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Steam sees surprising, significant usage dip in 2018

Steam sees surprising, significant usage dip in 2018

reader comments 44 Share this story Fig. 1: The total number of daily users on Steam is dipping much more than usual thus far in 2018, after a large rise at the end of 2017. (source: SteamDB.info) Fig. 2: The rise and subsequent fall in PUBG players tracks closely with the similar rise and fall…


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Back in January, Valve’s Steam platform hit an all-time peak, averaging more than 16.8 million daily users for the month. In July, that daily usage average dipped to just under 14.9 million, a nearly 12-percent drop that reflects an uncharacteristic yearlong trend in reduced usage for the service.

The 2018 Steam usage decline is mirrored in reported data on “in-game” Steam users, who actually open up a Steam game rather than just having the Steam launcher running that day. After peaking at an average of 6.16 million in January, Steam averaged just 4.53 million in-game users in July, a nearly 26-percent drop.

Steam’s daily user numbers, as reported by Valve itself and collected by resources like SteamDB, can make up a pretty noisy data set, even when smoothed out with monthly averages. There is some normal seasonal variation as well, with peaks around and just after the holiday season giving way to slightly reduced usage in the summer.

Still, 2016 and 2017 saw much more marginal dips of 1 to 2 percent in the daily usage average from January to July. Seasonal variation alone doesn’t seem like enough to explain the 2018 downturn so far.

RIPPUBG?

So what does explain the downturn? A lot of it could be simply due to relative lack of interest in Steam’s most popular game:Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Steam Spy’s Sergei Galyonkin notes that the daily “peak concurrent player” numbers forPUBGhave fallen from an average of about 3 million players in January to around 1.3 million players in July. PerhapsPUBG‘s meteoric rise inflated Steam’s numbers past their “normal” rate, and we’re now starting to see a reversion to the mean.

Popular Steam games likeDota 2,Counter-Strike: GO, andTeam Fortress 2have also seen significant (if smaller) reductions in their average concurrent player counts over the last six months, according to SteamCharts. However, there is some evidence thatTF2‘s drop, at least, is due to new tools that remove idle and bot players who farm items without actively playing the game. Similar tools being used across Valve’s games (and/or other Steam titles) could explain some of the drop in apparent player and user numbers, even if “real” players are still using the platform at similar rates.

The tens of millions of players making the transition toFortniteand Epic’s own game launcher could be having an impact on Steam’s numbers as well. SuperData reported last week that there is some evidenceFortnite‘s massive success could be cannibalizing sales and play time from other similar franchises. That kind of effect could definitely show up in reduced Steam usage overall.

Regardless of the reason, it’s a bit early to suggest this downturn represents a long-term problem for Steam or the beginning of a sustained exodus from the platform. Year over year, the 14.8 million people opening Steam on an average July 2018 day is still up significantly from the 12.8 million people doing the same last July or the 8.8 million daily average from July 2015. Unless those year-over-year numbers start dipping precipitously, Valve’s industry-leading platform is still probably in pretty good shape.

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