The world’s most powerful PC game distribution platform continues to expand its reach and grow its user base.
Video-game giant Valve showed new stats about the growth of Steam at the Casual Connect gaming conference in Seattle on Wednesday.
Steam, the preeminent “app store” for PC games, now counts 67 million monthly active players. That’s more than the 53 million monthly active users Microsoft reported for Xbox Live last quarter. Steam also has 33 million daily active players. (Apart from monthly active users, Steam’s total user base is much larger: Valve reported 125 million total active lifetime users last year.)
Another sign of growth: Steam is averaging 14 million concurrent users per day at peak — that’s up from 8.4 million in 2015, according to the presentation this week.
New gamers are flocking to Steam as well. There have been 27 million first-time purchasers — those who created a Steam account and bought a game, or downloaded a free game and made a transaction for the first time — since January 2016. That’s nearly 1.5 million users per month.
“There are lots of users coming into Steam every day,” said Tom Giardino, who works in business development and marketing at Valve.
Bellevue, Wash.-based Valve, which takes a 30 percent cut of each sale on Steam and has a substantial influence on the overall PC gaming market — some say too much — is also seeing rapid growth from users in Asia. A few years ago, Asia only represented a few percentage points of Steam’s worldwide sales. Now that’s up to 17 percent, largely driven by users in Korea, China, and Japan.
Giardino said part of the international growth is due to Valve’s efforts to localize stores and accept more payment methods. But it’s also due to the diversity of content available on Steam. He said the variety of games — whether it be a traditional first-person shooter or a point-and-click adventure — that can be successful on Steam is “kind of astounding.” The selection helps draw in new customers, which then incentivizes game developers for that particular region or genre.
“We see it as one of the platform’s biggest assets,” Giardino said of Steam’s robust library.
Steam, available on PC, Mac, or Linux, is designed to ensure that “great games find their audience dynamically and automatically,” Giardino noted. The recommendation engine shows users games tailored to their preferences — the language they speak, the type of games they’ve been playing, what games their friends play, etc. — rather than which developer spent the most on marketing, for example.
Part of Valve’s pitch to developers is the influence Steam provides, and the creative flexibility the platform offers.
“When you launch a game on Steam, you are less focused on figuring out the right metric to trick players into coming back for a second go, and more focused on delighting them and making sure they have a great time playing your game,” Giardino said.
Matching Steam users with the right content is something Valve CEO Gabe Newell noted during a Reddit AMA in January. “I’m thinking about how machine learning applies to connecting users and content (and users in optimal ways),” he wrote. “Support has been a big focus for the last while.”
Newell also noted that Valve, which uses Steam to help promote its own games like Dota and Counter Strike, is investing more heavily in its support infrastructure.
Giardino touted the variety of business models for games on Steam, noting that “there are a ton of ways games are monetized on PC.” He also talked about Steam’s “massive” social network.
Part of Giardino’s session touched on how Valve is trying to make it easier for developers to get their games on Steam. That includes a new service called Steam Direct that debuted in June.
Steam’s growth is noteworthy given declining PC sales in the consumer market, as many gamers shift toward mobile. However, the market for high-end PC gaming hardware grew faster than expected last year. Companies like Nvidia are also coming out with cloud-based services that turn ordinary PCs into high-powered machines.
Valve, which is hosting its annual massive Dota 2 tournament in Seattle next week, got into the hardware business with its Steam Machines, but didn’t see high demand. Valve also developed its own controllers and has partnered with HTC on virtual reality development.