AOE4 Popularity - How Can Relic Build Up Momentum?

Most of us are active here because we want the game to succeed. Some are here to senselessly complain, but I think a lot of us genuinely love the game and the series (since childhood) and sincerely hopes AOE4 to be able to bring RTS to the front of competitive gaming again.

It’s utterly disappointing, though, to see AOE4 fall through the cracks at a time when things matter the most: Just a few months after release. The meta became stale. There was the January patch, but they should have either delayed the release of the game or patched it way sooner. One civ still dominates, and not because of the players haven’t figured out the game yet. Water maps are broken in general. Map designs are lackluster and do not lend themselves to varied gameplay (like transport ship harass). Abbasids are unplayable (again, not because the players haven’t figured the game out). These are problems that should have been filtered out through rigorous playtesting and player feedback before release.

Seeing the success of SC2, it boggles my mind how a multiplayer RTS that is barely asymmetrical like AOE4 can be so imbalanced.

Speaking of, Star Craft 2 is still topping 100k+ active players per season. It’s in decline, sure, due to age, but it still clearly has years of professional scene and active player base left over. It’s because the game is just that good and balanced (as well as an asymmetrical RTS could be) with a ton of variety when it comes to multiplayer meta. 10 years in, I still learn new tricks every now and then and new custom modes to enjoy. Even graphics still hold up well.

Of course, I’m here because I like AOE4 better, but it’s sort of disheartening to see that Relic and Microsoft is gonna have to fight an uphill battle if they want to make this game remotely popular enough to establish a vibrant professional scene as well as player base. For goodness sake, the most popular AOE4 Youtubers are not player other games or making videos about something else. It’s a tough road ahead.

What are some of the things Microsoft and Relic do in the short term to increase AOE4’s popularity?

Apart from fixing balance issues, the only saving grace, I feel, is a “soft re-launch” of the game with a massive PR effort (maybe with a release of a few new civs that will attract an international crowd that plays a lot of RTS like Korean civ and Japanese civ). The bottom line is having the highest number of players possible. Is the game going to be too packed with Eastern Asian civs? Sure. But it’s a small sacrifice that needs to be made to cater to the market.

A huge PR effort is needed, because most people who quit playing after a month or so after being bored out of their minds with Wonder victories and siegefest don’t follow AOE4 on social media or check newsletters. Their attention will be on Warhammer 3 or Lost Ark.


In my experience, the target audience for this game either doesn’t even play videogames anymore or hasn’t even heard about AoE IV.

Among the few of us who embarked on this launch (that itself lacked – advertising – IMO), a loud percentage didn’t accept the rushed release.

I myself am somewhat tolerant, considering the franchise and the several hundred hours of fun the game already provided. I’m confident we’ll keep getting improvements, but I’m not sure we can regain any momentum.

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If I was Microsoft, I would do the following:

  1. Put many more developers on AOE4. It is clear that the current team is understaffed, they need more resources in order to make more changes faster.
  2. Make the game free to play.
  3. Launch a massive marketing campaign.
  4. Sponsor tournaments with 100.000 USD each month to get e-sports going.

The underlying game is fantastic. But Microsoft is not putting enough resources into it, so the development team is understaffed, and changes take too long.


New civs will certainly bring in new players, but only for a short period of time.

I agree with the sentiment that changes are taking far too long to implement. I’m not sure whether it is corporate red tape, an understaffed development team or both.

The game needs to go back to basics. Fix the bugs related to how fans expect an Age game to play aka make the game less annoying. Fishing boats should deposit fish at the nearest dock all the time, not the original dock. Units should ungarrison on the side of the building in the direction of the waypoint, not on the same side every time. Smart select should only select military units. These are just a few of the fundamental issues that need to be addressed.

The game needs to be more fun. What is missing in the game currently? Mod support, taunts, cheat units and codes. Things that make the game more fun and extend the playability beyond the campaign and random map games. They may seem like optional or less important components but they are no less necessary and expected for an Age game. They have been in place since the very beginning of the franchise.

There are several other popular opportunities for improvement on this forum including to allow masteries to be completed in any order to encourage the player to keep playing.


This would imply they’d monetize parts of the game, hell no!


Depends on how they implement it. The could make the current game free. But every new civ could cost 8$. You could still play against the new civs for free, but if you want to play as them you have to pay a small amount.

I suspect what happened is they had a plan for the staffing level for the maintenance phase, and anybody surplus to that who was there for the development phase had already had their reassignment or departure from the company planned, so they probably couldn’t readily change things when it became clear the development phase wasn’t truly complete on release day. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they only have one “proper” developer working on it now. They may have other people who can make easier changes involving the use of higher level tools, e.g. data changes, but given the rate of progress I strongly suspect there is only one person working on it who can do work at the lowest level. It’s not at all easy to add more people in that situation, as it’s difficult for them to get up to speed on the code base, and they’ll consume the time of the most useful person in the team while learning. I’ve worked on a large product where it tended to take 6 months for any new starter to stop being a net drain, and more like 2 years for them to become truly useful.

Bro I’m already mad about paying for the current content I’m not gonna pay for more, plus their issue isn’t making money their issue is loads of bugs lack of features and upset dedicated fans

I guarantee this move would kill what support is left

Edit: also it wouldn’t work for Microsoft s game pass platform

The thing is that today’s environment is fast-moving. This means that any new product has a very short window to succeed, because the number of alternatives is too high. I am afraid that AOE4 is past that window. Its saving grace is that the RTS genre isn’t that densely populated. However, it is also in direct competition with all the other AOE games, which are far more established and more solid.

