Bare bones Steam item generator Banana rakes in over 100,000 concurrents in the span of a few days—reaches top 10 on Steam’s ‘most played’

Dear reader, I made the mistake of having a day off this week—and, like a time traveller stepping on a butterfly, I might have set a series of dominoes in motion. Either that or we’ve just collectively lost our grip on reality. Banana, a game I covered last week, has completely exploded in popularity.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Banana is a clicker game that’s not really played in the client itself. The actual .exe is extremely bare-bones, featuring a glossy .png of a banana, the ability to click it and make a number go up, and nothing else.

The real pulp of the ‘nana, if you will, is in the game’s bustling Steam item economy. These items, which can be traded and sold for cash in your Steam wallet, typically go for mere cents on the market (though rare bananas will sell for quite a bit more).

The actual ability to make money off this thing is more speculative than anything—maybe you could nest egg a few thousand bananas and wait for the market to change, but I’m not sure things are going to go your way if the concurrent player count’s anything to go by.

At almost exactly the moment I chose to rest my weary head at midnight, June 4/5 (I’d actually stayed up until 3AM, but let’s pretend I make good decisions) the game’s player count began to rise. I am choosing to believe these two events are directly related, because either we live in a cold and uncaring universe where success is derived entirely by chance, or I can create popular games with my psychic dream powers. I’m feeling a little fragile at the moment, so I am choosing to believe the latter.

Initially resting at a cosy 34,000 concurrents, which my silly, naive self thought was impressive a week ago, Banana began to accelerate at a rate of roughly 25,000 additional concurrent players every 24 hours. Then on Thursday, June 6, at midnight UTC, the numbers began to explode like the volcano over Delphi—with Banana shooting from 84,000 to 134,000 concurrent users in the space of 11 hours.

At the time of writing, Banana currently has 30,000 more people playing it than Elden Ring, a game that has a ton of hype behind its upcoming DLC—shoot, maybe we should be playing Banana instead.

This does, unfortunately, cast an air of speculation over the game itself. The structure could be exploited, hypothetically, by bots. In fairness, the game on Steam does require users to agree to a third-party EULA. In it, they’re strictly forbidden from using “any unauthorised third-party software, scripts, bots, or any other means to cheat, exploit, automate, or manipulate the Game in any way.”

The process of actually stopping players beyond a ‘hey, don’t’ is far more complex. Look, I want to be charitable to Banana, because I think this entire exercise rules—it’s like NFTs, except they’re powered by memes and strangers with deep pockets, buoyed by a fascination with still images of fruits high in potassium. However, I do not think that this game has sophisticated Anti-Cheat. I just don’t. You click on a banana and a number goes up. That is the entire thing.

Looking at the game’s Steam forums doesn’t give me too much hope for innocence right now, either—Banana just isn’t pulling 100,000+ numbers of community buzz. At the time of writing, the oldest post on the first page of the Banana forum was five hours ago. Contrast that to, say, Elden Ring—whose oldest post on its first page is less than one hour old.

The game’s Discord community, which is where you have to go to engage with the actual Banana metagame, also has around 15,000 members at the time of writing. Which is impressive, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also only 11% of the playerbase.

Thanks to the bot in the Discord’s welcome channel, we can also see that pre-surge numbers from Monday of this week were around 11,500, give-or-take, so the increase in Discord users hasn’t been proportional. Usually that wouldn’t be suspect, but I cannot emphasise how little of a game there actually is to be played on Steam, here. Community and flogging your wares is the entire point of the thing, and if the Discord isn’t proportionately active, and the forums aren’t proportionately active, then who’s flying the airplane?

This is all conjecture at this point, but still. Nonetheless, I have made efforts to try and reach out to the developer via the game’s Discord, and I’ll update this story if I receive a response.

The monkey’s paw may very well be curling for Banana, however. Supply and demand are linked, and if an army of automaton banana farmers create a banana panorama in the Steam Marketplace, it’ll be the source of a lot of banana drama. Humble players doing it by-the-book are going to be outcompeted by the influx of rare drops if they are, indeed, breaking the rules. No-one would go on the internet and lie, though, surely? TF2 has Valve looking after it, and it… oh, it has a huge bot problem, doesn’t it. Oh no.