The Top 3 of the 20 core PC Game Rankings from December 2014 continue to dominate again in January 2015, with Riot’s League of Legends at Rank 1, followed by Wargaming’s World of Tanks and Mojang’s Minecraft at Rank 3. The only change in the Top 5 was the decline of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft to Rank 5, with Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive taking WoWs place at Rank 4. Perhaps the most noticeable decline for January was the 5 point fall of HiRez Studio’s Smite to Rank 12, driven mainly by a shift away from the title after the end of its recent World Championships. It remains to be seen if the title regains lost ground in the coming months, driven by the new format for their Pro League games that kicks off mid-February.

Freejam’s Robocraft appears to have lost much of the traction provided by its recent IndieDB “Indie Game of the Year” award, dropping 6 places to Rank 20. Arma 3, published by Bohemia Interactive, rose 3 places to Rank 7, boosted by a highly active and popular modding community and news of new expansion content. Blizzard’s Diablo III, which has been in a rankings decline for some time, rose 3 places to retake Rank 16, driven in part by the opening of their Season 2 in February 2015. The new entry on the Top 20 core PC Game Rankings for January 2015 is Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (which vanished from the Rankings in October 2014), which took Rank 18, bolstered by the upcoming release of Grand Theft Auto V on PC in March 2015 and the impressive in-game bonuses offered by the publisher to consumers who pre-order the title. It will be interesting to see where zombie MMO H1Z1 places in the coming months as anticipation for the title builds. In January it entered the Twitch rankings at an impressive fifth place.

You can find the rankings here.

Four Key Trends over the past 6 months
An overview of the Top 20 core PC Game Rankings data generated over the last six months reveals four key trends that are shaping the core PC/MMO market segment:

1) eSports and Consumer Participation
eSports, like no other PC game innovation before it, has fundamentally altered {link no longer active} the PC gaming industry. The genre sits at a nexus of both industry and consumer trends, driven by consumers’ powerful need to experiment with, modify, and create their own content and share it with what has become a global audience. One need only look at Riot’s League of Legends, the reigning champion of our PC Rankings since we started publishing them, to see the lasting hold the genre as a whole has had on consumers. HiRez Studio’s Smite, driven by their 2015 World Championships and soon to be released XBox One release, pushed aside many titles as it ascended on a popularity wave driven by video sharing, social media and strong community engagement. Valve’s DotA 2 has never left the Top 10 rankings, remaining relatively stable despite many challengers by new games, holding fast by the sheer will of a passionate and engaged Steam community. eSports will only continue to grow, as the 89 million estimated eSports enthusiasts of 2014 is set to hit 145 million by 2017.

2) Free-to-Play
The vast majority of the titles dominating our rankings are free-to-play, ranging from MMO’s like World of Tanks and Star Wars: The Old Republic to MOBA’s like League of Legends, DotA 2 and Smite. In fact six of the Top 10 titles in our January 2015 rankings are free-to-play, giving a clear indication of the impact this financial model has had on the games industry, especially in destroying entry barriers to multiplayer gaming services. We envision that the term free-to-play will disappear in the near future as every game can be “tried” for free and hybrid models become the norm.

3) The Lasting Attraction of MMO’s
The MMO/MOBA genre continues to drive consumer attention (and high session times), with 5 of the Top 10 titles falling into that category. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has for the last six months remained stable in the Top 5, and NCSoft’s Guild Wars 2 has stayed strong in the Top 10. The two titles are distinguished from the dominating World of Tanks (Wargaming) by being subscription and pay-to-play based respectively, with World of Tanks employing the free-to-play business model, an indication perhaps as to why World of Tanks has continually been Top 3 in the Rankings since June 2014. It’s unsurprising then that MMO/MOBA games generate 70 percent of global PC revenues, totalling $17 billion in 2014, 85 percentof that being free-to-play.

4) Indies and Mods
As we have pointed out over the last 6 months many of the movers and shakers in our monthly PC Rankings have either been Mods or Indie published titles. Mojang’s Minecraft, which has continually been in the Top 3 rankings since June 2014, began life as a humble indie title. Driven by the forces of consumer participation and sharing (noted above), Mojang’s success culminated into its acquisition by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Many of the titles on our rankings (DotA 2, DayZ, CounterStrike, Team Fortress 2, Garry’s Mod) began life as Mods for games that soon eclipsed the title they were originally designed for. In fact DotA 2, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, DayZ and Garry’s Mod are all stand-alone titles, their success driven almost entirely by the same forces pushing the eSports genre to the heights it has now achieved. The power of community driven interest, lower barriers to entry through digital platform publishing and the reach of social sharing has empowered Indie publishers to compete with great success, as indicated by their continual presence in the monthly rankings. The sheer domination of Minecraft videos on YouTube is further testament to this.

Find more information on the eSports market and audience here.

About Overwolf
Overwolf is a customizable in-game overlay platform that has been installed in over 8 million PCs. This community of hardcore PC gamers are consistently making their own apps within the Overwolf platform and sharing them. Why Because it’s super simple and it enhances the gameplay experience of anyone’s favorite title in a personal way. From in-game chat systems to customized controls, streaming or video capture, Overwolf allows users to implement their own visions into these games and do so in a timely manner.

About Newzoo
Newzoo is the leading global market research firm focused purely on the games market. The company provides its clients with a mix of primary consumer research, transactional data and financial analysis across all continents, screens and business models. It is also known for actively sharing a variety of insights by means of free trend reports, infographics, blogposts and monthly rankings. Newzoo’s clients include Tencent, SEGA, Logitech, Wizards of the Coast, Nvidia, Microsoft, EA, Coca-Cola and Visa/PlaySpan.