Trends in FPS sales and server capacity from 2005 to now—and our predictions through 2035
We Might Have 240-Player FPS Games by 2035
FPS (first-person shooter) combat games get better with every release. Faster home internet and better picture improve look and feel, while faster frame rates and higher server capacities elevate the realism of each battle scenario and give gamers the adrenaline rush they’re after.
But does more action fuel sales? Our team wanted to know if FPS games have gotten more popular as more players could enter the same battle. To find out, we tracked unit sales and server capacity over a 16-year period from two popular FPS multiplayers, Call of Duty and Battlefield.
Our figures start in 2005 and go through the upcoming releases of Battlefield 2042 (Oct. 22) and Call of Duty: Vanguard (Nov. 5). We then forecast figures for 2024—and beyond.
Call of Duty Figures Bode Well for Players and Game Designers
Highlights from Call of Duty Data
For Call of Duty games, we found a strong positive correlation (.92 on a scale of 0–1) between server capacity and unit sales.
- Unit sales and the number of players on available consoles trended upward at similar rates from 2005 to 2019.
- If Call of Duty server capacity increases at the rate we predict, player count will increase from 64 for Vanguard to around 109 players in a hypothetical 2033 release.
- If player demand for Call of Duty games rises as predicted, unit sales from a 2033 release might pull $50.4 million—up about $20 million from Modern Warfare in 2019.
Battlefield Figures Paint a Fuzzier Picture than Call of Duty Stats
Highlights from Battlefield Data
For Battlefield games, we found very little correlation (.0005 on a scale of 0–1) between server capacity and unit sales.
- From 2005 to 2019, Battlefield’s number of supported players has risen steadily, while its unit sales have fluctuated.
- If Battlefield sales trend as predicted, BF 2042 stands to bring in $8.4 million—but it’s all downhill from there.
- By 2033, Battlefield might support 190 players but only see $7.1 million in sales for that year’s game release.
Combined FPS Game Stats Favor Players over Revenue
Highlights from Call of Duty and Battlefield Data Combined
When we combined the data for both games, we found a moderately positive correlation (.42 on a scale of 0–1) between server capacity and unit sales.
- Call of Duty’s successes make the outlook seem rosier for multiplayer combat sales in general, bringing the predicted average sales up to $22.4 million from Battlefield’s $7.1 in 2033.
- Battlefield’s inconsistent sales may tilt the picture in a more realistic direction for the whole industry, though. Not every FPS multiplayer will have the same commercial success as Call of Duty.
To find out if game sales and server capacity for FPS games had any correlation, we collected (a) unit sales for each game from 2005 to 2019 using Battlefield annual reports and Call of Duty annual reports and (b) server capacities for games and consoles between 2005 and 2021 using data from IGN, Wikipedia, and Gfinity.
Based on the trends and correlations we found, we forecasted (a) unit sales for 2021 releases and four hypothetical release dates through 2035 and (b) multiplayer capacities for games released after 2021.
- This forecast does not account for console availability, game marketing or popularity, or quantum computing, which would advance gaming capacity exponentially and break this model.
- Gaming console manufacturers set the absolute limit for the number of supported players, but game developers get to decide whether and when they’ll match those limits.
What This Means for Gamers
According to our calculations, multiplayer capacity for (FPS) games may grow dramatically in the coming years, even if the game developers don’t rake in revenue at the same rate. And that’s great news for the market, in addition to gamers who enjoy the genre.
That means whether your favorite FPS multiplayer is a popular franchise or one you love in secret (Doom, perhaps?), you can expect an increasingly complex, realistic, and battle-like experience when that next game drops. Good luck and have fun!
Call of Duty funnels a portion of unit sales into an endowment that has helped 20,000 veterans find new jobs. Veterans, start your career here.
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