On February 11th this year, Lost Ark sped to the top of Steam charts reaching the top position regarding player counts. It may surprise many that this seemingly new MMORPG has actually been around since 2019, begging the question; why is it blowing up now?
From the obvious to the subtle, let’s explore what has caused Lost Ark to become the most played MMO on steam in February.
Belated Western Release Daye
While Lost Ark’s Korean development team released the game in 2019, they did so to only in Korea—while subsequently running an open beta in Russia and a closed beta in Japan. However, the game remained locked off to Western players. That is, until February 11, 2022—that exact day when Lost Ark shot to the top of the steam charts.
So, in short, Lost Ark’s rise to success on Western platforms like steam comes from it being fresh off the press, bringing the power of hype into play.
Two Years Of Playtesting
While it’s sudden release in Europe and North America is the direct reason for its success, looking behind the curtain we can see a much more important factor. With just over two-years between the initial release in Korea and the Western release, it’s fair to say that the developers have been incredibly hard at work. Refining the game based on both player feedback and in-game metrics.
This means that today’s new players are likely getting a much more refined taste of the game. A fact which will have not only bolstered its initial release but may well help secure the game’s longevity.
Free to Play
Whenever a new game release there are a few camps: those who pre-order for tasty bonuses, those who are swayed on release date due to hype and those who wait a while, unable to justify the purchase of a pricey new title.
In the case of Lost Ark, none of these apply, as the game’s NA/EU launch coincided with its turn to a free to play model. Meaning that unlike it’s neighbours Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft, players won’t need to dish out any cash to give it a try—let alone when they get hooked. That said, if you are looking to dive into a more traditional MMO, be sure to check out GameCamp for all your favourite games on the cheap.
Again, this undoubtedly contributed greatly to its explosive player count.
Fitting a Niche
It’s hard to argue against the fact that MMORPGs and hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers can often be seen as quite old-school, outdated genres. Meaning that few modern companies approach them with the budget necessary to get them right. Lost Ark somehow manages this, bringing together these two niches into one all-powerful MMOARPG (A for action), filling a void which has been plaguing both genres for a while now.
One in a Handful
Similar to the aforementioned point, Lost Ark is releasing into a landscape notably thin on recent releases. Beyond New World, few players will be able to fill one hand with MMO titles released in the last half a decade, making Lost Ark a perfect title for veterans of the genre to try out—let alone the fact that it’s free to play.
Casual and Hardcore
Doubling down on the “Massive” common to the MMO genre, Lost Ark’s impressively large world is formed of multiple continents, giving players an absolute tonne to explore. Thanks to its rich, multi-layered class system this huge world is a dream to explore.
But, perhaps more to the point, Lost Ark stands out from much of the competition by baking ideas of challenge into its very fabric with optional settings for many parts of its world. Meaning that it simultaneously caters to those looking for a challenge and those looking to simply kick back with a bit of good old hacking and slashing.
Hype Garners Hype
Once the hype train gets going, it’s hard to put on the brakes—provided nothing bad gets uncovered down the road. This is very much the case with Lost Ark, whose continued success probably has a lot to do with how explosive those initial player counts were, and how much the media has covered the game since. From streamers to Forbes, Lost Ark is gaining exposure afforded to few other games in its niche, giving plenty of players (even on the fringes of MMOs) a good reason to jump in.
Similarly, thanks to its free to play nature and extensive social features, it’s an easy game to share with friends. Seeing everything from friendship groups to couples picking up the game in tandem.
Ultimately, Lost Ark’s recent release in North America and Europe has been a resounding success. Whether the hype and the high player counts will continue on for the foreseeable future is anyone’s guess, but for now it’s worth riding the wave as MMOs are always best when completely packed with excited players.
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