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The gaming habits of the wild Steam user

Steam stats

The folks over at Ars Technica have been busy. Very, very busy. Since the games industry is strangely shy about releasing sales data and other stats about games (unless it’s the occasional PR boast), Ars Technica has trawled a sample of hundreds and thousands of public Steam profiles to generate data about Steam’s enormous library. 

Valve’s own titles rule the roost, particularly Dota 2, which is the most owned game on Steam as well as the most played game. Ars takes a look at hours played, median and mean number of hours per owner as well, since a game being owned by many on Steam does not equate to popularity.

Half Life 2: Lost Coast is an interesting case. The slice of cut content is the third most owned game on the platform, with an estimated 12.77 million owners. But Lost Coast came bundled with the Orange Box, was given free to anyone who bought Half Life 2 on Steam, and was offered for free to Nvidia and ATI card purchasers. Only 2.1 million owners have actually played the demo at all.

An estimated 36.9% of owned Steam games are unplayed. Holy backlogs, Batman.

While Dota 2, Counter Strike and Team Fortress 2 are the most played games on Steam, it’s Football Manager 2014 and Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer that have the highest median and mean average play time per player.

Looking at play time per player also reveals the games that – while rather niche – have a dedicated playerbase. Europa Universalis IV and Farming Simulator 2013 both have an exceedingly high average play time.

Six big games appear to be the most popular: Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike: Source, Counter Strike, Civilization V and Skyrim. This is based on estimated total hours played on Steam. Half of the time spent playing games on Steam is on these games.

But all these statistics should be looked at with some perspective. Not just because they are estimates, but because one can’t judge all games by the same metrics. You’re not going to see adventure games, for instance, in any graphs showing the many hours people spend on a game, because they tend to be quite short and when they are finished, that’s them done. Whereas Dota 2 or Skyrim can be played over and over again. The former because it’s a competitive game and the latter because of its huge length and plethora of mods.

Cheers, Ars Technica.