Valve have published their 2020 Year In Review for Steam, and I'm a little shocked at how dramatic some of their statistics are. Seeing as we experienced a global pandemic during which everyone locked themselves away in their homes, it may not come as a huge surprise that more people took up gaming to pass the time. Valve say 2.6 million people bought games for the first time on Steam each month, and Steam had 120.4 million monthly active users to boot (though they don't mention if these numbers are averages, or the actual numbers from each month). I expected a lot, but wow.
In their blog post, they add that Steam has seen a load of other record-breaking new highs as well: with 62.6 million daily active players, 24.8 million peak concurrent users, 31.3 billion hours of playtime, and a 21.4% increase in number of games purchased over 2019. Steam users playtime was up by 50.7% compared to 2019 too (though it isn't clear if that's talking about an average user's playtime, or playtime of all Steam users combined).
VR saw a big boost in players last year too, in large part due to the release of Half-Life: Alyx. VR game sales were up by 71% compared to 2019, with Half-Life: Alyx making up 39% of those sales alone. That one isn't a huge surprise really, Graham says it's "the best traditional 'full' game yet made for VR" in his Half-Life: Alyx review.
Some stats I'm weirdly interested in are the controller ones. In 2020, there were 1.68 billion game sessions where a controller was used, up 66.6% from the 1.01 billion sessions in 2019. Good! Controllers are great for sitting back and chilling out while you're gaming, it doesn't have to be all keyboard and mouse all the time. Steam improved support for the fancy new PS5 and Xbox Series X controllers recently too.
Back in March last year, Steam made changes to its updates and downloads to help free up bandwidth with everyone suddenly stuck at home. It turns out that this was in response to "various countries' government bodies" approaching them to see how they "could help mitigate the rise in global traffic that ISPs were seeing," Valve says.
They end it all with a little bit of talk about their plans for 2021, which include launching Steam China early this year, as well as improving game performance and compatibility on Linux. It sounds like more Steam Labs experiments are on the way too, along with updates to existing ones like the one that's introducing new ways to browse games.