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How many games do PC/console players own, & do they 'main' just one?
Data tells us! Also: just a cavalcade of game discovery news.
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Hey, it’s another week in the wonderful world of making, publishing, marketing and discovering PC and console games. And GameDiscoverCo is, once again, your tour guide to the dizzying highs and unimaginable lows of this delightful biz.
Oh, and one more reminder - it’s our first GameDiscoverCo Plus discount since June! For the next 5 days, you get 25% off our upgraded Plus PC game data suite, weekly PC/console sales research, an exclusive Discord, six game discovery eBooks & more…
How many games do PC & console players own?
In discussions with a prospective client recently, they asked an interesting question: ‘How many games do most PC players own, and do they tend to play one particular game a lot?’ We didn’t know the answer to that - but we knew how to get it. So we did!
And while the sheer amount of games owned may make you feel like a cog in a big machine (see Charlie Chaplin, above), it’s really great to get a sense of library size, both for PC and console players, by surveying (anonymized!) public player profiles.
So let’s start out with Steam. Here’s our estimates of the number of games in player libraries, lifetime across the entire platform:
Some notes on this - and thanks to our Research Fellow Strale (Gamalytic) for the Steam data, btw:
Firstly, the sample is biased towards older accounts, since Steam made user accounts private by default back in 2018. (We still think it’s somewhat representative, though.)
Second, making a Steam account is free, so you shouldn’t be surprised that over 30% of public Steam accounts have 10 or less games in them. It’s easy to create accounts to play particular games or just sample a small range of titles, after all.
Thirdly, the most popular ownership range is 21-50 games (18.5%), but a whopping 35%+ of public Steam accounts have >50 games in them. That’s a lot of player choice.
So far, so good. But how would this compare to consoles, like Xbox or PlayStation? Well, thanks to Tomek of GamingAnalytics.info, whom we’ve collaborated with on console data research, we can construct an anonymized cross-platform look:
So these curves look fairly different, don’t they? Some thoughts on that:
Xbox ecosystem’s curve takes a ‘middle ground’ - likely due to Game Pass’ influence over many years, you see 10.5% of players with 51-100 games in their library, for example, less than 15.1% (Steam), but more than 7.2% (PlayStation).
Steam has more players with a large amount of games owned: specifically, 22.7% of Steam players have >100 games, vs. 12% of Xbox players and just 3.3% of PlayStation players. (Why? Older profiles, inexpensive indie games & backloggery on Steam, and PlayStation Plus only adding Game Catalog back in March 2022.)
Console ecosystems are as/more prone to single-game accounts than Steam: some may create accounts just to play Fortnite, for example - which is part of the reason why almost 44% of PlayStation accounts own 5 or less games.
It’s also worth re-iterating: none of this data implies that each platform is doing anything ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. It just shows different approaches! Also: this isn’t necessarily a survey of active players, but ‘lifetime players’. So some may be churned.
Oh, and a bonus chart. Around 10% of the PlayStation players Tomek surveyed had a current PlayStation Plus subscription, and the difference in player behavior is obvious:
Sadly, we don’t have a way to look at similar Switch data, besides a player survey - which the State Of Switch survey actually did in 2022. (For their - very engaged - survey respondents, they had a median of 35 games owned, up from 20 games in 2021.)
So… do PC players ‘main’ one particular game?
The other half of the question, if you recall, was ‘Do PC players tend to play one particular game a lot?’ Our Data Fellow looked at this too, at least for Steam game catalogs, and the above chart is the result. Let’s talk you through it:
If you own <50 games on Steam, ~50% of your time was just playing one of them: remember, this data is lifetime. But for those owning 6-10 Steam games, 69% of their playtime - 346 hours, median - has been spent playing one title.
As number of games owned goes up, % of playtime on one title goes down: at the highest-end in the above graph - 201-500 games owned on Steam - just 13.9% of the player’s total lifetime gaming hours were devoted to one particular game.
