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What the latest Steam statistics reveal about PC gaming

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Steam is, without a doubt, the biggest Digital Distribution Platform for PC gaming. Valve has done an absolutely fantastic job at growing the service over the years by adding features and selling games at a discount. There is no slowing down for Steam, as it goes from strength to strength each year show why it has remained the giant PC gamers should all use.  

Here is a look at Steam’s record breaking concurrent user count, what the latest Steam stats reveals about PC gamers's Hardware / Software choices and an update on the Steam Winter Sale mystery.

A record breaking weekend

The recently updated Steam statistics for concurrent users this past weekend shows that Valve has had a record-breaking holiday season. At roughly 21.00 South African time on 3 January 2015, there was 12,332,504 concurrent users on Steam. Therefore, the Steam concurrent user base has grown by almost four million according to Polygon, who reported 8.5 million concurrent users for the same time last year.

Keep in mind that the statistic does not just show users logged in, but rather users who are “actively logged in and playing games”.

The amount of concurrent users can, at least partly, be attributed to the massive Winter Sale and its intriguing mystery (but more on that later). The statistic is impressive to say the least. At the time of writing, there is no indication how many Steam accounts there really is, but seeing as there was 12 million concurrent users over the weekend, the total Steam account number should be huge.

Windows 10 continues to rise

It sure looks as if Microsoft’s pushy strategy to get users onto Windows 10 is working well. Valve has released the Steam Hardware and Software Survey for December 2015, which shows Windows 10 is now on the heels of Windows 7 when it comes to Steam users. Windows 7 64bit does hold strong at 34.81%, but 0.82% in December 2015.

Windows 10 64bit is now at 31.25%, with an increase of 2.44%. If the trend continues, Windows 10 will overtake Windows 7 as the preferred Operating System (OS) for Steam users (and therefore most PC gamers).

Due to all the issues with Windows 10 and users complaining for a variety of reasons, for example privacy concerns, it is surprising that more and more PC gamers move over to Windows 10 each month. However, the rise of Windows 10 is not the most interesting statistic revealed by the Hardware and Software Survey.

PC gamer specs are lower than you might think

Whenever a console versus PC debate comes up, there is a discussion surrounding the cost of building a monster PC in order to play and enjoy games. However, the latest Steam Hardware statistics show that the majority of PC gamers don’t have a system capable of running any game at close to 4k resolution or even 1080p on high settings at a decent frames-per-second (FPS).

  • RAM - 31.96% of Steam users has 8 GB RAM. Almost 30% has between 4 GB and 8 GB of RAM. Only 15.83% of Steam users have more than 12 GB of RAM.  
  • CPU Speed - 21.47% of Steam users has a 2.3 Ghz to 2.69 Ghz CPU, while almost 28% have a CPU between 3.0 Ghz and 3.69 Ghz. Only 2.47% of users have a CPU with a clock speed of 3.7 Ghz and above.  
  • GPU – Although specific GPU’s used aren’t listed, Video RAM (VRAM) is a good indication of how high of a resolution a PC can run. Further, most recently released gaming GPUs have a minimum of 2 GB of VRAM. According to the hardware statistics, 33.43% of Steam users has a GPU with only 1 GB of VRAM and 23.12% has a 2 GB VRAM GPU. At the top end of the spectrum, roughly 10% of Steam users have more than 2GB of VRAM.  

If you take a look at the hardware statistics for Steam Users, it is clear that the average PC gamer does not have a monster PC. Although the top percentage of RAM is enough to run most modern games at maximum settings (on 1080p) and the CPU speed is decent, the average GPU VRAM is not nearly enough.  

In 2015, some games already require more than 2 GB of VRAM to maintain a smooth FPS at 1080p on ultra-settings, for example GTAV. Only 10% of Steam users have the potential to run games at 1080p ultra-settings at 60 FPS looking at the VRAM statistics. Now keep in mind that there are quite a few cards that can’t even come close to running 4k resolution at a decent FPS even though they have 4 GB of VRAM, for example the 4 GB version of the GeForce 960 and the AMD R9380.  

In the first part of this article I talked about the massive increase in concurrent Steam users. Most of these users do not own a PC that would be considered even close to a monster PC, but they still enjoy their games by using either more affordable or older hardware. If there is anything you should take away from these statistics, it is that you don’t need to have a top-of-the-line PC or run every game at maximum settings or fork over an excessive amount of money to enjoy PC gaming.  

The Steam Sale mystery remains unsolved

Last week I reported on the Steam Winter Sale mystery and asked “if there a connection between Steam's Winter Sale mystery and Half-Life 3?” Like most fans of the Half-Life franchise, I wanted to believe that when solved, the mystery would reveal a Half-Life 3 announcement.

Despite the Steam Sale Detectives’ best efforts, the mystery has remained unsolved. Although a multitude of potential clues where found, nothing concrete has come of the search. Unfortunately, Valve has also not commented on the Steam Sale mystery or even confirmed that the mystery is now over.

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Arguably the biggest result from following the clues was that of the Red Herring Steam Badge. If you are unfamiliar, Red Herring is “something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g. in politics), or it could be inadvertently used during argumentation.”

Many of the Steam Sale Detectives believe that the Red Herring Steam Badge signaled the end of the mystery, while others are still hard at work trying to find more clues. Maybe, just maybe, Valve will showcase a demo of a new game with the HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset tomorrow, 6 January 2016, at the Computer and Electronic Show (CES). It is important to note that Valve will be attending the event, so there is still some hope left that a demo of a new game will be shown to test out the HTC Vive.  

Do you fall under the top percentage of hardware setups and do you game on Windows 10? Do you think the Steam Sale mystery will still reveal something? Let us know in the comment section below.

Sources: Steam Stats, Hardware and Software SurveyRelated Articles:

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