Steam Passes Five Million Concurrent Users

By Jim Rossignol on January 4th, 2012 at 10:12 am.


As the lovelies at PC Gamer have observed, Steam passed 5 million concurrent users on the 2nd of January, a spike that seems largely powered by the popularity of Skyrim and the Christmas sale. Check it out on the Steam stats page. Valve confirmed that Steam had passed 30 million active accounts as of October 2010, so it’s probably a bit bigger than that by now.

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59 Comments »

  1. Baboonanza says:

    I went looking to see how this compares to console land and interestingly the best I could find was 2million concurrent users on XBox Live at the end on 2009. I would expect Microsoft to have crowed about passing the 5 million figure if they’d done it since then.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It seems to be the number of games running, but I can’t be sure.

    • vodka and cookies says:

      Yeah Xbox Live doesn’t give out much info, the install base for Xbox Live is actually very close to Steam around 32 million or somewhere but half of those according to MS are gold subscribers so Microsoft is making a tidy sum of money even if they only ever buy one or two games.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Are there XBoxes turned on without running games?

      I’m out of touch, but in the times of the N64 that was not really possible.

    • Malcolm says:

      My xbox is seeing most use at the moment for pay-per-view movies and 4OD. Haven’t actually played a game on it for about 6 months (too much PC goodness to work through).

      The xbox video-on-demand stuff is stellar (near blu-ray quality) and the 4OD client is good too so when the iPlayer client comes out (promised soon) I suspect my PS3 will revert to blu-ray player only as the PS3 4OD player is cack and the iPlayer client is stuttery as hell for some reason (PC version is smooth as silk over the same connection).

    • jezcentral says:

      .

  2. Theory says:

    I’ve never worked out if that number is people playing games or just people with Steam running. Anyone know?

    • baby snot says:

      Going by adding up the peak for those top ten games and how rapidly the numbers fall off thereafter I would say it’s probably peak logged in, not concurrently playing.

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      Those are logged in users and/or clients running.

    • jezcentral says:

      I love Steam, and have about 200 games on it, but this is a little like counting the number of concurrent consoles users by counting how many owners have their TV on at any one time.

  3. RaveTurned says:

    I was about to post that PC gaming is dead, but i see you’ve already done that in the tags.

    Good job! o7

  4. TormDK says:

    Do note that this simply means that 5 million people had their computers running while steam was also running.

    For instance – I have not played a Steam game since SWTOR came out, but I still count as a user as Steam starts as a service when my computer is booted.

    A fair more accurate show would be to get the number of people playing Steam enabled games at any one time, but that number is likely lower than the 5 mil posted :)

    • Kollega says:

      Isn’t that number more about people using Steam, though? Would it matter if they are playing games right here and now if they have the client up and running?

    • Eclipse says:

      “Do note that this simply means that 5 million people had their computers running while steam was also running.”

      Simply? That’s a freaking lot O_o Steam opens a bit window with the new stuff every time you log, so every of that 5 million users are people willingly logging into steam and watching the offers.
      I, for one, log into steam every day and use it as IM to talk to my friends, even if I disable the log on start feature

    • AMonkey says:

      People can also sign in to Steam offline which will therefore not register them as a concurrent user. So to make any statement about how many players are actually active is pretty hard.

    • TormDK says:

      @Eclipes My point is this :

      While Steam is large, the user base posted in this article accounts for less than 3% (If even that) of the total PC volume.

      In other words, we should of course give credit where credit is due – but lets keep the “PC Gaming is alive!!111!!” at a minimum because Valve is not the saviour some people tend to make it out to be, and the system Valve has created is still a speed bump on the PC marked.

      What do you think will happen once Microsoft builds their markedplace into Windows 8? They will gain a ~100 million user base within the first year alone, and that markedplace doesn’t even focus solely on gaming.

    • zakihashi says:

      however, you did mention that since SWTOR came out. So is the reason your not playing a game on Steam, because your playing another game? Because then it comes back to PC gaming is alive.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      @Eclipse: Surely most people will have turned off the stupid popup that loads when you log in.

