Fans of PC video games inevitably point to the options they have for how they play their favorite games, whether with a keyboard and mouse, a large array of flight-sim pedals, or everything in between. But the data coming from leading PC platform Steam points to an interesting trend: millions of PC gamers who gladly stick to the console-like experience of a standard gamepad.
A Tuesday hardware survey from Valve Software, Steam’s handler, reveals that “over 30 million” users have connected at least one gamepad to a Steam installation since the company began tracking “Steam Input” as part of its hardware surveys. And with some users connecting multiple pads to their PCs, the total number of connected Steam controllers ratchets up to nearly 60 million.
Over that roughly three-year tracking span, the Xbox 360’s pad has proven the most popular, with 27.2 million registered users (that’s nearly one per gamepad-using Steam account!). Other console-pad leaders in the space include the Xbox One pad (11.5 million, with no indication of “Elite” pads being broken out as a separate category), the Sony DualShock 4 (12.2 million), and the DualShock 3 (4.1 million).
The charts see Valve admitting that it has sold 1.3 million of its own Steam Controllers—which is an apparent first announcement of that peripheral’s lifetime sales. (Charts estimate that 1.5 million Steam Controllers have connected to Steam accounts, however, which suggests roughly 200,000 used-controller registrations for that device.)
Another chart suggests that a majority of these connected controllers don’t receive regular use, however. According to Valve, only 20 percent of Steam’s Xbox One users connected that pad to a Steam game in the past month. That’s the highest-percentage ratio for controller use over a 30-day span; for a comparison, the PS4’s DualShock 4 has only been connected to a Steam game by nine percent of those interested users in the same time period.
Valve seems to point this disparity out with a purpose. “Historically, the PS4 controller has not been treated like a PC gaming controller,” Valve’s news post explains (which also talks about the simple plug-and-play nature of the Xbox pads’ XInput API). “Built-in support is uncommon, so players turn to software that translates their PS4 controller input into Xbox controller input… It’s not clear how much of that [user count] difference can be explained by the user experience, but it stands to reason that the gap would be smaller if more titles had seamless support.” This statement is followed by encouragement for PC game developers to include “full Steam Input integration” in their products.
The 60-million controller count includes devices outside of gamepads, and Valve’s pie charts reveal that certain “traditional” PC control systems, including racing wheels and flight sticks, are so niche on Steam that they don’t even receive their own individual estimation—and are soundly trumped by other niche options like plastic musical instruments (à la , ) and controllers from the SNES and GameCube eras. (Apparently, a statistically significant number of users connect N64 pads to their Steam accounts, so that console gets a brief mention in the “etc.” pool.)