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AoE2 and AoE4 – Friend or Foe?

On October 28, 2021, Age of Empires IV became publicly available and players, casters, and viewers were eager to take a look and enjoy the game. So much so, that many simmering discussions about AoE4’s release being good or bad for AoE2 flared up. Soon the community seemed to be split into three camps.

  1. The “AoE2 or nothing” disciples, who would ridicule AoE4 at every opportunity, out of fear that it might kill their beloved game.
  2. The “finally a new game” faction, eagerly following the AoE4 hype and unhesitantly abandoning AoE2 –  even if only temporarily.
  3. The “why not both?” group, refusing to join either of the above and waiting to see, how things would evolve.

While I have no actual data, looking at Twitch chat, aoezone, Reddit, and Twitter, it feels like these groups are split 40/40/20.

We now have two full months of data for AoE4, and can take a look at who seems to be right. Is AoE4 going to kill or help grow the AoE2 community? How are players and viewers reacting to the new offering?

I try to shed some light, using data from twitchtracker.com, sullygnome.com, and steamcharts.com for the period from November 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021.

Ever since AoE4 was announced, we have been wondering whether its release would hurt AoE2 by competing for the same players and viewers, or if it would attract more people, some of which might even find AoE2 by means of the newer game.

Prediction is very difficult – especially if it is about the future.

– Niels Bohr

Let’s look at these two criteria, then. How did the number of players and viewers evolve since AoE4’s release? Two months worth of data is not an awfully large dataset and while I would not bet my house on any predictions, some careful estimates should be possible.

Viewers

As one would expect, the number of people watching AoE4 content on Twitch jumped soon after the game’s release, averaging around 20,200 in November with an impressive peak of 120,000 during the 16,000 USD Genesis main event and the simultaneously running Avec Originalité et Enthousiasme 2 on November 14, 2021 – there was a 4,000 USD qualifier event earlier. Clearly, Microsoft’s efforts to promote the game had paid off.

Click the image to open a larger version in a new tab.

In December, the number of average concurrent viewers dropped to around 6,600. That’s a drop of 67% compared to the previous month. This number might have been even lower, were it not for the  20,000 USD Steel Series Cup on December 18-19, 2021, and a combination of the 4,000 USD Ancient Chinese Cup and a Showmatch.

For AoE2, the numbers are 1,900 and 1,800 average concurrent viewers in November and December, respectively. While this is still a drop of 5%, it is not an unusual one. As for AoE4, the AoE2 numbers were bolstered by events – or rather one major event lasting several weeks: King of the Desert 4.

It seems that AoE4 events attract new and AoE2 viewers alike. Ignoring these event-related outliers and seeing as the AoE2 viewer numbers don’t vary all that much during this period, the latter seem to return to watching AoE2 rather than AoE4. I would like to say that the new viewers tend to stick to watching AoE4 and my feeling is that this is the case, but I have no data to support this impression. I am certain that some of them also take a look at AoE2, but cannot begin to estimate, how many that might be.

Note: These numbers are for Twitch only. I am not aware of how to get similar information for Facebook Gaming, where T90 and TheViper are streaming. But since both of them moved there before November 2021, the absolute total numbers may be different while the overall trend should be the same.

Players

Looking at the average number of players on Steam for each game, we see that AoE4 dropped from about 27,000 in November to 15,000 in December, while AoE2 – once again – registers a much less drastic decrease from 18,000 to 17,000 players, respectively. This also means that AoE2 had more players (on average) than AoE4 for the first time since the latter’s release.

Note: These numbers are only reflecting people playing on Steam. I am aware that many players may be using the XBox Game Pass option to get cheap(er) access to AoE4. Unfortunately, I have no way to get this data.

Looking at these numbers, one could think that AoE4 is already doomed. Any such conclusion would be premature, though.

It is usual for newly released games to attract a broade(r) audience initially. Remember that it has only been two months since the game’s release. While this very short trend is pointing downwards, the absolute numbers are not all that bad. AoE4, with all its current shortcomings, still has almost as many players as AoE2 and three times as many viewers.

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I fully expect Microsoft to have planned for a long-term commitment – even if the initial numbers had been worse. With the numbers as they are, I would not be surprised to see frequent and significant game updates, addressing the aforementioned shortcomings – I am not listing those, you can find them online; one list of 40 or so suggestions was published by TheViper on Twitter.

Based on the above, I expect both games to coexist in the long run. AoE4 is certainly not the AoE2 killer, feared by some. The games differ enough to attract their own fans and players. At the same time, they are similar enough to make it easy for people to switch between them – be it as viewers or as players. As such, AoE4 is a welcome addition to the overall franchise.

How big each of these communities is going to be, remains to be seen. Each of them will have to provide high-quality content (i.e., balance changes, game improvements, DLCs) and entertainment (i.e., interesting events) continuously to attract players, viewers, and sponsors. If they fail to do so, they will stagnate, at best. Personally, I am confident that they will grow.

If you are interested in more historical data, you can use the embedded report below. To get a full-screen view, just click the double-arrow icon in the bottom right-hand corner.

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