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If strategy game sales are steady, why are players 'less interested' in strategic thinking?

Strategy games release on a consistent yearly basis, but a larger cultural shift may have caused them to lose cultural steam.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

May 22, 2024

2 Min Read
A king, queen, and assassin from Crusader Kings 3.
Image via Paradox Interactive.

A new report from Quantic Foundry shows how much the strategy game genre (your Company of Heroes and Civilzations) has persisted, despite a decline in strategic thinking from players over the years.

Over 1.57 million players were surveyed between June 2015 and April 2024. As of now, 67 percent of players show less interest in strategic thinking over the last nine years.

However, no specific cause was determined beyond a "larger, long-term cultural/psychological shift."

Even with that, SteamData shows strategy games have grown since 2015. As of 2022, the genre peaked at over 2,400 titles released.

The percentage of strategy titles released has stayed steady over time. Since 2016, the genre has made up six to around seven percent of games released per year.

On a game-by-game basis, some have seen slight growth or steady coasting in the years post-release. For example, player counts for Stellaris and Civilization 6 have shot up and down, depending on the launch of a new expansion or mechanic.

But it's worth noting those are well-established games. Speaking to Game Developer, Quantic Foundry's Nick Yee noted strategy players are putting their time toward well-known games and franchises, just at less intensive difficulties.

The strategy space has gotten simpler, and gradually turned more niche. For every relatively simple game like Marvel's Midnight Suns, there's something more mentally demanding like Total War: Warhammer 3.

Core strategy players have stayed the same, but Yee said the "problem" lies in everyone else. A shift in the larger player demographic (old and new alike) means they may "care dramatically less" about the genre.

Yee also pointed out the strategy decline isn't gender-specific. This reduction is "remarkably consistent" for men and women, and equally so for US and non-US players.

In general, no one demographic or cause appears to be responsible. The pandemic couldn't be blamed, but it was speculated to have "exacerbated or prolonged" the fall-off.

Still, the study hypothesized this be owed to a larger cultural shift toward short attention spans. The rise of shorter videos and computer app usage was noted, along with a greater sense of cognitive overload.

As Quantic Foundry notes, this implies players "prefer shorter time horizons to plan for...and less complex decisions that rely on fewer parameters to consider."

The full study from Quantic Foundry can be read here.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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