Ghost Recon Phantoms pulls off unlikely infiltration of Steam’s most-played list

Ghost Recon Phantoms

You’re a PC gamer, so you’ll know that even a mediocre launch can decimate the population of a decent multiplayer game. But there’s nothing in the hurriedly-scribbled rulebook for online games to prevent publishers from simply trying again.

Final Fantasy XIV was redeveloped practically from scratch to become one of the best MMOs on PC the second time around. And the half-remembered Ghost Recon Online, miserly and malfunctioning upon its first release in 2012, has now been successfully rechristened as Phantoms. It’s currently one of the most-played free-to-play games on Steam.

Ubisoft spent the weekend giving away some of Phantoms’ paid-for packs on Steam, and sent out an email today boasting of its eight million registrations worldwide. That’s the sort of figure we normally take with a gritter-load of salt – I’m a password-providing member of scores of games I forgot to ever log into after going to get a cup of tea.

But a quick mosey over to Steam’s ever-revealing stats page suggests that there’s something to it. Ghost Recon Phantoms players are split between North American and European clients – but at their peak today, they totalled 13,878. That’s just inside the top 20, beneath War Thunder and above Left 4 Dead 2.

What’s more, Phantoms is comfortably one of the top ten most popular free-to-play games on the platform, alongside Warframe, Dota and TF2.

It’s been one of the strangest stories in recent release memory. After a year and a half spent microtransactioned to the ghillies, Ghost Recon Online was funnelled into Steam Early Access as Ghost Recon Phantoms.

“The end of open beta is a new start to the game,” said producer Corey Facteau at the time. “The difference between where the game started and the game today is so considerable that we felt we should mark it with a fresh identity.”

Bizarre? Unquestionably. But nobody’s forcing thirteen thousand Steam users to spend their evenings shooting special forces. Are you among them?