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PC Games (Games) Stats Games

Steam's Most Popular Games 118

An anonymous reader writes "The folks at Ars Technica scraped a ton of gameplay data from Steam's player profiles to provide statistics on how many people own each game, and how often it's played. For example: 37% of the ~781 million games owned by Steam users have never been played. Dota 2 has been played by almost 26 million people for a total of 3.8 billion hours. Players of CoD: Modern Warfare 2 spend six times as long in multiplayer as in single-player. This sampling gives much more precise data than we usually have about game sales rates. 'If there's one big takeaway from looking at the entirety of our Steam sales and player data, it's that a few huge ultra-hits are driving the majority of Steam usage. The vast majority of titles form a "long tail" of relative crumbs. Out of about 2,750 titles we've tracked using our sampling method, the top 110 sellers represent about half of the individual games registered to Steam accounts. That's about four percent of the distinct titles, each of which has sold 1.38 million copies or more. This represents about 50 percent of the registered sales on the service. ... about half of the estimated 18.5 billion man-hours that have been spent across all Steam games have gone toward just the six most popular titles.'"
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Steam's Most Popular Games

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  • by richtopia ( 924742 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:08PM (#46773581)
    Probably not a major factor to the whole study, but there are two issues for detecting the game being played by time played:

    1. The time played started being recorded a couple years ago. Games played before that default to zero. For example, I put on probably hundreds of hours of Counter Strike 1.6 in High School, but it is listed as unplayed in my Steam profile

    2. I didn't see how they handled game expansions, which are often listed as separate games, but they are unplayed. For Borderlands, I have four additional "games" with no playtime
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have severa games that I never "purchased" that ended up in my Library. I dont know how they ended up in my Library, but I never paid a cent for them. I researched the issue (I wanted to clean up my library) and found that there was no way to remove them. Also I learned that many other people had the same issue of games magically appearing in their library. Because of this, I am going to assume that the numbers they used for their findings are invalid.

    • Valve or individual game developers occasionally mark games as free, and they get pushed out to just about everyone with an account. The article noted that those titles have near-universal ownership but very low play times, since the freebies aren't usually what you choose when deciding what to play.
    • by AdamHaun ( 43173 )

      Yeah, I have a lot of those too. I even ended up with a duplicate copy of Civ IV and all its expansions, plus games like Sniper Elite and Red Faction: Armageddon that I definitely never purchased. Also, the multiplayer for a lot of games is a separate Steam title.

  • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:12PM (#46773609)

    The 'Hours Played' is a horrible metric. I've left Civ V running for days when I play in the evening, but don't bother quitting when I go to bed and work in the morning, then come home and play for an hour or two in the evening. 6 hours real play, 72 recorded as 'time played'. Same for other games.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:14PM (#46773627) Homepage

      Especially since the trading cards.

      I often buy a humble bundle, load up the games, leave them running to "earn" the badges, shut them down, uninstall them. (Then sell the cards, get Steam Wallet cash, buy more games, get more badges, etc....)

      • Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        But do you really get more money back from the cards than you pay for the bundles?

        You only buy at $1?

        Or do it because you kinda want the games anyhow and they become cheaper if you sell the badges?

        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          I'm not a $1-kind-of-guy. But, yes, I have made profit on the bundles. Especially if you buy quick, get the discount, and get the cards into the market before it gets flooded by all the other sellers.

          But I don't buy bundles that don't have at least something worth the money in them, and don't beat-the-average unless there's a game I really want on that side either.

          • by aliquis ( 678370 )

            You're not a one dollar gut but you don't beat the $ 3.7-7.7 average? =P

            For the weekly bundles the second tier is $ 6.

            One have to beat $1 to get the Steam keys. I could see how the trading cards may eventually add up to that but harder with say $4.5 on a regular one or $6 on a weekly one.

            The again I've only used one game of the what? ~4-500 I've bought so far? (Not all on Steam.)

          • Are you sure you're making a profit? Leaving your comp on all the time to accrue playtime hours costs power, though I'm not sure how much it would be costing you. When looking at dollars and cents balancing though, I think it should factor in.

            • by ledow ( 319597 )

              With a laptop in idle? Pence.

              10 hours with a 100W idle, even (nowhere close to screen-off usage, but let's over-estimate) - 1KWh. Unit price for that doesn't compare to even one trading card sold for penny-cheaper-than-every-other-similar-card for me.

