In years past at MMOBomb, we would always look forward to Steam's publishing of its list of top 100 games of the year in various categories. We'd pick out the dozen or so free-to-play games on the list, make some commentary on how surprising (or not) it was that they landed in one of its tiers, and that was that.
Things are a little more complicated now that we cover all kinds of multiplayer games on the site. At a glance, roughly 3/4 of the games on the list are purely multiplayer titles, and the other 1/4 have some multiplayer component to them, even if most people play them solo. I'm not going to call out every one of those.
So I think what I'll do this year, and going forward, is to continue listing the free-to-play games on the revenue list and compare to last year's results, as ever, while doing a little bit of a call-out to non-F2P multiplayer games in each category. Does that work for everyone? I hope so!
Here are those top F2P games, in terms of revenue, with the spot they occupied last year in parentheses:
Platinum: Apex Legends (B), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (P), Destiny 2 (P), Dota 2 (P)
What a year it's been for Apex Legends, which makes the leap all the way up from the Bronze category to Platinum. That's probably because it was only available on Steam for two months in 2020 but all of 2021. It's worth noting that PUBG: Battlegrounds is also in this tier and will qualify as a free-to-play game next year.
I'll admit, I'm a little surprised to see Battlefield 2042 ranked this highly. The game still has a Mostly Negative review score on Steam, with roughly two out of three players giving it the thumbs-down. The power of the franchise was enough to lure people into pulling the trigger on a purchase, but we'll see if that haunts EA and DICE when next year's installment rolls around. Sadly, it probably won't.
Gold: War Thunder (S), Warframe (G)
War Thunder makes the leap into second-best territory, and that's not hard to guess at when you see that player numbers are in the mid-to-upper 20,000s, when they mostly hovered right around 20,000 in 2020. (Yes, that's a lot of 2's and 0's.) If not for the glut of big games coming out in February, I might even be willing to predict that Warframe will punch its way into the top category next year. Put that down as a mini-prediction.
It was a good year for the Forza franchise, as both Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Horizon 5 made the list at this spot. And probably the two biggest non-F2P, non-World of Warcraft MMORPGs out there -- The Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV -- both check in on the list here, though you can only purchase one of them at this time...
Silver: Path of Exile (S), Halo Infinite, Team Fortress 2 (S)
Path of Exile was in the Gold category two years ago, but spent last year and this one in Silver. I wouldn't say that the game is failing or anything like that, but I do sense a rumbling from the community that they're looking for something new; Path of Exile 2 can't come soon enough. As for Halo, I'd wager that a good portion of its sales comes from its non-F2P campaign.
Black Desert Online is on sale for just $2.99 now, so it's practically free-to-play. And while it's not multiplayer, it's worth noting that Cyberpunk 2077 makes the list here, despite the rocky path it's had since its December 2020 launch.
Bronze: Smite (B), Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Tanks Blitz, World of Warships (B), Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links (B)
We've got several new entries on this year's list, only one of which -- PSO2:NG -- is totally new. Like its EA cousin, Apex Legends, SWTOR was only on Steam for part of 2020, while World of Tanks Blitz has been around for a while. Overall, Lords Mobile was the only F2P game on last year's top 100 to drop off, while the total number of F2P games jumped from 12 to 15.
2020's breakout hit, Fall Guys, dropped from the Platinum tier last year all the way down to Bronze in 2021. Borderlands 3 had a softer plummet, from Gold to Bronze, but considering how much Gearbox Entertainment got paid by Epic to keep the game on the Epic Games Store for a year, I don't think anyone there is complaining.
To take a quick look at the other categories Steam is offering up: New World's strong start was enough to make it a Platinum new release in 2021; despite peaking at over 100,000 players, Rocket League doesn't make the top 100 revenue list (I guess all the sales are on Epic Games Store); and Splitgate makes the Silver tier of peak players (over 60,000) despite having massively fallen off from that high.
Many of the aforementioned games will still be around and active in 2022, and, as previously mentioned, there are a lot of big new titles launching in the early part of the year, so it's going to be interesting to see who can hold onto their spots in the year to come. Good luck to everyone launching a game this year -- and to players, as they try to keep something in their bank accounts!
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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