Not the 1% you might be thinking of, but according to the guy who lives and breathes Steam figures, the audience developers really want is much, much smaller than you might think.
I’m a big fan of the Steam Spy site. There are plenty of factors that can sometimes skew the data — like free Steam weekends, for instance — but the raw materials it collects and outputs provides a fascinating insight into the largest digital marketplace for video games.
The one responsible for it all is Sergey Galyonkin, who has become more noticeable over the last year thanks to the creation of the Steam Spy service, which collates all the publicly available information from Valve’s marketplace.
Galyonkin has written a blog post briefly dissecting some of the current language publishers and marketers use when describing their audience, and compared it to some figures highlighting the practical reality of who developers should actually be targeting their game towards.
“I hear people talking about ‘female gamers’ or ‘core gamers’ a lot, but seldom do they realise that these categories don’t technically exist, at least not in any practical way,” Galyonkin explains.
“Both Dota 2 and Torchlight 2 gamers spend a lot of time playing their favourite games. But while Dota 2 players only play Dota 2, [the] Torchlight 2 audience generally tries a lot of games — ten times more on average.”
The curator’s point is that trying to define a particular audience — hardcore gamers, for instance — is an utter waste of time. Instead, he argues, developers should be focusing on the audience of gamers that try the most video games in general.
An audience that, according to the figures, is incredibly small. “Classic ‘core gamers’ – the ones that play most major hits or jump from indie game to indie game — are relatively rare when compared to overall gaming audience.”
“In fact, 1% of Steam gamers own 33% of all copies of games on Steam. 20% of Steam gamers own 88% of games … we’re talking about [1.3 million] PC gamers that could fall into definition of ‘core gamer that buys several games per year’. And that’s including discounted games as well.”
There might be as many as 800 million PC gamers — according to some studies, Galyonkin says — but the reality is that for anyone making a downloadable, indie title, that 1.3 million on Steam (which is a far cry from the market’s 135 million active users) is what developers are really aiming at.
“Just because a gamer plays one game doesn’t mean he’ll try other games in this genre or on this platform. The core audience of PC games market that supports developers with smaller titles is rather tiny.”
Words for the wise.