    • pandora says:

      @jon_hill987 sadly I imagine most users don’t ever look into settings menu.

    • sephiroth says:

      I log in to steam every time my computer starts up but this is mainly so I can see who else is online and as an IM service, so I guess I get counted as an active user most of the time even tho I havent actually been playing many games on steam lately due to being a BF3 addict.

      this means I’m loged in to origin aswell or sometimes instead and really wish I could just use steam but mainly due to my extreme dislike of EA that seems to get stronger and stronger with every passing day/news story about they really dont want any more customers/money

      Still PC gaming is alive and anyone who says otherwise is either stupid or pushing some other agenda. now if only they would make more PC exclusive games and stop watering them down for teh toyboxes

  5. Forgoroe says:

    PC gaming shall rise above the clouds. Especially if consoles remain outdated…. I really couldn’t care less about the consoles though. Only for exclusives.

  6. Navagon says:

    I don’t know how to feel about Steam’s continued monopoly. Especially with better options out there now. But there’s no doubt that the PC gaming market exists today largely in part to the initial success of Steam. When retail dropped the PC like a stone Steam provided an alternative that kept PC gaming alive. They’ve also done a lot of the indie scene. In fact we probably wouldn’t have that either.

    So yeah, for all its faults, I’m glad Steam has been a success.

    • wengart says:

      For the life of me I can’t think of these better options. AFAIK no one else does what Steam does in a even marginally satisfactory way. I think Origin and Microsoft’s thing are the only other two who have tried this online community + store front thing and I have no idea why anyone would use either of them.

      Although there are some better alternatives now for people who are steam avoiding.

    • Navagon says:

      Gamersgate doesn’t have a mandatory client, offers a lot of DRM-free games and does its best to keep the DRM reasonable including handing out new keys if activations run out. They also reward users for reviews, ratings and helping others with technical problems.

      They don’t have a forum. But it’s not like that’s a disadvantage when compared to Steam’s. The only disadvantage I can think of over Steam is that updates aren’t handled automatically. Plus some games might not be updated as regularly as they are on Steam – but that’s an assumption.

      GOG does everything right, aside from hosting new games with the same DRM-free, one global price philosophy and apparently they’ll soon be addressing that too. Time will tell. But the future’s looking bright in Camp GOG.

    • Bhazor says:

      Steam is *still* one of the most stringent DRM methods out there and it still doesn’t have a functional offline mode.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Steam is *still* one of the most stringent DRM methods out there and it still doesn’t have a functional offline mode.

      I play Steam offline most of the time, and have yet to encounter a game I couldn’t play offline.

      I understand some people might have problems with certain games, and am sympathetic, but you’re overstating the issue.

    • Navagon says:

      The only problem I have with Steam’s offline mode is that it’s inconsistent. Several times it has come up with some bullshit reason to need to go online.

      It’s a lot better than it was though.

      As for Steam being the strongest DRM, perhaps they should make better use of that in not allowing other forms of DRM on top of that? It has always seemed like an unnecessary concession to publishers to let them put as much crap in games as they like when it already has Steam as DRM.

      If Steam was the only DRM used in some games it would be a selling point (i.e. no sodding GFWL or limited activations).

    • Bhazor says:

      As Navagon said Steam comes up with many bullshit reasons to go online. I travel alot so my connection is less than stellar. As a result half the time I can’t even turn Steam on.

      That’s not going into the schizophrenic game updates. Where Steam suddenly decides to start downloading multi gig files in the background without asking. Yesterday for example it downloaded a 6gig file for Deus Ex HR. Why? No idea. No patch notes, no notifications, no nothing. But it meant I could not play that game as it refused to start without updating.

      Then theres all the times it won’t start because of a server error.

      No. Steam is still far from reliable.

    • PodX140 says:

      Bhazor, you do know that you can disable the automatic updates? And that games will function without them, so long as they are not updating at that second?

