Hardcore PC Gamers Are The Real 1%, According To The SteamSpy Curator

Hardcore PC Gamers Are The Real 1%, According To The SteamSpy Curator

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.


  • 1% of master race owns 33% of the portion of sales
    20% of master race owns 80% ”

    that’s some good figure research
    I “hope” I’m in that 20% at least I think so, (204 steam games)

    • So, to be a member of the “1% group” of Steam gamers you have to own 107 games or more.
      I’m well and truly in the 1% then, as so are you

      based on the research they are saying that only 4 games puts you into that 20%. That is so hard to comprehend, so few steam accounts with 1 or 2 games. I mean I guess smurf accounts and hackers and the like but seems very low to me.

      • There are a couple of things I can think of that would explain why the numbers are so skewed.

        There are the people who simply don’t do much PC gaming and set up a Steam account to play just the one game (or possibly set up multiple accounts for multiple games because they forgot their credentials).

        Then there’s Dota, which accounts for an obscene amount of Steam users.

        • Yeah the wife wouldn’t have many Steam games if I hadn’t bought her them. I think she’s got about 10 now.

        • Yeah, the breakdown I am interested is what is the 1% of the 135 million active accounts which I don’t think this was. I think that is around 15% of the overall they are using.

          DOTA 2 would be a big one, I know there were people setting up different accounts for each game they owned so they could resell. Then there is the scammers and hackers.

        • Precisely, DOTA 2 is the massive number of accounts, and is why the guys argument is wrong.
          You don’t want to target the 1% who own a lot of games, you want to target the 99% who own very few games.

          He’s got the market the wrong way around!

          • But that is the argument. DOTA 2 players don’t buy other games (or very few of them) so targeting them as a market is not a great strategy. That’s like saying that 99% of low income earners have never bought a yacht, so we should target our next yacht range at them.

            You want to target the people who are going to be most likely to purchase your product. If you can create a new market segment that can reach DOTA size great, but if you are releasing a new aRTS or something marketing to DOTA players is unlikely to get you a huge number of sales

          • The problem is thinking of DOTA Players as DOTA players.
            They are also the Wii purchasers.
            Those are the guys who if you sell 1 extra game too, you make millions.
            The 1% are pretty much going to buy it anyway. You target a game at them and you get mediocre sales. They are only ~1.35 – 2 million people. That’s not a good selling game.

          • If you can create a new market segment that can reach DOTA size great
            That was kinda what I meant when I said the above. They DOTA market and the Wii market are totally different but if you can appeal to a similar sized market then you have a huge opportunity.

          • The problem is the author confuses publishers chasing a genre (such as making the next DOTA), over making a game with broad appeal (such as being the one to make the first WoW, Dota, Mario Kart, COD etc.).

            He concludes that a developer can’t make the next WoW or DOTA, (which is partially correct because the market has already been satisfied), but comes to the incorrect conclusion that because those guys already bought a game this year, they should target the 1% who buy lots of games.

            The trick is making a game that a large portion of the people who only buy 1 or 2 games a year actually buys. Like COD, or Mario Kart.

      • 169 games here. None of which are DOTA 2, Torchlight 2, CSGO or Rocket League. Only about a third of the games I own are currently installed on my pc tho.

      • Allegedly in your parent’s basement 😉
        I would really love to get hold of that data and have the time to investigate properly.

        • I have 1100 or so, Steam level 29 or something. I would guess that I’ve never played at least half of those.

          But then, the people selling the games probably prefer such – after all, I paid them but won’t be generating any server load or support overhead…

          You only need to purchase one of the publisher bundles during a Steam sale to put you over 30 or so.

          This isn’t something I’m really proud of, considering the money would have been much better used if donated to charity.

          Edit: Also another 500 or so on GOG. One interesting number that come up at GOG’s recent anniversary is that there are some people who own the entire GOG catalogue (over 1000 games.)

