For those who use digital video game distributor Steam (and based on the fact that it recently reached a milestone of 7 million concurrent users – that’s a lot of people), questions can often arise about how typical their profile might be. Is it normal to own many games that you’ve never played? How many hours have other people put into Skyrim? What are the most popular Steam games of all time?
Tracking video game sales isn’t an easy task, although tracking firms like NPD and sites like VGChartz have attempted to provide rough estimates of sales figures. It can be hard to get an accurate number when assembling figures from global sales across multiple platforms, especially across retail and digital, but by turning the focus to Steam alone, finding out what PC gamers’ habits are becomes a lot (little?) more feasible.
ArsTechnica has done just that, using a random sampling of hundreds of thousands of Steam user profiles to assess what games people were buying, what they were playing, and how many hours they were playing. Here are some of the more interesting facts gleaned from the data:
- About 37% of the total games registered to Steam users have never been played.*
- Only 1% of all registered games have been played for more than 459 hours.
- The most popular game on Steam by a significant margin is Dota 2, with 25.9 million registered users who have collectively played for nearly 4 billion hours.
- Team Fortress 2 is the second most popular game, with 20.3 million registered users who have played over 1.4 billion hours.
- The most-played game on Steam by individual player time investment is Football Manager 2014, whose players log an average of 169.2 hours each. By contrast, the mean number of hours per player for Skyrim is “only” 106.4.
- Most of Steam’s usage is driven by a small number of ultra-big hits. Of 2,750 titles tracked the top 110 (4%) represent about half of individual games registered to Steam accounts. The total number of hours put into Steam games is 18.5 billion, and over half of those are accounted for by the top six most popular titles alone.
There are a few factors which may have affected the data. ArsTechnica notes that it only collected data from public Steam profiles, so it’s possible that those with private accounts have significantly different purchasing and playing habits.
*The amount of gameplay time that Steam logs is not always accurate, and the percentage of games that are listed as unplayed is probably far higher than reality, since the “hours played” feature was not added to Steam until 2009, which will affect the count for older games. In the case of Ubisoft games, Steam often bases the count on the time that Uplay is open rather than the time that the game program is open (which is how I supposedly ended up playing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations for 139 hours). It’s also possible for “total hours” to be undercounted for users playing in offline mode. Overall, the total number of players should be taken as a better measure of popularity than the number of hours played.
We recommend heading over to ArsTechnica for the full report, which offers a fascinating insight into one of the biggest companies in the video game industry. Even if some of the metrics are unreliable, there are some interesting observations and patterns. Tell us in the comments where your favorite Steam game is ranked.