The most popular games from last year were over 7 years old, with Starfield being the only new franchise to break the top 10

starfield character waving in front of ship
(Image credit: Bethesda)

What you need to know

  • The annual PC and console gaming report by Newzoo shows how tough the gaming market really is for new IPs to gain traction, with the top 10 in 2023 by monthly active users (MAU) on average being over 7 years old franchises.
  • The only game to have broken the top 10 as a new franchise was Starfield. which was also the only single-player title. 
  • The top five older titles, including Fortnite, Roblox, League of Legends, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto V, captured 27% of all playtime in 2023.
  • Playtime hours for these established titles are entrenched and not easily displaced by newer games, making it challenging for new franchises to compete for player attention. 

With every gaming platform competing for our eyeballs, according to the latest PC and Console gaming annual report by Newzoo, it seems the real battle is between tapping into nostalgia and true innovation — and nostalgia is winning by a huge margin. In 2023, the report, which shows the top 10 games on all platforms by monthly active users, indicates that the most popular games had years of legacy behind them, on average being 7 years old. 

The top five older titles, including Fortnite, Roblox, League of Legends, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto V, captured 27% of all playtime in 2023, indicating the dominance of longstanding games in the market. In fact, Fortnite is clearly still on top, even on Nintendo Switch, which of all the platforms is an outlier, with its top 10 having over half exclusive titles, all published by Nintendo.

Starfield breaks the mold, but gamers still question it's priority over the tried and tested Fallout franchise

The Fallout franchise fans are clamouring for a sequel (Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Amidst this data, Starfield stands out as the sole new IP to break into the top 10, which, on the face of it, offers a glimmer of hope for fresh narratives amongst familiar favorites. However, given the popularity of the Fallout TV adaptation on Amazon, a number of fans and gaming publications are clamoring on social media to question if Bethesda should switch priorities from Starfield and concentrate on bringing us a new entry for the Fallout franchise. 

Looking at the data, this sentiment isn't completely off the wall, as all Fallout games, with the most recent Fallout 76, only launching in 2018, are experiencing a huge upsurge in players right now, thanks to the Fallout TV show. Tapping into that reignited nostalgia would be a smart move, and it seems Bethesda themselves agree, with Todd Howard recently hinting that the initial predictions for a Fallout 5 in the next decade are being expedited.

In a recent interview, Howard claimed Bethesda was "finding ways to increase our output because we don't want to wait that long either, right?". Increasing output is just a fancy way of saying Bethesda wants to deliver on both franchises, with the Shattered Space expansion launching later this year for Starfield. Perhaps they are one of the few studios that will find success in both nostalgia bomb games and new territory.

The Fortnite and Roblox zeitgeists are seemingly unstoppable

It will come as no surprise that Fortnite and Roblox continue to dominate the MAU charts. Both games are known for their high engagement levels, and both games attract a sizable player base and maintain consistent popularity. What is interesting about the data is that both experienced notable growth in 2023 despite the age of these titles. New content drops like LEGO Fortnite and Fortnite OG contribute to spikes in player engagement, the latter being a huge nostalgia bomb for older players.

The dominance of these titles does present a challenge for other developers, though, as they compete for a share of limited player hours against these platform behemoths. It's easy to see why many fall back on creating more of the same franchise rather than trying to break in with a new and innovative IP.

In 2023, gamers spent most of their time playing older games, which were around six years old or more. These classics accounted for over 60% of total playtime. Meanwhile, games released three to five years ago saw a decline in playtime, especially in 2021 and 2022. This drop could be linked to Fortnite aging into the six-year-old category, but it didn't impact playtime in 2023.

Despite 2023 being a year of solid new game releases, with the share of playtime for new games increasing to 23% (up from the previous year), both new games and those six years or older took away playtime from the three to five-year-old games. This highlights how hard it is to create games that can keep players engaged over a long period.

Sea of Thieves becoming multi-platform could replicate the success of other games in the MAU charts (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Notably, with the exclusion of the Nintendo chart data, it's clear that multiplatform is king. Fortnite and Roblox also have a strong presence across multiple platforms, including PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, allowing them to reach a wide audience and maintain their popularity. Data like this was no doubt considered in Microsoft's decision to open up first-party titles like Sea of Thieves and Grounded to PlayStation players. It will be interesting to see how the 2024 data shapes up for those games in light of these decisions.

Nostalgia + multiplatform = $$$?

The Newzoo report makes one thing abundantly clear: the gaming market is evolving, yet there's a key formula at play here. The allure of sticking with familiar gaming experiences from previous years is undeniable, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of titles like Fortnite, Roblox, and even Minecraft.  

It's no surprise that the gamers of the future, dominated by younger demographics, hold significant sway over the industry. Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft players show little regard for platform exclusivity, but they do gravitate toward older games that bridge the gap between generations. Nostalgia isn't just about franchises from the 80s anymore, to younger gamers who actually shape the market; it's games around 7 years old. Starfield being the only game to successfully enter the top 10 is great news for Bethesda, but is it good news for the gaming industry as a whole? Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather. 

  • GraniteStateColin
    Curious if other "recent" new IPs before 2023 did as well as Starfield in their respective years. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 was entirely new. Was that as successful as Starfield across the same stages in its development lifespan?
  • Tom Marsden
    Any reason you didn't include the top 10 list?
  • fdruid
    You didn't post the list, but there were a lot of new successful new IPs in the last 5 years, for example Elden Ring and Palworld.
  • Dush Ku
    The list on other sites. All sports, cod, f2p multi. For most engagement