Steam's Fast Growing User Base Proves PC Gaming Is Far From Dead
December 2, 2013

Steam’s Fast Growing User Base Proves PC Gaming Is Far From Dead

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

While the new video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony have been getting the lion’s share of attention in recent weeks, Valve Software, creator of popular online gaming platform Steam, proved PC gaming is far from dead.

For the first time ever, the game distribution service topped seven million concurrent online customers. The company had been hovering near the seven million mark all of last week, but on Sunday at 11 am Pacific Time Steam rose to 7.19 million users logged in at the same time. That is up from the previous record of roughly six million peak concurrent users from fall 2012, suggesting a 17 percent growth in engagement for the gaming platform.

In October Valve Software also announced Steam had more than 65 million registered accounts. With that in mind, it means more than 10 percent of its user install base was on the service this past weekend.

This jump in users also came as Steam offered a Black Friday and autumn sale, which saw popular titles – such as Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Far Cry 3 and BioShock Infinite – on sale for as much as 75 percent off normal prices.

What is surprising, however, is that this surge with Steam users came just as Microsoft and Sony have each respectively released new video game console systems.

“This is game gravity. When people talk about games people play games,” independent video game analyst Billy Pidgeon told redOrbit. “Many of those people might have wanted a console, but couldn’t get one and still wanted to play so they headed to Steam.

"People like to play online and PC makes it easy to play online,” Pidgeon added. “The PC does well historically during a console transition, such as what we are now seeing. It never goes away, it just gets less newsy.”

Steam, meanwhile, has been very much in the news. Valve Software announced in September it was developing the open-source, Linux-based SteamOS, for its upcoming Steam Machine gaming console. Valve also hopes this move could launch a new platform, one that would see PC manufacturers building the hardware that runs on SteamOS.

“The Steam console is ahead of the market. It is good they are going this way,” said Pidgeon. “They are insulating themselves from heavy losses by letting other people build it.”

While Steam was originally launched as a platform to prevent piracy, it continues to change PC gaming in other ways.

“Stream is kind of an odd duck,” noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “It provides a platform from which you can play games on PCs - including those running the MacOS and Linux - and loops in social aspects so you can share game progress with a community.

“It has a decent base of gamers what [sic] use it - really is the only good choice for Mac and Linux users who want to play games typically only on Windows - and this gives it a unique advantage with a new game system in that it hits the market with a healthy set of playable games,” Enderle told redOrbit.

“Downside is that these games were designed for PCs and often don’t translate well to console game play. This is what makes the success of their console still somewhat of a long shot but they'll have a large number of folks who will try it out and then comment on what they discover on social media. This is something we haven’t really had before so if the console is good, it will go great, but if it is not good it will likely die very quickly,” he added.

Given the surge in Steam users it does show that interest in PC-style gaming isn’t likely to go away either.

“To me the PC is a great place to play games,” added Pidgeon. “While the console has grabbed the market right now, some people will always prefer PC games.”