Helldivers 2 has more than doubled its Steam audience in a week

Helldivers 2 had a repeat of its launch on its second weekend, as the PlayStation-funded co-op shooter soared to new levels of popularity and its servers struggled to keep up with demand.

On Steam, Arrowhead Game Studios’ tribute to Starship Troopers had been steadily amassing more and more players through the week after hitting a peak of over 155,000 concurrent player son Sunday, Feb. 11. Then player numbers suddenly leapt up over the weekend, hitting a peak of 409,367 on Sunday, Feb. 18.

To put it in perspective, this is higher than Grand Theft Auto 5’s all-time peak player numbers on Steam, and nestled just outside the current top five games on the platform, behind Apex Legends. It’s a big hit — albeit a long way off the 2.1 million concurrent players recorded by Palworld on Steam three weeks previously.

Palworld has since tailed off to daily peaks of around half a million players, but Helldivers 2 could yet reach even more people — not least because Arrowhead is in the position of having to cap the number of players who can access it, to keep the servers stable.

On Saturday, as players surged, Arrowhead warned that its efforts to increase server capacity were being overtaken by the number of players again, leading to login problems for many players. Early Sunday, the developer posted to the Helldivers Discord that it was capping concurrent players to 450,000 — presumably across both Steam and PlayStation 5 — in an attempt to improve server stability and prevent failed mission payouts and player disconnections. “We are still struggling to keep up with the scaling that is needed to accommodate all our Helldivers,” the studio said.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Arrowhead issued a new patch for the game that, as well as addressing bug fixes, made some crucial balance adjustments. The Defend events that had been frustrating players since the onset of the Automaton enemies had their difficulty reduced. But Suicide, Impossible, and Helldiver missions were made harder, and Eradicate had its mission timer increased as well as its difficulty.

Helldivers 2 has been a massive hit for Sony in its first experiment with publishing a PlayStation Studios game simultaneously on Steam and PS5. With its intensely enjoyable co-op gameplay, it’s built for virality, and could have serious legs. Sony has been adamant that its big first-party franchises will launch on PlayStation first — but when it comes to live game launches, its experience with Helldivers 2 may force it to reconsider.