              Plus, I normally just have the game on in the background while I'm doing other things on the machine, so the actual "real" usage of electricity etc. is basically zero.

      • by chihowa ( 366380 ) *

        I've sold the cards just so they go away and stop showing up as unread messages. Which has made me curious. Who is it that is actually buying them?

        • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

          I’ve bought 4 cards to complete a badge (for ~10c each), but made a point to only use steam wallet money earned by selling other cards.

          I wouldn’t spend actual money on it.

          • I've spent maybe $5 on cards. And saved close to $50 using the coupons I've gotten from crafting steam badges. Granted some of the coupons were for games I would never buy or wont run on Linux, but I can trade those with friends.

    • I would guess that's a pretty rare thing to do, still. So it shouldn't skew the metrics too much.
    • I've had some games clock up hours played just downloading the game.

    • by aevan ( 903814 )
      It's even worse... for games like Dungeons & Dragons or Lord of the Rings, steam launches a launcher...which then sits in the tray to download updates and such. From that launcher, the game can be loaded, and it persists past closing the game.. and that launcher is what steam tracks for 'hours played'. What you end up with is steam informing you that you've played the game 168 hours this week... but you never actually had the game on at all. I'm listed at over 8,000 hours in those games, nowhere near t
    • It can be skewed the other way, though, by offline mode. I have some games listed as unplayed that I've played to completion, but in offline mode so nothing was recorded.

      And then Half-Life 2 can be skewed back up because, at least as of several years ago, Source mods would log as HL2. I don't think that's still the case, but I also don't think they could retroactively fix that data.

      • by Zumbs ( 1241138 )
        I was about to make a comment like this. After playing Civ: V a lot, I had only logged some 40 hours of play!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The premise is a non-starter anyway; how many games do Steam users own? The answer is none. The fact that people can be confused about this should tell you that Valve isn't doing enough to tell users what the terms are.

    Still, interesting statistics. The methodology is messed up because Valve only started tracking time with the current system in 2009 and I would've figured that even without that factor, more games would've gone unplayed. The achievements are generally how you tell game completion, so if you

    • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:30PM (#46773817)

      You do realize, with a good number of games, you can register your 'owened' CD registration number with steam, and then have your game available on your steam account on any computer you are at, without needing to dig out that CD again, right?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Technically you don't own much of any game. If you go buy some game on cd it's still licensed not owned, they just don't have the technical means to stop you from playing should they choose to revoke your license.

    • by LesFerg ( 452838 )

      The fact that people can be confused about this should tell you that Valve isn't doing enough to tell users what the terms are.

      What a twat. Your purchase cannot be completed without ticking the little checkbox saying you have read and agreed to the terms of the sale.

    • So the EULAs before that state you only have a license to play/use the software - that still counts as "owning" it?

  • Since 37% is a pretty magical number in probability theory (exp(-1)), this study might either
    • have hinted that there's a very simple mathematical theory behind the purchase vs. usage of Steam games, or
    • be systematically and deeply flawed.
  • Came in publisher bundles that represented a way to get a bunch of other games I wanted for a lot less than buying them individually would cost. I know there's a racing game I got in one of those that I have never installed and never will just because racing games aren't my cuppa.

  • Big data, spying? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:26PM (#46773767)

    Does Valve know any time I've played such and such games, on which servers and so on? Are data anonymized when surveys or such sociological studies are made?

    It is one troubling aspect, or the biggest one. DRM philosophical arguments almost do not matter. When Amazon knows what books you've read, even down to the last page you've viewed for every book (that was in the news about recently) you have a situation that goes further than what the science fiction books and movies from the 60s and 70s and earlier anticipated.

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      This is from Ars Technica, which used sampled statistics from every user's public profile page (it threw out non-public pages as a sample for obvious reasons).
      You can bet Valve does know with a lot more accuracy your play habbits. The points is SO WHAT? Where's the Evil part? I know they used countless kill / death spots in TF2 maps years ago in order to help balance the play on those maps and that helped to improve the balance and play. Riot games (League of Legends) has a lot of jobs for Big Data engineer

      • "The points is SO WHAT? Where's the Evil part?"

        NSA and other government agencies taking advantage of security holes in steam or infiltrating valve to spy on you and collect data (aka conversations, etc, etc). Anything chained to online DRM naturally leaves you open to being spied on.

