Steam sees surprising, significant usage dip in 2018

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.


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: . Steam Spy’s Sergei Galyonkin notes that the daily “peak concurrent player” numbers for have fallen from an average of about 3 million players in January to around 1.3 million players in July. Perhaps ‘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 like , , and have also seen significant (if smaller) reductions in their averageconcurrentplayer counts over the last six months, according to SteamCharts. However, there is some evidence that ‘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 to and Epic’s own game launcher could be having an impact on Steam’s numbers as well. SuperData reported last week that there is some evidence ‘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.

Kyle Orland Kyle is the Senior Gaming Editor at Ars Technica, specializing in video game hardware and software. He has journalism and computer science degrees from University of Maryland. He is based in the Washington, DC area.
Email[email protected]//Twitter@KyleOrl
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