The Rapid Growth Of Certain Games On Steam Is Fascinating

This graph, created by user Wretchedlout on the Data Is Beautiful subreddit, is fascinating. It charts the growth of Steam's concurrent users and the games they tend to play and does a great job of highlighting a number of interesting trends.

(Pro Tip: click on the image, some of the words are difficult to read.)

The most obvious thing to note is that PC gaming, on Steam, has seen consistent, dramatic growth — but things really amped up around 2009 and hasn't stopped since. More and more people are using Steam and I don't see that trend stopping any time soon.

The interesting thing for me is the path of the games themselves. Dota 2 is just ridiculous. It's the most played game on Steam by miles. And what we're really seeing is this: the recent growth of Steam correlates pretty heavily with the growth of Dota 2. In a sense — Steam's rise is directly tied the popularity of Dota 2.

The popularity of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive isn't really surprising. What is surprising is the path it has taken. Simply put: it was a slow burn. Counter-Strike is a massive 'brand' and you'd expect it to perform well straight out the gate, but that's not how it played out. Looks like it took a while for long-time players to transition to Global Offensive, but now it's riding the crest of a popularity wave both among casual players and folks on the competitive scene. Everyone is happy with Global Offensive and it shows.

A final point of interest: games that aren't competitive, multiplayer focused titles. They have a completely different pattern. They kick off huge and slowly tail off. Sometimes the drop off is dramatic. Grand Theft Auto V is the best example of that. Huge spike upon release, but only a dedicated core of players remain.

It's super interesting to look at. You can check out more graphs here.


    A little off-topic:

    I've wholeheartedly embraced buying digital download games.
    More convenient.

      I bought a can of red bull on the way to work this morning. Was pretty good, too.

        i bought diesel from BP last night, i find it better than Shell.

    CS:GO's slow burn isn't too surprising. CS:1.6 and CS:Source players are some of the most loyal (read: stubborn) gamers on the planet. Getting them to shift from their game of choice is a tough ask.

    Combine that with the poor launch that tried to bring console players into the fold and it's a surprise that the game turned into the success it is.

    A good chunk of that has been the post-release support that Valve has poured into it. Major balance tweaks, community support and introducing the all-important hat economy turned it from another online shooter to, well, Counter-Strike.

      Yeah I put it down to the way in which it (slowly) united all CS players.

        I'm having a bit of fun working out what the various spikes and drops on the graph are. You can spot all of the Steam sales that happened after the Arms Deal update in CS:GO by looking for the jumps in the graph.

        Dota 2 had a massive drop in Jan 2014, that was because the servers exploded during the New Bloom Festival. You can also see huge, sustained growth every time The International happens.

        Can you tell that I'm procrastinating? I'm meant to be cleaning the house.

      I never really got into CS:GO until last year. I still play it from time to time but I'm a very casual player.
      Something still really doesn't sit right with me, however. And that is the Cases/Keys system. Sure, they only offer cosmetic skins and are optional of course, but surely this has to be one of the biggest bait and switch schemes in all of gaming, right?

      Try explaining it to someone.... go on!

      "So, yeah, you have these cases. And when you open them, it's like a slot machine thing where you randomly get given an item of various rarity. You use a key to open them."

      "So.... it's gambling for items?"

      "No, not at all, the cases are free! You get them with drops!"

      "Oh.... but they keys to open them, you have to purchase"

      Holy.....shit....... My brain imploded when I realised that after trying to open a case I got during a match. Someone at valve got a promotion for that scheme, I tell you what.

        It's like Japanese Pachinko parlours. There's that slight layer of separation between everything so that you can trick yourself into thinking that it's not gambling.

        It was a tried and true method in Valve games before it hit CS:GO. It was first established (pretty sure) in TF2 and has since become a very, very popular addition to Dota 2 and CS:GO.

      Yep an just like Team Fortress 2 the console version of Counterstrike GO was nothing but an expensive advertisement for the PC version.

    Looking at this graph while at work makes me look like I'm actually working! Writing this comment however, doesn't.

    GTA looks like a flop on that graph. All hail PvP

    Love how skyrim, a single player game is still so popular and pretty consistent.

    True test of quality

    "Steam correlates pretty heavily with the growth of Dota 2. In a sense — Steam’s rise is directly tied the popularity of Dota 2."

    Good old equivalence of correlation and causation. First point showing this isn't the case; the separate scales on the axes (bad statistics). Second point; none of the major troughs and peaks in the Dota 2 scale are reflected in the overall steam scale. An alternative read is that it stands to reason that the most consistently popular game on Steam would grow at the same rate as Steam itself. However, this also cannot be determined from this graph in particular.

      Wanted to say this too - correlation does not imply causation.

      Not enough data to reach any conclusion.

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