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Helldivers 2 Found Success In Breaking From Gaming's Worst Trends

From its viral social media campaign to its discounted price, Helldivers 2 is reaping what it sowed.

Helldivers 2 is the runaway success of 2024 so far, and it has the player numbers, and now record-breaking sales, to back it up. In an industry where major companies are shedding talent at an alarming rate, partially due to the ballooning cost of game development, Helldivers 2 has become a case study for how to make the most of a studio's resources.

The satirical sci-fi co-op shooter from Arrowhead Game Studios was the second best-selling game of March in the U.S., according to Circana’s monthly Video Game Market Highlights report. Only Capcom’s ambitious role-playing game Dragon’s Dogma 2, which launched on March 22, outperformed the Sony-published hit.

Circana’s executive director and games industry analyst Mat Piscatella says that Helldivers 2 remains the best-selling premium game of the year so far, inching out other big hits of the year like PocketPairs Palworld, SquareEnix’s Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, and the aforementioned Capcom sequel. A little over two months after its release, Helldivers 2 has also become the seventh best-selling Sony-published game in history, according to Piscatella.

Helldivers 2 is a fairly simple but well-executed concept. For its relatively cheap asking price ($40 compared to its $70 contemporaries), the game combines proven co-op fun many remember from their days playing Gears’ horde mode or the original Call Of Duty zombie modes, with few concessions.

Helldivers 2 doesn’t do anything groundbreaking. But everything it does, it does extremely well.

The game does feature microtransactions, but none of them provide players game-breaking advantages over other players (thanks to the game’s PvE trappings) or bash them over the head with constant reminders to spend additional cash.

It also trades in top-of-the-line graphics typical of the average AAA game for decent, functional visuals. Instead, Helldivers 2 focuses on providing enemy and level variety, two factors that reinforce endless replayability and memorable, sometimes viral moments.

It’s not to say a stunning-looking game can’t also be fun. But it’s clear that nailing the gameplay loop of landing on a planet, nuking some legally distinct bugs and not-Terminators, and making it back to the chopper in one piece was a top priority for the Stockholm-based game studio.

The in-game world-building featured on social media platforms like X is an inventive way of keeping things fresh.

Arrowhead Game Studios

While these tried and true elements have convinced millions to part with their hard-earned cash to try the hottest game of 2024, it’s Arrowhead’s excellent community support and meta use of social media and world-building that’s kept hundreds of thousands of players engaged two months after its release.

Whether you’re a casual Helldiver watching from the sidelines via TikTok or X (formerly known as Twitter) or a diehard contributing daily to Super Earth’s ongoing mission, you’re probably up to date on where the Helldivers army stands in the galactic fight for democracy. Much of that can be attributed to fun videos produced by Arrowhead’s support team for the game. These videos not only keep the community engaged, they cleverly keep Helldivers 2 in the zeitgeist, pulling players who haven’t played in a while back for a round or two. It also helps that the game’s sense of humor, which borrows heavily from Paul Verhoeven’s book of lampooning overzealous patriotism, is a huge hit with audiences.

Perhaps the most important lesson from Helldivers 2’s success reckons with the revelation that both Microsoft and Sony are discovering. Launching the co-op shooter on both PC and PlayStation 5 was the best thing that could have happened to this franchise. While the first Helldivers was moderately successful, it was a relatively obscure title trapped in the PlayStation ecosystem (it launched in 2015 on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita). It eventually launched on PC some nine months after its initial release, but by then, most of the buzz was long gone.

Helldivers 2 turned its single hook, smashing endless waves of legally distinct bugs and not-Terminators, into 2024’s biggest hit.

Arrowhead Game Studios

Granting players of the sequel the ability to play with friends, regardless of their method of choice, has no doubt bolstered this community. No one has been left waiting for the game to come to their platform (unless you’re on Xbox, of course).

Piscatella says Helldivers 2’s simultaneous launch on PS5 and PC is “a huge part of the success of Helldivers 2 in the US,” and why it’s become one of Sony’s seventh-best-selling games ever. “Without PC it wouldn't currently rank among the top 20,” he tweeted. Sony would be silly not to take this kind of success into account for future games.

Developers at large don’t have to copy Helldivers 2 to a tee to find success. But Arrowhead’s big hit is a great example of maximizing studio resources in key areas that matter and capitalizing on upfront success with all the right post-launch decisions.

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