Why Does ARK: Survival Evolved Have More Players Than ARK: Survival Ascended?

ARK: Survival Ascended was released for PC on October 25, 2023, and for a few reasons, people are clinging to the previous game, ARK: Survival Evolved. The release of ASA was delayed multiple times, a Studio Wildcard signature.

It would have been delayed again if it weren’t for the push from Nitrado. If Snail Games (parent of Studio Wildcard) hadn’t stayed on schedule for October, they would have owed Nitrado way more than the million they already owed due to an ultimatum from the server company.

It is Nitrado that is shutting down other means of getting ARK servers to gain exclusivity. But it’s also them that pushed for the release of ARK: Survival Ascended before it was ready.

I’m glad to have it out, but let’s face it – the game is not ready. I just want to say that this is not an attack on ARK: Survival Ascended or Nitrado. I bought the game, and I do not regret it.

A lot of people are leaving deeply negative reviews of the game because they don’t know the backstory. If they hadn’t released an “unfinished” game, they probably would have gone under, and we’d never see ARK 2, at least not under Studio Wildcard.

Now, all that said, the rushed game isn’t the only reason that so many people refuse to move on from ARK: Survival Evolved. But if you think for a minute, you’ll recall this isn’t the first time this has happened. Sequels (if that’s what we want to call ASA) have had their fair share of flack in the past. But the numbers are what really lets us know if a game is successful or not.

What Do the Number Say – ASA Vs. ASE?

I recently saw this tweet showing the numbers for ARK players. On that day, there were a few thousand more ASE players than ASA players. Though the number varies day by day, they are usually fairly close in comparison.

I checked yesterday, and the two were almost exactly the same. I checked today, and the difference is 5k going in the other direction. So it’s safe to say, at this point, they are neck and neck.

But even then, it’s quite strange because ARK: Survival Ascended is a new game that is supposedly a “better” version of the former – an ascended version, if you will. So why aren’t ASE players all on board?

How Does This Compare to Other Sequels?

Though Call of Duty games are more difficult to compare now since they share a file on Steam, there is a way to track upticks. On November 10, MWIII was released on Steam.

In the week leading up to the 10th, there were around 60,000 players on Call of Duty on Steam. On the 10-12, there were around 190,000 players. That’s triple the players. The game got horrid reviews, just like Survival Ascended. The game also costs $70 to add to your game. Yet it still pulled players in. Because of all this, I’d say it’s a fair comparison.

Even if you compare ARK: Survival Evolved by looking at the fall in players during ASA’s release, you see that it’s anticlimactic. The history for the last three months on ARK: Survival Evolved is super satisfying, like a healthy heartbeat. Up and down with nothing but the weekends and the holidays to help it fluctuate.

On October 24th, there were 60,000 ASE players. On October 25th, during the release of ASA, the player count dropped to 40,000, only to rise again on the 26th. So, in short, Survival Evolved did not lose any players. It’s right where it was before ASA came out.

PCs Can’t Run It

ark pc review
ASA doesn’t look great with the lowest settings.

Let’s start with the mammoth in the room. ARK: Survival Ascended is the worst optimized game that Steam has seen in a while. The main reason it’s getting review-bombed is because half the original ARK players can’t even play the game. If they fix this issue, I’m certain the play count will ascend substantially.

It’s the only thing that’s keeping most of the ARK fans I know from playing the game. After all, it’s one of the only reasons that is literally stopping people from playing the game. The game isn’t hard to play for most players; it’s impossible.

I have a new 6700 series graphics card and decent RAM, and the first thing my game did was crash (in character creation). I immediately changed my settings to low; all it did was delay the process.

I set my settings to low and ended up changing to 1280 (the pain) rather than 1980 and as horrible as it looked, it allowed me to play. It did crash after a while, but that was better than crashing every 30 seconds.

The first ARK was hard enough to run, so many players were hoping that it would improve with the new game – though no one believed it would. The great thing about this is that over time, there’s a good chance it will level out.

What’s not so great is that 90% of the reviews are regarding this huge issue. It’s going to take years to recover from the reputation that people may forget the origins of.


ark characters

You know when a new Halo or CoD game was released back in the day, and we all had that one friend who refused to move on from the previous game? That’s partially what’s happened with ARK. The player base is quite loyal not just to the franchise but to Survival Evolved. I know people who are loyal to certain maps and won’t play without a certain mod pack.

After all, with over 1200 hours in ARK: Survival Evolved, I feel a little judgmental of ASA, and I try to keep an open mind. It’s like the people who read the book either refuse to watch or refuse to like the movie.

If you enjoy a game so much, why would you want to mess with it? I mean, the servers being shut down is reason enough, but that’s not true for 50,000 players today.