      Though I too have had some issues with steam and offline mode, it seems to never give me any issue anymore, and honestly for the quality service it provides (chat, voice, automatic updates, notifying me of sales, giveaways), I couldn’t care less that it’s DRM.

      See, that’s the trick that valve gets and nobody else does. If your DRM provides a great service (and restricting games is NOT a service :/ ), and is tight and clean, rarely will anyone complain.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      @Navagon:

      Sorry, but you didn’t really make a good case here as to how there are better options. Not everyone arbitrarily thinks that DRM is the single most important issue on a service on every PC gaming service there is ever. The amount of features and convenience it brings far, far outweighs any negatives you might perceive in having to use a client to run your games (which I hardly is “DRM” in the negative sense of the term).

    • Navagon says:

      Negatives such as having all your games tied to an account that you will be banned from in its entirety if there’s an error when paying for something is not merely ‘perceived’ but rather quite palpable.

      Not to mention the fact that you’re so reliant on Steam. Sure, it’s mostly reliable. But every time you’re told ‘this game is not available at this time’ it reminds you of the advantages of not being tied to a client.

      I’m not being anti-Steam here. A look at the number of games I have on Steam should clear that up. But I am against blinkered fanboyism.

    • bonjovi says:

      Steam = convenience also once I have 50 games on Steam, why would I bother with any other service? Even if most of the games are cheaper elsewhere I’d still pay more for the convenience of having it all in the same place.

  7. Khemm says:

    What that actually means is that 5 million people run that buggy spyware in the background when they boot up their PCs.
    After the nightmare I had ago with Rage which refused to run when I changed my router (don’t ask me why, Steam was in offline mode! when I went online it was stuck on updating 10GBs over and over), a few games updating even though I told Steam NOT to, and trying to install Shogun 2 from the discs for the whole day because Steam first “couldn’t connect to the servers” for hours, then when it managed to go online suddenly told me it was “too busy” (kept aborting the installation randomly halfway through). When I finally magaged to copy the files, Steam insisted on downloading 5 or 6 GBs of updates. What the frack.

    Meanwhile, my retail copy of LA Noire I installed offline, only had to connect to the internet the first time I launched the game – entered the CD key, Rockstar Social Club quickly downloaded the latest patch (which resides in the game folder, so I can back it up) and I was ready to play. I was shocked at how well thought out RSC is.

    Steam is an outdated POS in comparison, a real pain in the ass stuck in 2004 that millions use because publishers force them to. This is the only form of DRM which makes me feel I get a crippled version compared to what pirates have. Lucky them, they don’t have to deal with this steaming pile of s**t.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I don’t see any real issues with Steam in that post or an example of it being spyware. You point out it has a patching issue and that Rockstar Social Club is crap. I agree with both of those points, but Steam is fantastic.

      Without it I really wouldn’t be pc gaming any more.

    • JB says:

      “This is the only form of DRM which makes me feel I get a crippled version compared to what pirates have.”

      Really? Wow.

      I’ve had issues with Steam about twice in the past 2-3 years. And many, many, many hours of enjoyment without issues.

      PS – DrG, Khemm said RSC was good, not crap.

    • Ovno says:

      While I don’t disagree with most of your points, not one of them demonstrates how or why you call it spyware, a proper and worrying term, I’m guessing your just throwing words round but please justify or retract that one point….

    • Lemming says:

      The fact you can call Steam a ‘buggy piece of spyware’ and then praise Rockstar Social Club in the same comment makes me suspicious this is just a troll. It is right? Please?

    • Ysellian says:

      I’m not the biggest fan of Steam, mainly because I feel the offline mode still needs a ton of work but to say pirates have it better than steam users is quite simply retarded. You complain about it being spyware and yet pirated games have a far bigger chance of containing crap far worse than anything steam can throw at you. Seriously ever heard of the saying: “when it’s too good to be true, it probably is”?

    • Khemm says:

      I called Steam spyware because it is the only form of DRM currently existing which requires that you have it running not only to run games, but even install them! GFWL or RSC install separately and close themselves the moment you shut down your games.

