The State of Steam

Steam’s dominance continues to be a top headline in the industry: its increase in popularity driven by the battle royale games Fortnite and PUBG, the announced partnership with Chinese company Perfect World to launch an official version of the platform in China and Steam’s roll-out of the Steam Link app which allows users to stream their games to the TV and other devices. At this year’s Nordic Conference, Tom Giardino from Steam’s business segment gave an update on the platform, and we thought his summary was worth a recap.

Steam’s Growth

Giardino noted Peak Concurrent Users (PCU) grew from 8 million in 2014 to 18.5 million as of April 2018, and Daily Active Users (DAU) went from more than 10 million in 2014 to over 40 million in 2018, with 20 million added since the start of Steam Direct.

When games were released under Steam’s Greenlight program, the platform put out 70 games per week on average. With the current Direct program, that number has increased to 180 games per week. From January through April of this year, there were 13.5 million new first-time purchasers, or 3.75 million purchasers per month on average, which is up from 1.8 million per month in 2017. Some of this growth is the result of Steam’s expanded currency and payment support, moving from just five accepted currencies and 40 payment methods in 2014 to 38 currencies and more than 80 payment methods in 2018. Revenues are mostly from North America and Western Europe (59%), then Asia (24%), Russia (4%), and smaller percentages from Oceania, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East (2-3% each). The highest year-over-year revenue increases came from South Asia and Asia, up 120% and 179% respectively.

Giardino further noted the number of new games purchased by users in 2017 was approximately 8.5 games. The number of games that hit $100,000 in sales within the first month of release has almost doubled from 2014 to 2017. The trend line largely stays the same regardless of the dollar threshold, even at $1 million.

Localization Matters

All Steam accounts have a primary language and the option to choose a secondary language. Less than one-third of customers have their primary language set to English. The dominant primary languages are English and Simplified Chinese, and then it’s split between Russian, Spanish, German, Brazilian, Korean and several other languages. Furthermore, Giardino noted that customers mostly see recommendations based on whether a game has interface support in their primary language unless there are other factors such as recommendations from lots of friends, followed curators or rankings for top-selling games in the user’s country.

Mileage will vary by game, but the average impact of post-launch language localization within regions were English +200%, Korean +140%, Simplified Chinese +69%, Japanese +65% and Traditional Chinese +52%. Giardino also urged that localization be applied to announcements, trailers and press, and not just the interface and game.

Connect with Curators

On Steam’s platform, curation is game discovery assisted by human recommendation. Curators range from existing personalities, like Youtubers or press outlets, to communities and groups that only exist on Steam. More than 260 curators have 10,000 or more followers, and 6.5 million Steam users follow at least one curator. Eight of the top 10 largest curators recommend games in languages other than English. Giardino also urged consideration of curators with mid-size followings 5,000 to 50,000—they might not have the largest audience, but they tend to be niche and highly targeted.

Controller Compatibilities

Through its Input API, developers only need to write controller integration once, and it will be abstracted to work with all other gamepads, including controllers for the Xbox, PlayStation and Switch. There are more than 17.4 million registered controllers—67% are Xbox One/360, 25% are PlayStation DualShock (even though a small fraction of games support the controller) and 1% are Switch Pro.

Full Presentation Online

In wrapping up his presentation, Giardino also noted a 79% increase in VR monthly active users from 2017 to 2018. Steam will implement new features across the platform, including temporary artwork overrides for timed events and Creator Homepages that will enable customizable homepages for developers and publishers to better share their catalog of games and company news.

The full session including the presentation can be viewed on Nordic Game’s Youtube channel.