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steamInformation about videogames is hard to come by, but an enterprising journalist has come up with a creative way to estimate sales and game play on PCs.

This isn’t exactly like The Washington Post winning a Pulitzer Prize for coverage on how the NSA was spying on the public, but in the gaming world, it’s notable because of the general lack of information available to the public.

To get the information, Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland exceeded the capabilities of most journalists I know, by writing a few lines of code and using an Amazon server to start scraping user pages on Valve’s Steam e-commerce platform. (It probably helps that the senior gaming editor has both a degree in journalism and computer science from University of Maryland.)

For two months now, Orland says he’s been scraping more than 100,000 pages of the Bellevue game company’s site everyday to extrapolate sales estimates and game play numbers. He says that while that only amounts to 0.04 percent of the Steam Community pages, the margin of error is only 0.33 percent. (We’ve reached out to Valve to see if they mind, and we’ll update the story if we hear back.)

Even if this only gives us a detailed picture of games sold on Steam — and not sold through other channels, such as retail stores or console downloads, it’s a significant chunk of the market. Valve said recently its Steam video-game platform now has 75 million active accounts, so it’s a pretty good sample size.

After all his hard work, here’s what Orland found:

— Dota 2 was purchased by 25.93 million users to be the most owned game.

— Dota 2 was also the most owned game that had actually been played by users and not just downloaded.

— Dota 2 was played for 3.8 billion hours by players to rank as the most played game on Steam.

— While Dota 2 dominated most charts, Football Manager 2014 was the most played game on Steam by median number of hours per owner. The game was played for 100 hours. The second-most played game by median hours was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was played for nearly half that time, or 53 hours per owner.

— 36.9 percent of games that have been downloaded on Steam have never been played.


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