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Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers'

Postby jacobvandy » Sat Aug 22, 2015 9:24 pm

In case you don't know, Steam Spy is a website that samples various public Steam user profiles in order to guesstimate total sales figures for games on the platform. Since the only official numbers we have from Valve are of how many people are playing a game at any one time (Steam Charts is a great place for historical records of that), this type of information is something that a lot of people are curious about. The way this data is gathered also allows them to guesstimate how much revenue a particular game pulls in during a sale, since they can see when a new title is added to whatever accounts they check, so they measure that sort of thing, as well.

Anyway, this guy Sergey who runs the site likes to take all this data and draw various conclusions from it on his blog, particularly ones that might be helpful to himself and other game developers in determining what their target audience is and how better to serve it. He made headlines a couple months ago when he broke down Steam gamers by nationality and revealed what types of games each region prefers, etc., as well as claimed the average Steam game sells only 32,000 copies and that less than 1 in 5 users on the service are female (thus you shouldn't be wasting your time by making games that cater to them). This week, he's back with more eye-popping guesstimations, the most interesting of which being that there are actually very few Steam users who are buying any significant number of games:

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. That’s even more than Pareto principle suggests.

So, to be a member of the “1% group” of Steam gamers you have to own 107 games or more. That’s not much considering how Steam is selling games at discount prices and how easy it is to obtain games in bundles.

We’re talking about 1.3M PC gamers that could fall into definition of “core gamer that buys several games per year”. And that’s including discounted games as well.

Of course we could extend it to, I don’t know, “softcore gamers” — the 20% that own 88% games. To be included you’d have to own 4 (FOUR) games or more on Steam — not exactly a huge number, right?

Let me repeat it once more, because it’s really important.

Various studies suggest that there are 700–800 million of PC gamers. It’s probably true, but it doesn’t mean much for your game. Because if you’re developing a downloadable game for Steam you’re not even fighting for 135M of its active users, you’re fighting for the attention of 1.3 million gamers that are actually buying lots of games.

The 1% group.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Synchronicity » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:14 pm

I'm not all that surprised. Steam is ubiquitous and anyone can just grab an account to play a free game or two. Doesn't make them a hardcore gamer.

I wish Valve was more forthcoming with its data so that we don't have to rely on third parties that may be imprecise.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby jacobvandy » Sat Aug 22, 2015 11:22 pm

Well, if what he's suggesting is anywhere near accurate, I think it's pretty obvious why Valve doesn't disclose that sort of data themselves... It's better for them if everyone else is drawing their own conclusions about the fact that they have more than 100 million active users. Developers look at that and think, "well gosh, if only a tiny fraction of them buy my game, I'll be doing pretty well!" If the reality is that you're more likely to get only a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction, and people knew that, there would be less interest in the platform.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Synchronicity » Sun Aug 23, 2015 6:18 am

Not quite. Any developer that comes to that conclusion needs someone else to come in and handle their affairs for them as that defies basic business principles. Just because there's a market doesn't mean you can convert X number of customers by pure virtue of releasing a product. You need to differentiate and/or market said product so that it stands out against the competition, and when Steam is host to a fucking mountain of absolute shit-tier games thanks to Early Access and Greenlight the statistics are going to be skewed as hell. Especially when the articles ignore AAA-titles like TES V and GTA V for being far outside the median range for, again, featuring proper differentiation and marketing. There is only one Elder Scrolls franchise but you can find an ungodly amount of zombie survival-horror games all clamoring for attention.

Which is the article's point. It's not that there are only 1% of Steam users who are "core" users, therefore that's your market. It's that everyone's assumptions about marketing demographics are incredibly wrong and one cannot merely ape other games and follow established genre conventions thinking that'll do it. Maybe that 1% will check out your game but the rest of the market will need a reason besides "this game exists in X genre following these mechanics." Not everyone has enough time, money, or interest. Furthermore, 100 million people averaging four games each will not all own the same four games. There is certainly enough room in the market for making beaucoup bucks if you create something truly good. And if it's not good enough, 1 million people running around buying hundreds of games is still a hell of a good market for someone who at least knows what they're doing. For everyone else who fails, well there's usually a good reason. None of this is unique to Steam. The articles specifically mentioned the market saturation vs penetration problem of mobile app stores, which is a complete mess.