        Not only that, should valve store sensitive data on their servers about you (studies/etc). This could be stolen by hackers. Online just opens a huge can of worms. You're not thinking about what being exposed to the online wo

        • by ildon ( 413912 )

          I'm not really sure how your favorite TF2 loadout could constitute "sensitive data." And if you're using Steam's IM feature to send messages you don't want others to read, you should probably stop now because they're not encrypted and everyone on the internet can read them in the clear, not just the NSA.

          • How you spend your time online, what you play, what websites you access. That information can be correlated and traced back to you. Say you move to another country, fire up steam. bam IP address, etc. Anytime you are tied to a website that you are communicating with you are leaving breadcrumbs from which who you are, how you spend your time and what kind of person you are can be reconstructed with math and theory.

      • by fa2k ( 881632 )

        Assume for a moment that it's harmful if the data, including IP addresses, timestamps, unique IDs, etc, gets shared with the world. The data was previously inaccessible due to technology, now it's only limited by the policies of the holding company. Some people don't trust those policies (or the comany's security) as much as they did the old model.

        So is it harmful? The timestamp / IP combos place you at a given place (most likely home) for a period of time. There are dozens of other companies with the same

    • "Does Valve know any time I've played such and such games, on which servers and so on? "

      Almost certainly, yes. Typical of any system that keeps logs. Welcome to the Interwebs. Are they handing that data out? Probably not. If you read TFA, you'll see Ars came up with a clever method to scrape data using Steam ID numbers, which they have no way of tying to usernames or real identities. So, pretty anonymous.
      • by jwilloug ( 6402 )

        Your username is on your profile page, as is your real name if you've chosen to disclose it (but not the Steam account name used to log in). I'm not sure what happens if you link your Facebook account to your Steam profile because oh god who would do that, but the option is there.

        • Hmm, I don't think I have a profile page myself. I wanted to post something in forums once but couldn't without a profile, but I didn't want to create one so I let it slide.

        • Good points, but I doubt anyone who's worried about having their game usage revealed would have their real name in their profile.
      • by ildon ( 413912 )

        You can put the user ID number into a URL that will bring up your profile page, if it's public. If you don't want your profile info to be public, don't make it public. The data can't be scraped from non-public profile pages.

    • Does Valve know any time I've played such and such games,

      Yes, if you are playing in online mode (and maybe only if you launch it through Steam - I'm unsure on that point).

      This data is in fact shown on your Steam profile, although you can set that to private to let only certain people see it. That will prevent people outside yourself, your Steam friends list, and Valve itself from seeing it.

      on which servers and so on?

      If it's using Steamworks, I believe so. They often use this for matchmaking - if people often quit a server after only a few minutes, it's counted as a mark against the server.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:29PM (#46773811)
    Stuff like Day of Defeat would often appear on free weekend demos. It's hardly surprising that people kicked off a download and never got around to playing it. Same for other titles which are multiplayer modes, tech demos and so forth. I also expect the likes of Humble Bundle has meant people have gotten download codes for games they've redeemed but never bothered to run. I know I've a few games in my list which are like that.
  • How many of the "millions and millions" of iphone/android apps have only been used a few times. I seem to recall at one point there were about a hundred "flashlight apps" for iphone alone..

  • Because I'm neither surprised that almost everybody has a bundled copy of Ricochet, nor that basically nobody plays it.

    Hell, nobody played it when WON was still online, and that was over a decade ago.

  • That 37% sounds about right for me. I've purchased a couple Humble Bundles for one or two specific games, and in the process acquired a number of other games which I never play, and never intend to play. I'm probably not alone.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I always redeem my Humble Bundle games through Steam, but never actually play them that way.

      I only bother to redeem them as yet another backup in case something happens where Humble disappears and my own backups of installers are destroyed. Which is damned unlikely, but since it doesn't cost me anything extra to have what amounts to yet another backup, why not?

  • According to steam:

    Out of 2,750 titles tracked 4% were interesting/playable to gamers using steam.
    I wonder why people are discouraged about buying games without playing them first.

    That 4%, the top 110 games, have made approximately $8,000,000,000. And that is just 50% of the sales numbers, "represents about 50 percent of the registered sales on the service".
    It doesn't sound like piracy is making much of a impact to me.

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