      Oh wait, Origin is a blatant copy of Steam, so that’s two forms of DRM.

      @Ysellian
      It’s retarded to assume I should accept one form of spyware “because other MIGHT – emphasis on might – get something worse”. What I know for sure is that cracked copies are Steam DRM-free, which makes them superior.

    • Plivesey says:

      Ah, thanks Khemm, my definition of Spyware must’ve been out of date. I’ve updated it to: “An application that needs to be running to play AND install certain games.”

      I tend to have Windows running when I install and play my games too…

    • wengart says:

      Steam, imo, is the single best digital download service. I think I have over 150 games on Steam right now and literally all of my gaming friends use Steam to buy their games, play their games together, and generally communicate. No other service can do that for us.

      Offline mode works in a way. Its kinda odd and you need to have a pretty good understanding of how it works before it works properly.

      Launch Steam in online mode.
      Install, update, and run any game you want to play in offline mode.
      Have Steam go into offline mode.

      Doing that will make sure your games run in offline mode although I still throw it into offline mode while I have a connection and make sure the games I want to play work.

    • Ovno says:

      That’s not what spyware is i’m afraid…

      “Spyware is a type of malware that can be installed on computers, and which collects small pieces of information about users without their knowledge.”

      From

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spyware

      Not

      “An application that needs to be running to play AND install certain games.”

      Please don’t throw these terms around without cause or a basic understanding of the terms you are using.

      The simple test is, “Does it collect my data without my permission or knowledge?” if not its not spyware…

      I know this may seem pedantic but words have defined meanings for a reason, namely so that we can understand each other, and all using defined words for completely different things to their definition does is annoy the pedants (see this comment for proof), confuse everyone else and make you look as computer literate as my Mum…

    • Khemm says:

      Because Steam needs to run at all times, it constantly collects data. Do you know that even in offline mode, Steam still connects to Valve servers if your computer is online? Several people on CivForums have confirmed this.
      Btw, if you’re so good at googling, google “bloatware” and tell me if Steam fits this definition.
      I also love how many people flat out refuse to comment on obvious problems I experienced, choosing to repeat bullcrap like “Steam is teh best, Steam is awesome” instead. Get rid of your rose-tinted Valve-approved glasses.

    • Ovno says:

      Googleing was only required to find the exact definition, every man and his wife knows what spyware is.

      And also I don’t need to google anything for you I’m not the one spouting crap on the internet…

      Also, you may notice I have not defended steam once, I merely wanted you to stop using the word spyware to describe steam when it clearly is not even with your silly special case, did I not mention I’m a pedant…

    • Xerian says:

      Please. Silly troll is silly.
      … And now that I’m reading it again, I’m thinking blatantly ignorant, unintelligent kid is blatantly ignorant and unintelligent… One of those two, I’m assuming. (Or just immensely un-aware of the definition of ‘spyware’ and completely oblivious to steams many benefits, such as the rather awesome community, SteamWorks, SteamCloud, the screenshot interface, the video-interface? Good lord, you’re somewhat ignorant.)

      Besides, its not the only kind of “DRM” that requires you to be online to install, play and -patch your goddamned game-, heard of Origin? That’s actual Spyware.
      And Steam is hardly bloatware, as it doesnt use all that much RAM and memory… And you know, you could always stop opening it, or close it whenever not using it… Or disable it at startup, etc. And they’re awfully far away from being “Spyware”, as they only collect data about how you use it and your hardware and such. You know, the thing you AGREED TO IN THE EULA!? ~_~
      Its not like Valve is forcing it down your throat.

    • Fierce says:

      Khemm,

      The simple fact is that to an objective analytical person of moderate temperament, Steam does far more right than it does wrong.

      I’m not disagreeing with your right to disagree, I’m pointing out that for all the games Steam deals with, from all the angles that it might be attacked from, it needs very little defense from disagreements of your caliber.

