Gears 5 has done the impossible, surpassing Fortnite to climb to the top of the most played Xbox games ranking list and interrupt a reign that has been on-going for over a year at this point. Fortnite has been a dominant presence on the most played Xbox One games list, thanks in large part to the fact that it's a free-to-play game with cosmetic purchases, making it an easy choice for many consumers on a budget - not to mention its ubiquity at the top of Twitch stream viewership and multiplayer battle royale titles.
Gears 5 is the first Xbox One exclusive to make this much noise from a consumer standpoint in quite some time. Gears 5 reviews have been very favorable, praising the game's decision to depart from some of the safer choices in its design to explore innovative new takes on a classic. While not all of those design departures work, far more of them succeed instead of fail, and the result has been a game in Gears 5 that feels like a very strong setting-off point for a reboot on the franchise. While long-time fans have remained happy with what developer The Coalition has put out, the real eye-opener is the fact that many people who weren't fans of the franchise previously have admitted to being intrigued by, or outright sold on, Gears 5 as an experience.
That major win is translating into some gaudy numbers for sales, review averages, and player numbers, the latter of which is tracked publicly by Microsoft. Gears 5 sits atop the most played games list for Xbox on the Microsoft Store, surpassing mainstays like Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Rainbow Six Siege. It's especially impressive because, again, Fortnite is a free-to-play game, which makes surpassing it as a paid AAA title in Gears 5 even more difficult. It's a testament to the success of the game that also speaks volumes about the Xbox Game Pass, which allows many players to access the game for "free" by maintaining a subscription.
In fact, the Ultimate Game Pass likely had even more to do with Gears 5 passing Fortnite than the regular subscription did. Gears 5 was available early on Ultimate, which meant players probably flocked towards both the subscription service and the game. It's the biggest win for Microsoft's Game Pass service yet, and it demonstrates how powerful a draw it can be when there are major exclusives available on it.
Does this mean we've seen the end of Fortnite's dominance? Probably not. It wouldn't be surprising to see the game take the title of most played Xbox One game in short order, in fact. That's the nature of the live service game versus something like Gears 5, which has some elements like that but also has a giant narrative campaign people were enjoying and a more limited scope in terms of its multiplayer. Even still, it's an impressive show of strength from Gears 5 and a ringing endorsement of both the game and the Xbox Game Pass service, which is notable on its own.