Steam’s Big Data Holds Gaming Insights

Regular readers might know that I quite enjoy my gaming. I’ve spent many nights on my PC, crossing gaps, beating down baddies and using improbably well-placed solutions to solve puzzles. At the end of a recent session, I had a pop-up appear from Steam, asking me to take part in a short survey.

Steam, of course, is the world’s premier PC game platform: it holds a massive online library of games, which are often available at significant discounts. In fact, a local games retailer told me some years ago that the store had cut PC games back to a single display – because Steam had taken all of its business!

Back in February this year, Valve (owner of the platform) announced that Steam had 125 million active users. With this many customers, it makes sense to gather data about them and tailor your service, or make the information available to others. The Steam Survey takes place every month and covers a random selection of users: all that’s needed is for you to click ‘Yes’, and the software will scan your PC and upload the specs – anonymously, of course.

Specifically in terms of displays, Steam gathers data on primary and multi-monitor resolutions, but a wide variety of other information is available. The survey results, available at, can be divided between Windows (95.76% share), Mac (3.22%) and Linux (0.92%) platforms.

Top Five Primary Display Resolutions for PC Gamers (Windows, Mac and Linux)
1920 x 1080 1366 x 768 1600 x 900 1280 x 1024 1440 x 900 Others
Primary Display 34.04% 27.08% 7.34% 5.24% 5.03% 21.27%
Source: Valve

Steam Popular Display Resolutions1920 x 1080 is by far the most popular resolution for a single monitor, with a 34% market share: hardly a surprise, when you consider that this is an audience of gamers. The next-most-popular, 1366 x 768, has a 27% share; these are the only two resolutions in double-digits.

Legacy displays are still popular, with resolutions such as 1024 x 768, 1280 x 720, 1280 x 800 and 1600 x 900 all coming close to or passing a 2% share. These are the most common resolutions worldwide, so it is no surprise to see them on the list – but some less-common pixel formats, such as 1360 x 768 and 1680 x 1050, also make an appearance.

The results are slightly different when broken down by platform. Windows and Linux users both prefer 1920 x 1080 (with 34.2% and 37.9% shares, respectively), but the most popular resolutions for Mac users were 1280 x 800 and 1440 x 900 (30.3% and 29.3%, respectively). This can be attributed to the popularity of Apple’s Macbook and Macbook Pro notebooks; the company’s standalone Mac computers, which use larger, high-resolution displays, are not common amongst gamers. 1920 x 1080 had a 15.5% share of Mac users.

Some of the more unusual multi-display results can be explained by the use of portrait-mode monitors

Top Five Multi-Display Resolutions for PC Gamers (Windows, Mac and Linux)
3840 x 1080 3200 x 1080 3600 x 1080 3520 x 1080 3840 x 1200 Others
Multi-Display 28.73% 8.20% 6.28% 2.97% 2.80% 51.02%
Source: Valve

Multi-monitor set-ups were dominated (28.7%) by 3840 x 1080 resolution, demonstrating the use of two 1920 x 1080 monitors, side-by-side. This was a common trend amongst many of the >1% multi-monitor resolutions: 2560 x 1024 (two 1280 x 1024 displays), 3840 x 1200 (two 1920 x 1200 displays) and 5760 x 1080 (three 1920 x 1080 displays), for example.

Again, Mac users differ from Windows and Linux gamers, with the most popular (28%) multi-monitor resolution being UltraHD: 3840 x 2160. This implies the use of four 1920 x 1080 monitors, or external displays used with a Macbook.

The survey’s results are not surprising, on the whole: most games are optimised for Windows, and gamers as a whole have proved willing, time and again, to spend money on the best equipment. Last year, the PC gaming market was estimated to be worth about $21.5 billion – double that of the console market, according to Jon Peddie Research. Another survey, conducted this week by CRN in UK retailers, showed that 45% of respondents felt that game-related revenues had increased over the last five years, and 65% were confident or very confident about the future for the market.

Because of these trends, we are likely to be seeing more multi-monitor and high-resolution set-ups than would be found among casual computer users. Even here, though, UltraHD is stuck at a 0.07% share of the total single-display market.

The Steam survey contains some fascinating information, especially if you’re interested in the world of gaming and computer hardware.

Analyst Comment

No real surprises here. Because the survey measures the installed base, rather than new sales, it tends to emphasise older sizes and resolutions. That most of the installations are FullHD or 1366 x 768 is no surprise at all, as that really covers the range from 18.5″ to around 27″. The survey is also interesting for the data on graphics cards. 52.21% of the installed base uses Nvidia, with AMD/ATI second at 26.98% while Intel has 20.19%. The Intel share is slowly creeping up and 80% of systems use DirectX11 GPUs. (BR)