      So I’m not going to pick apart every last thing you’ve said (too vigourously anyway) is evidence Steam is crap in your posts and then fanatically refute them while engaging in a 12 round pissing contest. Please do not expect it. I have no desire to change your mind nor any drive to attempt it for conversations sake. You can use this as a “refused to contest all my points adequately, therefore victory” banner raising catalyst if you must. Nonetheless, a few facts require mentioning.

      1) Introducing a new router can conceivably cause unintended consequences for networks that were working very easily. A friend of mine was banned from Origin early last month because his new firewall software blocked callbacks from the Origin servers to the Origin software during authentication of a BF3 reinstall thinking it was an attack during a prolonged UAC prompt he didn’t see cause he was making breakfast. Shit happens and it was all cleared up but I’d be more interested in if you switched back to your old router and/or attempted cache verification while online when you started noticing RAGE problems, as well as which router you were using during your Shogun 2 install, far more than most experienced PC gamers would be interested that you encountered network problems in the first place.

      2) If Steam is uploading 5-6GB to you after a disc install, that’s a reflection of the installation choices made by the designers/publishers, not the uploading platform itself. You’re shooting the messenger instead of examining whether you’re mentally prepared enough for using SEGA Speedy Messaging Services Inc. in your future. I personally like their use of Sonic in the logo.

      3) The mechanics (both technical and practical) of Steam’s “Do Not Update” system is that it will not automatically download an update when one is pushed to the servers by the game devs. It will begin this download the moment you attempt to play the deprecated game however. The purpose of this setting is to essentially put a “Stop, Wait For Manually Invoked Necessity” clause on the non-interactive updating system, to allow for selective bandwidth management by the User at the expense of the User not knowing they have to postpone their game launch for N minutes until they’re actually ready to launch it.

      Steam is consumer-friendly content delivering DRM. It’s role is to reliably authenticate and launch only approved versions of its clients games, which it is doing. That the version it authenticates is always the latest and greatest is the consumer-friendly part. While it could use a more clarified explanation in the settings window, it is not malfunctioning nor a mistake. No, I don’t work for Valve, I’m merely a lateral thinker.

      4) I have no information on how long you’ve been PC gaming, but SecuROM has a long history of installing a rootkit(s) upon disc insertion that would immediately disallow game installation if it detected Daemon Tools installed, disallow game launch if it detected Process Explorer running and remaining long after game deletion without simple removal options (until they were caught). Punkbuster also has a history of crashing Users out of servers if they have legitimate system monitor software running…ironically the kind typically used to trace crashes.

      You seem to be combining ignorance of far worse offenders than Steam with confusing “DRM thats necessary during install and launch” with “DRM that is seamlessly present during install and launch, that works well while providing me with tangible benefits.” The differences are subtle, yet make a world of.

      5) The mere observation that Steam probes for connectivity to the Valve servers (I certainly wouldn’t expect it to probe to Google servers, or perhaps Apple’s iTunes servers) while in Offline mode, while curious, isn’t valid irrefutable evidence it is collecting data on you. For every “naivé” rock thrown at that sentence, it has a “paranoid” arrow to sling back. It could be running a harmless Steam Version Up To Date check that isn’t programmed to not occur just because game related protocols are disabled. It could be checking for new “Daily Sale!” pop-up notifications and caching them silently to be displayed automatically when you do go online. It could be any number of plausible harmless communications that prove to be just the wind rather than a Ghost determined to haunt you when the data-stream is examined and published. Have the CivForum observers performed that analysis?

      Also, if Steam is communicating with Valve servers while Offline, the most potent and immediate question would be “When Steam probes for Valve servers while in Offline mode and doesn’t find them, does Offline mode stop working?” Maliciousness is not being forgiven if it is convenient, but maliciousness needs to be proven occurring before the delivery method can be met with hostility and charged with functional failure.

