As expected, Bethesda's sci-fi RPG epic Starfield saw a major player spike on Steam over the first weekend since its full release on September 6, surpassing more than 330,000 concurrent players according to SteamDB. That's good enough to put it well past Skyrim, which broke more than 287,000 when it launched back in 2011, but still well back from Bethesda's number-one game, Fallout 4, which had nearly 473,000 concurrents in 2015.
It's a big number by any measure, and of course there are a lot of caveats attached. For one thing, it's just one slice of a pie that also includes the Microsoft Store edition of the game and Xbox Series X/S consoles: Xbox boss Phil Spencer said last week that Starfield had surpassed one million concurrent users across all platforms. And that figure includes not just people who purchased the game, but also Game Pass owners who were curious enough to give it a rip. Game Pass didn't even exist when Skyrim and Fallout 4 were new.
It's also interesting to consider the overall size of the Steam user base when comparing figures. In the distant days of 2011 when Skyrim was out there setting amazing new concurrent player records, there were roughly 40 million user accounts on Steam; these days Steam has nearly that many people using it all at the same time. The number of games Steam users have to choose from has also vastly increased, from roughly 1,800 in 2011 to more than 150,000 now.
Clouding the picture even further (because if there's one thing I learned from high school math, which I failed, it's that numbers are hard), Bethesda described Starfield as "the biggest Bethesda game launch of all time" on September 7, the day after full release and well before the concurrent player count on Steam hit its peak, presumably a reflection of both the larger number of systems and players out in the world today, and presence of Starfield on Game Pass.
And how does Starfield's peak concurrent player count compare to the long history of other big Bethesda games on Steam, you wonder? Let's have a look:
Fallout 76 (2018) – 32,982
Fallout 4 (2015) – 472,962
The Elder Scrolls Online (2014)– 49,234
Skyrim (2011) – 287,411
Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition (2009) – 10,401*
Oblivion (2006) – 6,390*
Morrowind (2002) – 1,396*
*Steam launched in 2003. Valve began tracking hours-played and other Steam player data in 2009.
One more comparison, since that's what we're doing: Starfield is still well off the other RPG juggernaut of 2023, that being Baldur's Gate 3, which hit a peak concurrent user count of more than 875,000 on Steam and at this moment, more than a month after it launched, has more than 337,000 people grinding away at it.
But again, context is everything: Baldur's Gate 3 was only available on Steam when it launched (and until the PlayStation 5 version debuted on—what a coincidence—September 6) So it's almost inevitable that its Steam concurrent player count was higher, because unlike Starfield there was no "other platform" option—if you wanted to play, you played on Steam.
Starfield's current peak player count puts it nowhere near the top five all-timers on Steam: PUBG, CS:GO, Lost Ark, Dota 2, and Cyberpunk 2077 all had peak concurrent player counts in excess of one million. But those games, like Baldur's Gate 3, were all Steam exclusives when they were putting up those big numbers, so the player base wasn't diluted by other storefronts, platforms, and Game Pass.
What I think will be more interesting than these early numbers is how they hold up in the months and years to come. 12 years after it first came out, Skyrim is still putting out enviable concurrent player numbers: Nearly 25,000 people are playing it across the original and remastered Special Edition right now.
The bottom line is that Starfield may not be dominating Steam the way its Bethesda predecessors did, but given the very different sort of world it's launched into, it looks to be doing just fine. And to paraphrase what we said last week: