Destiny 2's low player count is the symptom of deeper problems

Despite a list of positive changes coming and the last Light and Darkness expansion arriving, players have seemingly stepped away from Destiny 2 in droves.


Destiny 2: The Final Shape was supposed to launch on February 28, 2024. We’ve just passed that momentous date and are staring down the barrel of three more months of Season of the Wish until we arrive at the new release date of June 4. What should have been the last hurrah in the Light and Darkness Saga is now just another date, though it is one now marred by another scar: it marks a day where the Steam Destiny 2 player count is down to its lowest point in years.

SteamCharts graph showing peak player count for Destiny 2
Destiny 2's peak player count hit just over 31,000 in a 24-hour period, a massive drop from Lightfall's 316,000 concurrent player count.
Source: SteamCharts

A quick look at SteamCharts paints a grim picture, though it’s one players might be used to in the lead up to a new expansion. The 24-hour peak player count on Steam was a little over 31,000 on February 29, 2024. This number has been steadily dropping since Lightfall broke the concurrent player count record for Destiny 2 with some 316,000 players logging in.

While it’s not unusual for Destiny 2 numbers to wane in the final season of an expansion, Season of the Wish’s numbers are far lower than that of previous seasons that led into a new expansion. Season of the Lost (Destiny 2’s now second-longest season) still maintained a player count higher than 75,000 while Season of the Seraph never dipped lower than 96,000.

Four Guardians stand ready for PVP
In a bid to bring more players to Crucible, Bungie is implementing a host of changes to its core activity.
Source: Bungie

All of this is in the face of Bungie’s efforts to generate some positivity about the game with upcoming patches. Over the last few weeks, Bungie has been detailing various changes to the core sandbox experience that players can expect to arrive in March, May as well as when The Final Shape launches. Things like a Crucible overhaul, character customization, new weapons to farm, and ability buffs are just a couple of the tweaks the developers are deploying to try and fix problems and make the game feel fresher.

So what’s the problem and why is Season of the Wish struggling to retain players when previous last-in-line seasons haven’t seen this precipitous fall in player count? For starters, there’s the statistical element of this: A higher concurrent player count means more players to lose. But the problem is deeper than pure numbers; it’s likely a myriad of factors including player burnout, public perception of Bungie, and the release of several excellent games.

A player fights a Vex Hydra
Though the new activities are often well-received, the seasonal formula has been the same for years.
Source: Bungie

The Destiny 2 playerbase has been experiencing the same type of seasonal content for years now. The formula has become predictable and in turn stale. Players know that the story will unfold over several weeks, with each weekly quest involving playing the new seasonal activity, running between characters and video calls, only to be told to “wait until next week”. At about the halfway point, they’ll see a cutscene that will flip the narrative on its head or offer a new perspective of someone they thought as their enemy. It’s trite and pales in comparison to the dizzying heights of the narrative experienced in The Witch Queen campaign.

Beyond the story, players are also stuffed to the gills with weapons and armor. Love it or hate it, weapon crafting has fundamentally upset the bedrock of the loot chase in Destiny 2. There are some outlier weapons worth farming but for the most part players can get god-tier weapons for endgame content by simply crafting them. Any new weapon Bungie adds to the game has to push the needle further than it currently is, though this is unlikely given the company’s avoidance of power creep.

Cold Comfort rocket launcher
Why spend time farming for a Cold Comfort when it's power output is marginally better than something else and that difference is not needed?
Source: Shacknews

So now you’ve got a playerbase that can predict the story – broadly speaking – but also has all the weapons they’ll ever need to combat the hardest content in the game. Why bother farming for a Cold Comfort god roll when you can easily make an Apex Predator that’ll do almost as well? Unless Bungie leans harder into the challenge and the slight difference in damage output between the two matters, players already have what they need.

While Bungie has promised new and fresh takes on storytelling in The Final Shape and beyond, that doesn’t help the present. What also doesn’t help is the public perception of Bungie as a company. Recently, Joe Blackburn left Bungie – a face that the community had grown to trust immensely, the company pulled the Starter Pack bundle from Steam following backlash, several high profile developers were laid off, and a four-times World’s First raider was permanently banned for having a Rome: Total War memory editor tool installed on his computer.

Adding to the problem was a recent comment by PlayStation chairman Hiroki Totoki during a Q&A session after Sony’s earnings report. Totoki said that he had visited Bungie’s studio and while employees were motivated, he noted that there was “room for improvement from a business perspective” specifically in regard to expenses and “assuming accountability for development timelines.”