      6) My personal timeless Internet discussion favourite, “bloat” is just as subjective to the fitness of a PC as “high gas prices” are subjective to the size of a driver’s bank account. I understand not everyone has a high-end PC. I understand not all software design decisions and processes are created equal. I understand not all programming is 100% perfect, or a percentage suitable enough to pass the Test of Khemm. But I also understand that Programmers aren’t always Decision Makers, many programmers sigh exasperatedly at the foolishness of their bosses as they grind away to make that deadline, and that many Users will fume angrily at Bloat the Goat while insisting their numerous toolbars are useful and their dual-cores and 1066mhz RAM are enough until 2013 because its like they just upgraded with Dell yesterday dammit!~.

      Bloat present in software cannot be accused with any credibility from someone who wasn’t involved in designing it, isn’t professionally familiar with the language they’re skimming the source code of, or involved in creating a more efficient alternative to it. Anything outside of those precepts is academic only.

      I hope I used just the right amount of vigor.

      Congrats to Valve for passing 5 million. It is well deserved.

    • PodX140 says:

      Fierce, agreed on all points (I think, I forgot the start by the time I finished it).

      Also: You win the longest post ever to make it past the spam filter! If only the rest of us are that lucky :P

      Khemm: Stop trolling. Pirates DO have to deal with steam, and 9 times out of 10 it’s 100x WORSE. All those automatic updates you have to hunt for yourself, and cracked versions of them (Sometimes IN ORDER). And when the cracked game is run, surprise! STEAM MUST STILL RUN, in offline mode IIRC. Which means all of the offline mode quirks are still there.

      Investigate your argument before you post.

  8. D3xter says:

    Oops, swrong comment thread.

  9. Tsang says:

    5 million may be impressive, but less so when you realize that many people were running multiple accounts at a time in an effort to abuse the holiday contest. Free accounts and 1 cent humble bundles (before they added a minimum) made things ripe for abuse, and the resulting scenario no doubt helped inflate the concurrent users data.

    • Aezay says:

      Even though people did that, I doubt it was anything more than a small minority of the user base. Also, the record was set on Jan 02, the day after the sales had ended.

    • Rebel44 says:

      Steam had over 4.8M concurrent users even before Xmas sale, so 200K increase for Xmas sale is perfectly reasonable.

  10. the judge says:

    Does fat neck lie about his user numbers? Does fatneck offer more bluelight specials than kmart? Does Fat neck hurt indie games pricing? Does Fat Neck choke off creativity by playing gatekeeper for his pals?

    • Rebel44 says:

      Are you a fat neck or just troll? :)

    • the judge says:

      fat neck, u mad?

    • InternetBatman says:

      Why would playing gatekeeper choke off creativity? There are 800 distribution methods online, and still ways to generate publicity for yourself without being on Steam (solium infernum?). Many if not most of the users on Steam are not people that went out of their way to check out indie games, and the people who use steam who also bought indie games before steam still search for them otherwise.

      I have a hard time believing that a quality check is a bad thing when people can go other places.

    • Xerian says:

      I bet this guys a “fatneck” Whatever that is. And making sure something you’re offering your customers isnt crap is -NOT- gatekeeping. And in what way does keeping aweful games away kill creativity? Sigh. Goddamned troll.

  11. InternetBatman says:

    Cool enough. I love Steam. It works well for me and sells games cheaply. I would still prefer physical copies but the price difference is so absurdly large that it works for me.

  12. Yakraan says:

    The really amazing number is that Steam has increased his daily users in one million in the last four months (remember, a peak of 4 million online users on September 4th, 2011). Awesome.

    Steam doesn’t always have the best prices (still being great prices), but the great services and functions for the gamers unified in the same place is what makes Steam an impressive platform.

    Origin it’s simply ridiculous. Look at BF3 and how it’s ignoring their own platform… Nothing else to say about it.

    Oh, and everyone who think that Steam is some kind of spyware, annoying DRM or some other shit, I invite them to take a look at what they have on their computer, or check their phone, or any electronic machine that they own… So? Do you see any difference? It’s so terrible in almost all cases? Bloody hypochondriacs… At least learn how a PC and Steam works before going trash talking and use some decent arguments.