People see their favorite games as a safe and comfortable place to be. It’s therapy. A new game that is not only difficult to run but different than your comfort zone just doesn’t cut it for people who use gaming to unwind. And yes, there are players who use the often difficult, frustrating, and competitive game to do so.

Extra Money for a “DLC”

ark early access game
Survival Ascended Store page.

A lot of people feel cheated because, at one point, Studio Wildcard promised ASA free with ARK 2. But since ARK 2 was extremely delayed (is it ever going to release?), Studio Wildcard decided to go ahead and charge $45 for the game, and most players consider an expansion of ASE. No one likes to feel cheated.

There are plenty of gamers who think nothing of clicking Add to Cart if they want to play the game, but most of us at least hesitate. PlayStation players were even promised one price, which was changed in the end.

If we had known the price long beforehand, it would have been fine. But again, empty promises really wear on a company’s fanbase. So many players are just as happy sticking with the game they love rather than spending $45 to update it. We’ll find out more about this if the game gets a good discount during the winter sale.

If there is a significant uptick in players, this may be a bigger reason than we thought. If no one buys the discounted game, that does not bode well for the future of ASA.


crystal isles floating island in ark evolved
Crystal Isles Floating Island in Evolved.

From mods to maps, the content in Survival Ascended just isn’t there yet. I deleted the ARK: Survival Evolved folder on my hard drive this week, and it was over 300GB. ASA is less than 80GB, and it’s not due to optimization – that’s for sure.

The Island is great, but so are the dozen amazing (mostly free) maps the original game now has. Not to mention the mods that people spent years perfecting and have to rework for ASA.

None of my favorite maps or mods are available on ASA. The mods are slowly rolling in, but it’s going to take a long time before the maps are playable. So far, we see a few good quality-of-life mods, but it’s nowhere near the expansive list that ASE fans are accustomed to.

Vanilla content is great, and it’s exactly how I prefer to play games the first time around out of respect for developers. But after a good playthrough, a max-level survivor, and endless breeding, I want to switch it up.

Survival Evolved has nearly endless content because of the maps and top-tier mods. ASA is not going to have that kind of support anytime soon, especially since the lack of players may turn mod developers away.


playstation store page for new ark
PlayStation store page for new ARK.

ARK: Survival Ascended is available on Xbox, but PlayStation is still waiting. ASE is out on a dozen systems. It’s going to take Survival Ascended a while to catch up, especially when they have so much work to do for PC and are so in debt. Macs will have a hard time running it, and mobile may never see the updated game.

So, while we can go by Steam player count for PC players, there are still millions of fans who can’t play ASA. They’re still clinging to ASE, and it’s not necessarily by choice.

Accessibility is so important for companies that aren’t exclusive to certain consoles. When half your player base can’t play the game, that really puts a damper on the mood, especially when cross-play is available. PC players may opt-in for ARK: Survival Evolved because their console buddies can’t play ASA.

New Game, Same Bugs

stuck in cave on rock drake in ark
Stuck in cave on Rock Drake in ARK.

There have been multiple reports of the old bugs in ASE being present in ASA. This was a slap in the face for players with epic PCs ready for a smooth ride. The people who can actually play the new ARK still suffer from what they thought was the reason for creating the game in the first place.

They remade the entire game and somehow didn’t get to the bugs that ARK players have been complaining about for the past eight years. You’d think that would be the first change they made, but it seems very few of the famous bugs are fixed.


ark survival evolved chibis
Eccentric man who won’t stop playing Survival Evolved. But he does love chibis.

This one is on fans, and I don’t blame them. With so many empty promises and the cheated feeling of paying for a broken game after practically shutting down a favorite, it’s easy to see why people would say no.

Even if they don’t care about the money, their PCs are powerhouses, and they actually want to play the new content; there are thousands of players (maybe more) who won’t buy the game on principle. This isn’t exactly a cancel culture thing, but it is a bunch of ARK fans who are fed up and tired.

Will We See A Bright Future for ARK: Survival Ascended?

I think so. After all, ARK had extremely mixed reviews for the first couple of years in Early Access. But year by year, the reviews got better and better. Sure, there are bugs to this day, but new content was always great, and crashes got fewer and farther between for most people.

I know players who picked the game up early on and described it to me after years of not playing. The game came leaps and bounds over the years, and I think the same thing will happen for ARK: Survival Acended.

If people can forget the mess of the past few months and Studio Wildcard can get their stuff together, the future will be bright for ARK: Survival Ascended. Who knows, maybe in time, ARK: Survival Evolved will be a blip in the past with a handful of loyalists. But today, it’s still Survival Ascended’s biggest competitor.

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