When I finally hit level 60 in New World (opens in new tab), I was tired but pleased. With a review looming over me, it was the fastest I'd ever gone through an MMO, putting around 250 hours into it in just a few weeks. But when I got the accompanying achievement (opens in new tab), I noticed that 3% of players had already beaten me to the milestone. It might be a small number, but it represents a lot of people.
New World's population is estimated to be anywhere between 3 to 20 million, depending on where you look. These are all guesses based on things like Steam reviews and concurrent player numbers, and the truth is we don't currently know how many people own the MMO. We do know, however, that a million people played on the first day, and that concurrents peaked at over 900,000 (opens in new tab) a week after launch. So whatever the number, it's big.
Even if we go with the lowest estimate, that means I joined a group that was 90,000-strong when I got to the endgame. According to the achievement stats, the group has grown by another 5% since then, making it 240,000. Again, this is very conservative, and the actual number could easily be double or triple that.
Unlike me, most of these people, presumably, were doing this for pleasure and had no deadlines nipping at their heels. That's a lot of dedication. While I gave the game 60 in my New World review, and would not recommend spending hundreds of hours playing it, I do get it. New World has the combined powers of both an MMO and a survival game, and both genres are designed to make the grind seem engaging. But even so, the amount of people who have plugged it into their veins seems incredibly high.
Let's compare it to Fallout 76, another multiplayer game that straddles the line between MMO and survival game. 'Reclamation Day!' is one of Fallout 76's first achievements, and you get it for completing the very brisk tutorial. Once you get out of the vault, you get the achievement. Only 79.5% of Steam players (it's also available outside of Steam and on other platforms) have reached this first milestone. 8.3% of players have reached level 100, which is similar to New World, but Fallout 76 has far fewer players (at least on Steam) and had a significant head start.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, which launched in 2011 but only came to Steam last year, only 2.3% of Imperial players have finished the latest story arc, and the most common achievement, leaving the Sith homeworld of Korriban as an Inquisitor (effectively the tutorial world) has only been earned by 17% of players. I can't believe so many people have missed out on the experience of being an evil, magical Indiana Jones.
Runescape, which has been around forever but only launched on Steam in 2020, has particularly interesting stats. Only 61.3% of Steam players have unlocked the lodestone (for fast travel) on the tutorial island, and a mere 29.7% of them have unlocked the lodestone in the first town of Lumbridge. Like SWTOR, Runescape is free, which makes it a lot easier to just dip in and see if it's your cup of tea, and then peace out if you don't enjoy your first hour.
All of these games have their own quirks and unique situations contributing to the stats, but it still seems like New World has a particularly dedicated playerbase. 28.6% of them have already put at least 80 hours into the game, for instance, and while that includes time spent in the main menu and queues, it still speaks to its power to keep people in the giant forest of Aeternum. More than that, though, I think it reveals just how starved people were for a big MMO. We used to have so many to choose from, but these days they've been pushed aside for other live service games, particularly battle royales. Back in February, I wrote about my own desperation for something new. "I'm tired of waiting for the next big MMO (opens in new tab)", I said. And now I'm just tired.
There's a bit more we can glean from New World's achievements. Despite being the underdogs of my server, the Syndicate is the most popular faction, with 35% of players joining it. This makes sense because the Syndicate is obviously the best faction with the best colour. Purple for life! The Marauders aren't far behind, at 30.7%, and the Covenant is the least popular, with only 15.6% of players joining its ranks. That means nearly 20% of players haven't picked a faction yet. You need to be level 10 to join a faction, and 5% of that factionless group have hit that milestone but still decided to go it alone. Pick a side!
Boars are apparently the most popular animal, at least to kill. 25.2% of players have killed at least 100 of them. There's no achievement for killing wolves, though, and there's no way people have hunted more boars than wolves. You can't go five seconds without a wolf attack in Aeternum. They're a plague.
With so many animals being killed, it should come as no surprise that tracking and skinning is the most popular tradeskill. 20.5% of players have reached level 200, which is even more significant when you compare it to the other tradeskills, where only 1-2% of players have reached the mastery milestone. I apologise to all the digital critters I slaughtered to get my achievement.
When it comes to weapon mastery, it looks like most high-level players favour hatchets, with 4.5% of players reaching level 20. Muskets, meanwhile, get less love, with only 0.4% of players managing to finish levelling them up. This is unexpected, since the musket just seems like a more iconic weapon than a wee axe. That said, ranged weapons like the bow and musket are a lot more situational—they're probably not going to be your primary death-dealing instrument.
Despite the fact that 8% of New World players have reached the endgame, one of its biggest features has been enjoyed by hardly anyone. Only 0.4% of players have won a battle in Outpost Rush. This isn't because the mode is unpopular—it just doesn't exist. Amazon disabled it on October 11, when very few people had the capability to play. But with the speed at which players are hitting the endgame, its absence is starting to be more of an issue.
If you jump into a server now, you won't have to wait long to see someone claim that the game is dying, but that simply isn't reflected at all in the numbers. The concurrent figure isn't as high as it was in the first couple of weeks, but hundreds of thousands of people are still playing at any given time. And the Steam achievements are showing that a substantial number of them are dedicated and in it for the long haul. It's a grindy MMO with some of the worst PvE around and a disappointing endgame, but it's still got something people crave.