Age of Empires 4 loses thousands of players because patches are a long time coming

Twitch numbers plummet, influencers jump off and thousands of amateur strategists put the game aside: How the frustration of sluggish updates is wearing down the community.

Everything could have been so nice: Just when Hera, one of the best players in the legendary second part, felt certain tiredness from its ranking matches and tournaments, Age of Empires 4 jumped into the breach and initially did a lot of things right.

From Starcraft, Warcraft and many other strategy games, people stream into Age 4’s multiplayer ladder, experiment with the different races and have fun getting better together.

But the longer they play and the more seriously they take the competition, the greater the frustration with the bugs, the lack of balance and the unspeakable indolence with which constructive feedback is translated into patches.

In an announcement video, professional player Hera said that while he would keep an eye on further developments, he was turning his back on the series for the time being. Instead, he’s turning to a game that he hopes will rekindle his love of self-improvement and competition, meaning League of Legends.

By the way, the full announcement video, in which he explains the background for this quite drastic step (for a channel with Age of Empires in the name) to his loyal viewers, can be found here:

More Reasons for the Exodus

Hera is not alone in this attitude. There are numerous reasons why gamers who are particularly enthusiastic about competition prefer to turn to other titles again. For his part, Niklas mentioned the following problems:

  • Especially in the success-oriented multiplayer area, it’s difficult to really concentrate on fair competition because so many mechanics are bad or half bad.
  • The balance is miserable. The best strategies had already been worked out by mid-November and it had become increasingly clear that only a few peoples and approaches were actually useful.
  • However, these strategies are supposed to be so dull that they aren’t even fun, neither on the losing nor on the winning side, which in turn spoils the viewers’ ability to be there.
  • Slow patches are one thing, but having to endure well-known issues and bugs for months wears players down.
  • Your own rank in the ladder feels meaningless, because in the tournaments completely different people who were previously ranked rather low come out on top.

A snowball effect sets in

Competitive players like Hera and Niklas suddenly found themselves in a quandary: They were happy about an Age of Empires with a modern foundation, felt that they could still learn a lot from their competitive opponents and were looking forward to the regular tournaments, which with prize money from to are endowed with 125,000 US dollars.

Age of Empires 4 loses thousands of players

But playing is becoming less and less fun for them and their viewers notice that in the streams on Twitch. While an average of 20,000 people were still watching Age 4 on 200 channels in November, interest had shrunk by a full 90 percent by February.

Furthermore, not only is the professional and ranked scene slowly running out of steam, but the general number of players is also falling by 20 percent a month. The majority of leisurely campaign gamers have moved on due to a lack of story updates, and if this trend continues, multiplayer faces one of the worst fates of this genre: death due to a lack of players.

To put that in perspective, Age 4 had around 9,000 concurrent active players on Steam in February 2022, while Age of Empires 2, originally released over twenty years ago in its HD and Definitive Editions, was still being played by a whopping 19,000 concurrent people is played. 9,000 is still enough, plus all the players from GamePass, but it shows that the core community is giving Age 2 priority.