  • I gave up on PC gaming around the time of the Sim City fiasco.. now all my digital sales are probably on the PlayStation store. You’d need to combine and join all user data from Steam, PSN, Gog.com, Xbox and other digital stores to get a real reflection of where the $$$ is to be made. An interesting analysis though

  • I’m a unicorn. I play a lot of Dota and own a lot of games on Steam. Many of which I’ve beaten!

    Developers should ignore this data and cater exclusively to my whims.

    • lol! Don’t let A Bandido/Mongol/Rebel/Hell’s Angel/Comanchero/Inglorious Basterd see you wearing it, though! They will keel you! …

      • Its fine, I will just show them the data that backs it up……..then I will ask how many games they own to get their patch.

  • Better to get a 1% badge on steam… It’s not like you’ll be going outside anyway 😛
    (Incidentally, a 1% badge for steam I’d actually like… More juicy exp on my profile)

  • THIS is why it’s so laughable when people get overly upset about PC versions that are only targeted at mid-high range gamers and not right at the extreme end of the spectrum.

    While you get plenty of whinging on game-specific forums that games like the Witcher 3 aren’t fully-optimised, at the end of the day the market that actually cares is so freaking small that developers are far better off optimising their game so that it’s accessible for a larger portion of that massive semi-casual market than they are maxing it out for the 1% who, let’s be honest, are going to buy the game anyway.

  • “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.”

    I could write a Kotaku article out this.

  • My steam account has 160 games tied to it, but I game on consoles 99% of the time. I honestly wouldn’t have thought that I could be in the 1% of pc gaming spending.

    No wonder publishers seem to give zero fracks about pc ports or games. There are all the non steam games to take into account though.

    • But that 1% still accounts to around 7-8 million people which isn’t that far below the xbone.

      EDIT: Submitted before I meant to. That is a relatively small number when compared to the 83 million that the PS3 sold but that is also the number of people buying a large number of games. I would be interested to know how many of those consoles where fifa/madden machines or replacements/new models bought by the same people.

      I think the main thing with that number is it is using all accounts when most are inactive which greatly skews the 1%.

      • Fair play… though I still wonder why the number (7-8 million) is so small. If I think back over the last 5 years or so, there has been this mass exodus to pc (at least according to gaming site comment sections). I’d assumed that in the last 2 years the number of multiple game per year gamers on pc (specifically) was much higher, closer to the 15-20 million mark.

        I think the fact that this is steam data alone is what is throwing my understanding of the market. There are millions playing LoL (I’m sure there are hard numbers somewhere), still something like 5 million $15US per month to Bliz for WoW and then Origin and Ubi with their own services. I’m sure those numbers bring it much closer to my expectations. It’s just surprising that there aren’t more buying games on steam to me as most of the multiplats use steam as their primary pc platform.

        • The 7-8 million are people who own more than 100 games on steam
          Taking the multiple games 4+ it is closer to 140 million, although that is purchases of all time not recently.

          • Well my assumption was hugely wrong then!

            “I’d assumed that in the last 2 years the number of multiple game per year gamers on pc (specifically) was much higher, closer to the 15-20 million mark”

            In my head that would mean that the 15-20 mill would have at least 100 games because of how long steam has been around as the main platform on pc, but you’re saying the numbers are saying that there are only are 7-8 mill. I still dont get why the numbers are so low, steam has been around a lot longer than the x1 (your comparison). Just seems weird and cheap too me.

  • I wonder if this has anything to do with the amount of smurfs/trolls in DOTA2.

    X% of the DOTA2 accounts probably only have the one game.

  • I have 427 games but really with humble bundles and steam sales games I’ve played/even know that I own is far far lower. I guess that I’ve got the game at all is the win condition, as I’ve spent some sort of money somewhere, but this data can be questioned a lot further than it has been I think.

  • Everyone I know who plays Dota2 has setup at least two other dota2 only accounts for when they want to try new strats/pub smash, it may be anecdotal but as far as I know it’s extremely common, and that would make his conclusion far from concrete.

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