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Friday, September 26, 2014

Steam Grows Up... and Up, and Up, and Up

Did you hear the news? Steam now has over 100 million subscribers. Steam's current game offering is over 3700 games; all integrated into its delivery and management service. Also, you can play music through Steam now as well, and they're giving some game soundtracks away for free. And as if that wasn't enough, Steam is also offering their 24-game Complete Pack for $25.00 at one-fourth its standard price, until October 1, 2014. Whoa, what's going on with Steam!?

Growth, that's what's going on. So far this year Steam has increased its game offering 50% and now has more subscribers than World of Warcraft - a lot more. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating you run out and invest in Valve. That 100 million subscriber number is impressive, but the fact is peak online use of Steam doesn't really exceed 6.5 million users on any given day.

[caption id="attachment_3759" align="aligncenter" width="949"]Steam Stats - Concurrent Users Steam Stats - Concurrent Users[/caption]

I am certain a lot of those Steam accounts are likely abandoned. But that doesn't mean Steam hasn't becoming a juggernaut in the gaming industry. When you look at the tops games played according to Raptr, the third, fourth, eleventh, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth game on their list are Steam games.

[caption id="attachment_3761" align="aligncenter" width="626"]Steam Stats - Top Ten Steam Stats - Top Ten[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3764" align="aligncenter" width="394"]Most Played PC Games: August 2014 Most Played PC Games: August 2014[/caption]

That's thirty-five percent of the Raptr list, a not insignificant number. Steam games account for thirty-nine percent of the games listed below power house League of Legends and long time favorite World of Warcraft. If we remove the play time for those two games from the Raptr totals, games played through Steam have an even better standing. Next month I'll see if I can do an actual time spent playing comparison between the Steam games and the non-Steam games. That might be informative as well. The way it'll work is when the Raptr list comes out, I'll capture the Steam list for that day. Then I'll go into Raptr's details like I did for my Raptr Most Played Games: August 2014 post and extract the hours played for each title. That should be informative.

So what accounts for all this success? Why does Steam now seem to be th force du jour in the gaming industry? Did you think I wouldn't resort to Google Trends to try to figure that out? 8-) The first graph I ran compared Steam (Computer software) with the Online Games League of Legends (LoL,) World of Warcraft (WoW) and Dota 2. I included LoL and WoW because you've seen those trends before. I included Dota 2 to see the correlation it has with the Steam trend.

[caption id="attachment_3766" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Compared to LoL WoW and Dota2 Steam Compared to LoL WoW and Dota2[/caption]

It does appear that there is a correlation between the success of Dota 2 and the rise of Steam. However, there is more to the Steam trend than just Dota 2. By that I mean not all the spikes in the Dota 2 line do not explain all the spikes in the Steam line.  Valve obviously hasn't hung their future success on their MOBA and that makes me smile. I'd hate to think of a world where MOBA games rule and all the other genres fade into obscurity. To me personally, that would be a very boring world. I'll admit that my LoL play has suffered greatly in the past six months because of the lather, rinse, repeat nature of the genre. I mean, how many times can you run the same lanes with the same character doing the same ganks before it gets boring? Without the hard cash promise of these games, they just aren't that engaging in the long-term are they?

But I wanted to know if that was indeed the case with Valve Corporation. What is the source of their success? That they are not putting all their eggs into one basket is fairly obvious. I mean, it makes sense, but evidence is king, and I didn't see enough correlation to explain one way or another the Steam trend. So I removed the other games, left Steam (Computer software) and added four of the most popular Valve games to see how they compared.

[caption id="attachment_3767" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Trend Compared to Top Steam Games Steam Trend Compared to Top Steam Games[/caption]

That does explain some of the other peaks, but it still left me wondering about the peaks in Steam's line that had no other peaks beneath. There is a regularity to Steam's peaks over the last three years that seems more than just coincidence... like every six months... like winter and summer... like Steam Sales.

DERP. ^^'

If you restrict the trend to the last 12 months, it becomes totally obvious what is driving the peaks, and the general upward trend. It's the twice a year Steam sales.

[caption id="attachment_3768" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Trend Peaks Past 12 Months Steam Trend Peaks Past 12 Months[/caption]

And the Dota 2 peaks? They just happen to coincide with the summer sales. And this summer so did Counter Strike: Global Offensive. So that's got me wondering if their isn't an evil marketing genius working for Valve. Each peak of the Steam trend line seems to pull it higher just a little more than it was before the peak. Over time, you see this steady upward advance that hadn't been there before Steam sales started during the 2009 holiday season.

And each Steam Sale sees more and more developers jumping on the band wagon. You see, this steady upward trend serves not only Valve's interests, but the other developers too, especially independents. Back in 2012, there was an article on PC Gamer by Tom Senior titled Garry's Mod has sold 1.4 million copies, Garry releases sales history to prove it. It was a short article to highlight a simple chart provided by Garry. Here's that chart.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1639"]Garry's Mod Sales Graph Garry's Mod Sales Graph[/caption]

By Garry's own admission, the spikes in his chart are Steam Sales. The red line represents his original sales predictions. He anticipated his game would essentially be dead by 2009. But because he joined Steam and participated in its sales system, he had to keep updating Garry's Mod. Because he updated it, people bought it. Because people bought it, Garry can continue developing it. It's a self-reinforcing trend that benefits Valve and the companies who use Steam to distribute their games. It's brilliant. And as for Garry, they say he earns a comfortable living working on his mod now. I don't doubt it.


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