In any case, I think with the prevalence of third party tracking Valve should just clear the air, at least once. Its not like they can actually hide anything from developers considering they get access to all sorts of in-depth analytics that they are contractually barred from disclosing to the public. If anything I'm pretty certain there are a lot of key caveats and statistical errors with Steam Spy that might make Steam look worse (or perhaps better) than it actually is. Maybe releasing this info will help new developers actually figure their shit out rather than releasing the same tat over and over and wondering why they're failing.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby jacobvandy » Sun Aug 23, 2015 2:53 pm

You think the amateur devs building that mountain of shit-tier games understand basic business principles? :P
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Synchronicity » Sun Aug 23, 2015 4:51 pm

Apparently not. Steam needs to do some serious curation for the sake of everyone.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Ellsworth » Tue Aug 25, 2015 1:35 am

It's obvious to everyone that Steam's curation standards are very low. If you build it, they'll sell it.

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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Ronin » Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:51 pm

Turns out Valve sells EVERYTHING. My son just bought a profile background image for 7 cents! But at least he sold something from another game for 11 cents to pay for it.

We ( my son & I who share our STEAM account) qualify as 'Core' because we probably spend $150 a year on games & DLC. We have 88 games in the library which I thought was a decent amount until I saw the accounts at various Frag Weekends.

I think more interesting numbers (I'm in marketing) would be number of active login hours The ads on STEAM are really very tame and with traditional media falling apart ( print, broadcast radio & TV) I would think that they would be doing more to be an ad company like Facebook. I am also surprised that they haven't become more 'social network' with pics & timelines like Facebook & instagram or something too. With that many regular users it has to be tempting.

You're right about 'if you build it; they'll sell it' XBOX & PlayStation have much more rigorous standards for games because of the cost of getting games to market. But do I really want someone at Valve deciding which game people would want to buy? I am a big believer in the free market, but maybe they should have a standard 'sell X games by Y time or you're delisted but then I think that I bought (& still play) Orion Prelude that had been on STEAM for over 12 months before Smitty pointed it out to me.
After seeing and hearing about the amazing rigs that many people have on these forums; it seems rather silly for me to the specs of my very modest gaming PC. It works and that's good enough for me.

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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Synchronicity » Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:05 pm

Question: why do you write out Steam in all-caps?

I think Valve is already dangerously close to feature creeping their client to an untenable degree. It's already the de facto social network for PC gamers, they don't need to overdo it even more than they already have. And they already do ads: their own storefront. They wouldn't make any more money selling a third party advertisement than using that real estate to push a game that they'd make 30% commission off of.

I also don't think it'd make sense to have a sales requirement for developers. That would either push people into even shadier business practices or would be defeated very quickly with an absurdly cheap temporary sale. Steam just needs to end Early Access and Greenlight. That's literally all they have to do. They created their own problems.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby jacobvandy » Tue Aug 25, 2015 11:01 pm

Greenlight as a concept is already dead. They announced it was ending in January 2014, and the last batch of titles they officially greenlit (as in the monthly announcements of "Here are the latest games to make the cut!") was a year ago... However, it still exists as a way for people to submit their games for sale on Steam, which requires only the $100 fee. It looks like they're just being automatically greenlit now, probably after some arbitrary number of votes. The average time between a game being posted there and it being "approved" seems to be around 7-10 days. Maybe they don't even need votes at all anymore.
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Re: Steam Spy claims only 1% of Steam users are 'core gamers

Postby Synchronicity » Tue Aug 25, 2015 11:57 pm

The concept was dead after the first few months. The mechanism is still hard at work gunking up the whole storefront without any sign of ceasing, replete with literally broken games, plagiarized content, and the shoddiest developers with the shittiest business practices.
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