On top of that, the game is getting stale, because it has limited things to do if you aren’t keen on grinding the ladder. And even if you want to ladder, you need to put up with a lot of mirror matches, since only few civs work on each map, as well animation canceling, drop hacks, poor balance, etc.

Finally, Warhammer 3 is coming out. From what we have seen, that is exactly what a listening dev studio looks like. They improved almost everything people disliked about Warhammer 2, and then some. This will tank the interest of non-AOE-dedicated RTS fans.

In short, if the ship hasn’t sailed yet, it is about the leave the harbour and Relic need to act soon and decisive. And Relic isn’t known to be able to do either :frowning:

A free to play multiplayer mode + the spring patch (the game’s real release) could certainly resurrect it in numbers.

I would pay money to get more of their documentary-style single player along with new factions. All of them were really well made and had fun leaning about the nitty gritty details of a historical battle and events that led up to the battle.

F2P multiplayer with charging money for campaign and playable multiplayer civ would be a great move… after they fix the underlying meta. Don’t want an overtuned DLC civ to roll in and dominate.

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the game simply lacks content for the huge amount of casual players that would have switched over from other AoE games if that wasn’t the case tbh. The AI isn’t good either and after the campaigns there is nothing in terms of different gamemodes or anything like that.

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While I hope that’s true, this franchise has already seen what happens when features are missing at launch and released later. It’s not a lesson we want to learn twice.

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So make it free, spend money on marketing and tournaments… where does their revenue come from lol?

Largely the issue with AOE4 playercount is that all the people that played it for non-online, whereas the majority of AOE2 players still play custom games/campaign/vs AI. The AOE4 MP has dropped actually pretty minimally from launch.

Where AOE4 largely loses out to older games is in the singleplayer content, especially campaigns, they are way less replayable and overall there is less gametime to put into them.

Balances changes are not completely good.

The patch is super weird, there is things that we asked for like siege nerf

But they buffed HRE, DELHI and didnt nerf enough mongols.

The quickplay experience will still be super bad.

From an unplayable game, we will be in super bad but payable meta.

Not enough. They still dont understand the game

The big patch is still coming soon. Siege also had fairly substantial siege nerfs this patch. Making them slower (in multiple ways), bombards have less hp (and unique techs nerfed) and they take more damage from cav. You will definitely be seeing less of siege (or at least siege spamming).

Also buffs to English, Abbasids and HRE the 3 lowers winrate civs combined with mongol nerfs (even if small) is definitely the right direction with them being nerfed every patch.

Hard to tell if Delhi will be too good, we’ll have to see how much the elephant animation canceling affects them.

if you are expecting SC2-level quality, you can just set the game aside for at least 5 years (and probably forever). SC2 is the most expensive and longest-running production the RTS genre has ever seen. it was also blizzard at the peak of their popularity and ability to recruit and retain talent. and even with all its popularity, it was still not performing well enough for company leadership to pursue a sequel

that said, the pace of aoe4 balance changes has actually been very fast compared to previous AoE games, and even compared to post-launch SC2. i don’t know if you have an easy way of seeing all the changes that happened in 4 months, but they are extremely significant. it’s not some small tweaks like moving 1% faster or costing 5% less. they’re changing balance by massive amounts.

imo, the bigger concerns are the non-balance stuff. the game should be easier to play (it’s supposed to be fun, not work) and also more interesting. a few examples:

  • the landmarks are not much of a choice, as people just make the same ones every time. sometimes one choice is always better, which is its own problem. but if you find one of the choices unappealing (for whatever subjective reason), then you’re also left with only 1 choice, which isn’t a choice at all. the list of options should be much longer
  • upgrades are also quite repetitive because the maps lead you down the same economic/military paths. they’re also quite bland. 15% faster gathering. 15% faster gathering part II. 15% faster gathering part III. +1 attack/armor. +1 attack/armor part II. +1 attack/armor part III. are we supposed to use a spreadsheet program to figure out whether these are worth the cost? is aoe4 a Microsoft Excel cross-promotion?
  • some mechanics are also a pain to use because they are about micromanagement of some economic thing that should just be automated or because the interface is bad for it (and sometimes both)
  • the game happens too fast to plan or strategize or to even observe how units are performing in battle, since all our time and attention is spent babysitting various things and fighting the interface and dealing with awful line of sight mechanics. if you command an army to an area that is behind a wall, they will just path all the way around the map and you won’t even see the wall
  • some things are only good in theory, like having vision get blocked by obstacles such as forests or accompanying every army with some scouts (because every other unit has almost no line of sight for some bizarre reason). in practice, when you have to do that with the aoe4 interface and camera and the entire rest of the game to manage, it just becomes a hassle and leads people to advance slowly with a ball of bombard cannons because they aren’t capable of controlling anything else. maybe they thought the economy/macro would be on autopilot by the time we want to micro military, but that isn’t even close to reality
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Siege nerf is fabulous.

They nerfed Delhi by cracking down on animation cancelling, ending the absurd game-ending castle age elephant push toward landmarks that could knock a player out in under a minute.

HRE needed help early game.

Mongols shouldn’t become weak, other Civs must take some Mongoloid’roids.

Quick Match for team games does need a tweak or two. Played three matches in a row of 3 vs 3 yesterday in which my team couldn’t lose, even with myself being the only player doing any attacking.

Game was playable, just had broken balance and bad matchmaking for team games. 1 vs 1 was mostly okay.

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I sincerely hope aoe4 can create brilliance, this game still has a long way to go.
Recently, I found that the number of online people on steam has decreased significantly, probably most of them are PVE players, because the content of single player games is not rich, and PvP players didn’t leave too much, at least from my friends list.
My hope is, When the content of the game expands enough, please promote it again, just like when it was first released.