Taken in isolation this comment is rather innocuous but when you consider Destiny 2 sales were running 45 percent below projections for the year in 2023, it’s not a good look. How much worse might sales be now that 70 percent of the playerbase has dropped off since the start of the season, let alone compared to the launch of Lightfall?

All of this culminates in a general dissatisfaction of Bungie and at worse, a distrust of how the company is choosing to handle the direction of Destiny 2. There’s only so much talking and promising of improvements that can help, at some point players need to experience these changes in-game. But for some Reddit users, the recent patch previews have done little to ignite the excitement for The Final Shape and what comes after.

These players, and many others, are waiting for that moment where a piece of news or reveal gives them a purpose to not only play The Final Shape, but stay with this now ten year old franchise. The last ten years have been ramping up to this final confrontation with the big bad, and much like how revealing the monster in a horror movie strips it of its power, defeating the Witness might have an analogous effect on the franchise.

Four Helldivers fight an onslaught of bugs on a snowy planet
An influx of fun games, like Helldivers 2, has offered consumers something fresh and exciting to play.
Source: Arrowhead Game Studios

Compounding the issue of player numbers are the recent smash hit releases. Palworld surpassed CS:GO’s concurrent player count while Helldivers 2 has seen such crushing popularity that the servers couldn’t handle the load. And now with the Final Fantay 7 Rebirth release, there’s even more great games pulling players away from Destiny 2.

It’s a tough road for Bungie moving forward. It needs to over-deliver with The Final Shape in a similar fashion to Forsaken or The Witch Queen if it wants to reignite the passion in players and keep them coming back. There have been numerous “last chance” moments in the game’s history and it’s managed to bounce back, but there’s something different in the air this time. The symptom that is dwindling player numbers speaks volumes and while it’s not ideal to play the same game every day until the heat death of the universe, it would be great if the light in Destiny 2 doesn’t flicker out with a whimper.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can message him on X: @SamuelChandler 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 29, 2024 7:15 PM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, Destiny 2's low player count is the symptom of deeper problems

    • reply
      February 29, 2024 9:08 PM

      i installed the game and launched it and there was 1 other Shacker playing. i had to go through a bunch of announcement screens and looked at the store and then closed the game. Just like old times!

      • reply
        February 29, 2024 9:20 PM

        I face a similar problem. I log in, stare at what I could potentially do, but feel no drive to do any of it. Why would I want to run The Coil when I'm already kitted out?

        Additionally, it took several minutes to find a game of Crucible. I quit after the match and went back to The Finals.

    • reply
      February 29, 2024 10:00 PM

      What I've heard from friends is that Destiny 2 is not very accessible to new players, that you already have to know what you're doing to be able to ramp up.

      Is that true? If so, then it seems that's where they need to focus if they want the numbers to stay up: have a reliable flow of players coming in as the burned out veteran players flow out.

      • reply
        March 1, 2024 7:00 AM

        It is. The new player experience is awful, even after the scant improvements they made to it. On top of how much you'll need to pay for all the DLC, you effectively need a knowledgeable player to guide you through and even then you will have a ton of time , RNG, and at least a chunk of grind to achieve most goals. On top of that you will be at a complete loss on lore and the state of the game's story.

        I love a lot about Destiny but after trying to get friends into it I don't recommend it to new players at all, even the patient ones who don't mind significant investment.

      • reply
        March 1, 2024 11:18 AM

        It's not even all that accessible to old players returning after a long hiatus.

      • reply
        March 1, 2024 11:22 AM

        I took a 6 month break and came back and had no idea where I was or what progress I had before I left.

    • reply
      March 1, 2024 3:43 AM

      I will play The Final Shape but I haven’t been interested in the seasonal stuff in a long time, so I really doubt I will play more D2 after finishing the expansion

    • reply
      March 1, 2024 4:34 AM

      The team that kept winning the raid speedrun contests getting busted for cheating seems like a bigger story than it was. Did Bungie award the titles to second place retroactively?

    • reply
      March 1, 2024 6:53 AM

      And we all know Bungie's philosophy on "over-delivering", unless of course it's for another Eververse armor promo.

    • reply
      March 1, 2024 11:16 AM

      Every time I play Destiny 2 I feel like I jumped into the middle of a long movie and I have no idea what's happening. People are talking to me about stuff and I don't know what any of it means. They're talking about characters that I should probably care about and I don't have any idea who they are. I will play missions and get equipment that is usually worse than what I have. It's ultimately an unsatisfying experience and I would rather play something else.

    • reply
      March 1, 2024 11:30 AM

      Bungie needs to just stop and make Myth 4.

      Myth 2: The Fallen Lords is one of the best games of all time

    • reply
      March 1, 2024 12:22 PM

      The game is way too difficult for new players to jump into

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