Destiny 2 tops the Steam charts with sky-high player counts ahead of The Final Shape, and I'm not surprised

Destiny 2
(Image credit: Bungie)

What you need to know

  • After falling to a new all-time low player count in November 2023, Destiny 2 has begun to go through a large resurgence in recent weeks.
  • The game has averaged around 100,000 concurrent players on Steam during peak gaming hours since early April, and it's currently in first place on Steam's Top Sellers chart. It's also the 12th most-played game on Xbox right now, according to Microsoft data.
  • The space fantasy shooter's comeback can largely be attributed to the excellence of the free and content-rich midseason Into the Light update, as well as hype for all the exciting additions and changes coming when The Final Shape launches next week on June 4.
  • Some of these include the impressive Prismatic subclass that will allow players to wield and combine abilities from multiple different Light and Darkness subclasses, new Aspects and Supers for buildcrafting, and a number of tweaks that will significantly lower the barrier to entry for new and inexperienced Guardians.

Over seven months ago back in November, I wrote an article reporting on Destiny 2's player count falling to a new all-time low at the time. I wasn't surprised by the game's struggles at all back then, as 2023's Lightfall DLC was fiercely criticized for having a terrible story and a mediocre raid, Year 6's first two seasons were "just OK," and meaningful, much-needed updates for trite core systems in Destiny 2 still hadn't been implemented (or even announced). Though there was hope that the incoming Season of the Wish would be enjoyable (it was), the community was looking to the delayed The Final Shape DLC and the rest of Destiny's future with a lot of pessimism — especially in the wake of developer Bungie laying off 8% of its staff.

Fast-forward over half a year later to where we are now, though, and one look at Destiny 2's recent success on Steam makes it clear that Bungie has done plenty to turn the ship around. Since early April, the space fantasy looter shooter has maintained a consistent average of around 100,000 concurrent players during peak gaming hours, routinely putting it in the platform's top 10 most-played games list. It also currently holds the top position in Steam's Top Sellers chart — likely indicative of skyrocketing preorders for The Final Shape — and is #12 on the official most-played Xbox games list, too. But just like I wasn't surprised about the game's shortcomings months ago, I'm not shocked to see this bounceback after seeing (and engaging with) everything the studio's done to win players back.

At the heart of Destiny 2's revitalization is the free Into the Light update, which breathed new life into the FPS in April with the highly replayable PvE horde mode Onslaught, tons of powerful weapons to chase, reprised versions of the classic "The Whisper" and "Zero Hour" Exotic missions, three new PvP maps, and a limited-time endgame raid boss gauntlet called Pantheon. The quality of this midseason content drop rivals (and arguably surpasses) Destiny's $10 seasons, and everything in it sans Pantheon is sticking around after The Final Shape launches.

Bungie's marketing teams have also done a stellar job of getting fans hyped for The Final Shape itself, which is on track to go live next week on June 4. Trailers like the "Journey into The Traveler" teaser and the official launch trailer (embedded above) have done much to renew faith in the developer's ability to conclude Destiny's decade-long Light and Darkness Saga satisfyingly, as have the positively received narratives from Season of the Witch and Season of the Wish. From a gameplay perspective, The Final Shape also looks to be one of the biggest and boldest DLCs in the history of the series.

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For the first time since 2018's Forsaken expansion, players will be challenged by a new race of Darkness enemies called the Dread that directly serve the Witness — the story's ultimate antagonist that aims to calcify the universe in a permanent and lifeless stasis. In addition to using a myriad of new weapons, armors, and pieces of Exotic gear to pursue it within the Traveler's "Pale Heart," you'll also get access to Prismatic — a wild new subclass that will allow you to use and combine abilities from Destiny 2's various Light and Darkness subclasses, complete with tons of different options to consider while buildcrafting. 

Access to Prismatic will be given very soon after starting The Final Shape's campaign, though once the DLC's raid is beaten after it releases on June 7 and its second week begins on June 11, players will be able to make their builds even stronger by grinding a new activity to get special Exotic class items. These are Prismatic-exclusive, and will feature two randomly rolled Exotic armor perks that influence your weapons and/or abilities in desirable ways.

Song of Flame, a new Solar Super for Warlock coming in The Final Shape. It grants the user the ability to spam explosive Solar abilities while allowing them and nearby allies to apply Scorch with Solar weapon damage. (Image credit: Bungie)

It's also important to note that Destiny 2's barrier to entry for new and inexperienced players will be lower than it's ever been in The Final Shape era, with Bungie planning to allow low-level players to play with more experienced friends without penalties, significantly shorten the length of the game's leveling process, and making it considerably less important than it is currently. The developer is also "sunrising" all weapons that were previously affected by the controversial (and cancelled) sunsetting system, meaning that fans who last played several years ago will be able to return to the game and use the gear they earned then without drawbacks.

All in all, Destiny is in one of the healthiest states it's been in in a long time going into The Final Shape, and while I'm not allowing myself to be more than cautiously optimistic after how disappointing Lightfall was, Bungie is definitely moving the franchise in the right direction right now. I'm also very interested in seeing where the story goes after our fight within the Traveler ends, as Year 7 will bring three longform act-based "Episodes" that are replacing the game's quarterly seasonal releases. I've quite literally bought into the hype with a preorder; if you're interested in one, too, don't miss these excellent deals on The Final Shape and other Destiny 2 expansions before they go away soon.

Destiny 2 is one of the best Xbox games and best PC games for fans of multiplayer and looter shooters, and The Final Shape — the final expansion in the Light and Darkness Saga — looks to be the biggest DLC that Bungie's popular live service game has ever gotten.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape | $49.99 $40.29 at CDKeys (Steam)

Destiny 2: The Final Shape | $49.99 $40.29 at CDKeys (Steam)

The Final Shape isn't even out yet, but you can preorder it  now for a sweet 20% discount. It will cap off Destiny's decade-long Light and Darkness Saga with a brand new campaign that takes you inside the Traveler, a new raid coming June 7, the "multiclassing" Prismatic subclass, plenty of powerful new gear, and more.

Also see: The Final Shape (GMG) | The Final Shape + Annual Pass (CDKeys) | The Final Shape + Annual Pass (GMG)

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.