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‘Hellblade 2’ Launches As The 23rd Most-Played Xbox Game, What Does That Mean?

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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 launched last week to solid reviews from both fans and players. It is one of Xbox’s higher-profile exclusive releases this year, possibly the highest, given that Call of Duty is cross-platform, but it may not have made much of a splash in terms of total players. And at Microsoft, every studio feels like it’s being put on trial lately.

We only have a limited array of metrics to go on in the current state of relatively non-transparent game performance. Namely two, when it comes to Xbox games.

First, there is the Top 50 Most Played Xbox games list that is updated every few days on a bit of a delay. It took a few days but Hellblade 2 has debuted on the list in…23rd place (it originally showed up in 30th last night). This is despite its inclusion in Xbox Game Pass.

The caveat here is that this list is based on hours played, and Hellblade is a relatively short 6-8 hour game for most players, so you’d play quickly and move on. Still, at launch, you might imagine those hours would add up to something a bit more significant, given its place in Xbox’s lineup this year and its availability on Game Pass.

The second metric we have are Steam numbers, which are always somewhat controversial, but it’s just data. In this case, it would indicate interest for the $50 game outside of the Xbox Game Pass ecosystem. Hellblade 2 peaked at 3,982 players at launch. For context, the poorly-reviewed Redfall had a peak of 6,124 players at launch. There’s little point measuring longer term Steam numbers after this given how short the game is, as most will play and depart. So these launch numbers will be the most significant data, barring some sort of huge sale.

So, the takeaway here is that there do not seem to be all that many total players for Hellblade 2 at launch here. However, we simply don’t know at this point what Xbox considers a metric for success, especially with something like AA Game Pass games. But everyone is understandably on edge after the shutdown of Hi-Fi Rush’s studio, a hugely acclaimed game that Microsoft widely bragged about as a success at the time.

According to reports, Ninja Theory’s next game is already greenlit and they’re at no danger of being shuttered like other studios. That’s not official, and was not claimed after these launch numbers but it would be very unwise for Microsoft to cut and run from a talented studio if Hellblade 2 “underperforms” by internal metrics (as it was unwise to do so with Tango Gameworks).

The original Hellblade sold a million copies over its first year, and ended up with 6 million players in four years. But now in the Game Pass era, sales are fractional and it’s about total players or hours played, and only Microsoft has full access to that data.

Given everything however, even with close to identical reviews, Xbox exclusivity and a sequel arriving seven years later seems to have limited Hellblade 2’s reach. A great many people are certainly enjoying it, but it seems far fewer than the audience of the first game, based on what we’re seeing here.

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