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Elden Ring doesn't come close to being the most-played game of the year

A dragon in Elden Ring
(Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment)

For all its popularity, Elden Ring isn’t close to being the most-played game of the year and is unlikely to clinch the title by the time 2022 wraps up.

That’s according to Mat Piscatella, the executive director and video game industry advisor at market research firm NPD. Elden Ring’s commercial popularity was brought into stark comparison when Piscatella shared a list of the top 10 most-played games in the US during the first quarter of this year on Twitter (opens in new tab) (thanks, GamesRadar (opens in new tab)).

The list includes several mammoth titles that have dominated the gaming industry since their release, such as Minecraft, GTA 5, and Fortnite. Alongside them are massive franchises and household names, including Call of Duty: Vanguard, Warzone, The Sims 4, and Among Us.

A couple of sports games also made it into the top 10 – NBA 2K22 and Madden NFL 22 – alongside Animal Crossing: New Horizons. As Piscatella highlights, half of the top 10 most-played games of the year so far weren’t released this decade, and Elden Ring isn’t among them.

Elden Ring is reportedly ranked 20th in the list, behind multiplayer games like World of Warcraft and Rocket League, as well as major single-player titles such as Skyrim. Piscatella’s list doesn’t include absolute figures of the game’s estimated player counts, nor does it disclose the sample size used to generate the findings. 

A Tarnished in Elden Ring gazing from a cliff

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Don’t be surprised

Elden Ring may have sold over 13 million copies, mesmerized critics, and taken the world by storm, but it’s hardly surprising that it hasn’t clinched a top spot in the most-played games list. Not only did it release as recently as February this year, but the highest-performing titles are those that are able to cement themselves in the gaming zeitgeist while reaching across audiences.

“The big evergreen games, and the huge live-service games with deeply embedded social hooks, are gravity wells for player attention, time and spending,” Piscatella says. (opens in new tab) “New games big and small face a daunting challenge trying to break through.”

Although Elden Ring’s standing might increase by the end of the year, it’s unlikely to break the top ten. As a primarily single-player game rated for mature audiences, it’ll never have the cross-audience appeal that Fortnite or Among Us enjoy. And while its Invasion mechanic is a novel approach to social gaming, the absence of live-service elements capable of regularly drawing back players through seasons of new content means its highest sales period has been and gone.

However, there are a few unexpected entries on the list. Call of Duty: Vanguard made it into the top 10, despite Activision previously expressing its disappointment with the game’s sales figures, which were down 36.1% on 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.

The popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is also fairly astonishing. Although a beloved series that resonates with people who aren’t usually lumped into broader gaming culture, New Horizons was released over two years ago. That it’s still able to command such a high player count says a lot about the attraction of social simulation games, as well as the commercial boost it received during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remember, this list only details the most-played games in the US. The popularity of games in other regions would look very different, although we expect Elden Ring still wouldn’t be in the top 10.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games.