Breakdown of Steam User Habits Shows Surprising Trends
An in-depth, statistical analysis of PC gamers' play habits on Steam provides some unforeseen results.
Ars Technica has provided an elaborate, meticulous and thought-provoking study on the habits of PC gamers using the Steam program to buy and play their games, which Bloomberg claims makes up 75 percent of the current market of PC gaming that takes place in the United States. While most gaming companies do not tend to put the statistical information of its users out on the public forefront (and if they do, they tend to be cherry-picked/bias representations), Ars Technica found most of its data on Valve's social portal for the Steam Community, where you can look up the public profiles of any registered Steam user.
Each of these profiles contains a list of every game that Steam user has registered to his or her account and tallies together the total number of hours each title was played. Steam users each have a 17-digit ID number that is used on Valve's back-end to identify each player regardless of username. Ars Technica found out that there are over 172 million pages of Steam Community IDs. While they do not have access to the type of analytical equipment needed to sort through hundreds of millions of user pages, they used an Amazon EC2 program (which collects information from roughly 100,000 pages a day based on these digit-based IDs) for two months, combined with random sampling, to create a generalized estimate of Steam's gameplay numbers and sales in proportion to its general populace.
Please Note: Steam's digital marketplace first launched in 2003. The following information is based off of Ars Technica's version of random sampling and is not truly representative of Steam's actual numbers. Most of these PC titles also have significant sales numbers outside of Steam's services that have not been taken into account of this statistical analysis.
Just based on players alone, it would seem that Dota 2 is the most popular title on Steam. Also, the number of players who own these titles but never played them (represented by the green bars) is significant towards Ars Technica's later findings. Notice that many of these titles are actual Valve titles that were a part of its widely popular collection of first-person games, The Orange Box.
By breaking down the games that simply have the most logged-in hours total, DotA 2 players win with logged in a total of 3.828 billion total hours of gameplay (yes, billion), which reflects its substantial 25.9 million players on Steam. This would mean that the average DotA 2 user on Steam has played over 147.7 hours of gameplay.
Surprisingly, the highest median of number of hours played per owner goes to a game called Football Manager 2014. With the median of hours played per Manager 2014 gamer at 100 hours compared to its 143 million total hours played by all of its players, these findings are substantial and surprising for a relatively unknown game. Add to the fact that Football Manager 2014 was nowhere on the list of having the most number of total players, and this would mean that Football Manager 2014's small group of players are the most die hard compared to any other game's fan base on Steam, including the likes of Skyrim and every Call of Duty title.
Lastly, we have the most shocking fact of them all. Nearly 37 percent of the 781 million games registered to Steam's users have never been played at all. While this may come as a shock to most readers, there are a few explanations as to why this occurs. Many PC gamers use the Steam service because of its excellent pricing -- titles from all across the map get discounted regularly. More importantly, Steam offers a plethora of digital box sets and collections of games which are grouped together based on various themes (such as horror, publisher, series, etc.).
These bundles are usually sold at a very cheap price, offering multiple games together and yielding a huge discount for the buyer. Many players buy into these programs and end up only playing certain titles out of the collection -- many titles are often ignored. Nevertheless, this analysis shows how Steam's market is driven by hits and reflects why publishers continuously try making titles for franchises that have been known to succeed (such as the Call of Duty series) will trying to make the next big hit. At the same time, this study shows that certain fan bases are truly dedicated to their craft regardless of the game's popularity.
Head over to Ars for even more insight and analysis. The lengthy piece is worth digging through to understand even more about how the market has worked for the past few years.