this happens with tons of bosses in the game. You can even find Morgott again in the open world. Having so many of the main bosses coming in twice takes away the excitement from the experience and makes the fights less desirable to return to in another playthrough.
Either most of them felt way too easy or way too unfair, and that doesn’t bode well for another playthrough of the entire game.
When the single-player side of FromSoft games is done, people usually stick around for the PvP. A huge thriving community of PvP players exists for games like Dark Souls. These are the people who keep the player count up for such games, but in the case of Elden Ring, these players are not happy with how FromSoftware went about all of it.
The lackluster PvP is another thing that made the game a bit stale for many players. Duels are always pretty fun, but invasions aren’t worth it anymore. The changes they made for newer players to avoid them from getting invaded out of nowhere and getting stomped on that is part of the experience of these games.
Having a requirement of two people before anyone can invade you makes sense, but it lacks the intensity it used to have. Now if you invade, it’s you versus the meta build of the week, and for the longest time, the PvP was flooded with Bleed builds. This pushed away many PvP enthusiasts early on.
PvP probably has the most potential to give these games substantial replay value, and the developers still haven’t quite managed to get it right. There are no PvP arenas even though the map has at least 3 locked colosseums. They will surely be added in the DLC, but in the meanwhile, the PvP community will not properly engage in Elden Ring.
We have managed to discuss many reasons that impact the lowering player count of Elden Ring, but the most important point we have intentionally left out is the fact that this game is essentially a single-player adventure and they are in general a limited experience.
Elden Ring is not a run-of-the-mill live-service multiplayer game where you keep playing for that “one last round” feeling. Single-player games have a definite life cycle thus, players will naturally/eventually move on to other games. The fact that a game like Elden Ring could even reach those astronomical numbers of concurrent players is an amazing phenomenon.
We are certain that when FromSoftware will announce and eventually launch the DLC, Elden Ring will again see a huge uptick in players. We will just have to wait for that sweet announcement by FromSoft.