Even so, ‘top game’ hours goes up with larger library, then plateaus: you can see that while total lifetime (likely over multiple years!) playtime for the top game jumps from 70 hours all the way up to >500 hours quickly, it tops out at around 900 hours, median lifetime. (Even for those with a giant Steam catalog.)
Our general conclusions from this? Why yes, people do have particular games they play lots more than the rest of their game catalog. (And remember, length of game doesn’t necessarily map to quality, and only somewhat to propensity to buy. We’re not saying ‘make giant games or bust’ here.)
Anyhow, now we know what this relationship looks like. To end, here’s an expanded PC data set, which also includes both a) (median) lifetime hours played & b) how much the median game is played on Steam, based on # of games owned:
The game discovery news round-up..
After that data disgorgement, let’s get on and look at the major game discovery and platform news since last week. You, after all, can’t be kept waiting:
Xbox’s leadership had a medium-sized reorg last week, “promoting Matt Booty to president of game content and studios, including the new responsibility of ZeniMax, and Sarah Bond to Xbox president, overseeing all Xbox platform and hardware work.” Congrats to both - and ZeniMax/Bethesda is now better integrated into Xbox, too.
If you, like I, were wondering what Rock Band/Dance Central dev Harmonix was doing for Fortnite after getting acquired by Epic in late 2021, this Unreal Fest talk, “New Devices for Making Music in UEFN & the Fortnite Creative Toolset”, should explain a lot. (It’s nascent, but pretty cool - h/t to Derek Strickland.)
PlayStation SVP Eric Lempel talked to Barron’s, and is bullish on PS5 this holiday because finally - finally - the hardware is there: “This is the first time we're in full supply, and we're thrilled about that.” Also, re: PSVR 2: “It's something that we want to be a part of, but it's not the core proposition we have this [holiday] season.”
Steam devs, here’s a reminder about the 2023 Steam Awards, which take place starting in the Autumn sale - with winners revealed during the Winter sale. What you have to do? “The Steam Award Nomination suggestion event special event type is now enabled… you can help encourage your customers to nominate your game in a specific category, which you can select under the ‘Options’ tab.”
PC gamers getting grumpy with ‘premium games + IAP’ is ‘a thing’. So, interesting to read this interview with the Inkbound devs, in which they explain why they rolled back in-game monetization, post-release: “We want the conversations about our games to focus on the gameplay, and not on monetization. As a team, we were starting to feel fatigued by the conversation. I’m looking forward to conversations about whether the game is good, and if its features are fun.” Current CCU trends are good.
More indication that Xbox Series X - even bundled - may drop to $449 for the U.S. Black Friday timing, with some retailers? Best Buy ‘member early access’ had a Diablo IV x Xbox bundle for $450, down from $560. (In the U.S., the console is $499 unbundled, although Series X prices just went up outside the U.S. in June.)
ICYMI, SteamVR 2.0, which had earlier been in public Beta, has now rolled out formally: “Most of the current features of Steam and Steam Deck are now part of SteamVR; Updated keyboard with support for dual-cursor typing, new languages, emojis, and themes; Integration of Steam Chat and Voice Chat; Improved Store that puts new and popular VR releases front and center.”
TikTok and Newzoo teamed up for research about the PC/console game market, and there’s some neat tidbits in there, summarized by GameDevReports, like spend per age group (above), and: “Projected revenue for the PC and console segments in 2023 - $95.2 billion… Worldwide, according to Newzoo's estimates, there are 892 million PC gamers and 629 million console players.”
Quest things: Meta saw $210 million in AR/VR revenue in the quarter before Quest 3 launched, down from $285 million last year, and Reality Labs lost $3.74 billion (!) for the quarter. (But Meta’s overall profit >doubled!) Also: Quest 3’s new hand tracking system, without rings, is bothering a few players, accuracy-wise.
Game-specific microlinks: Disney Dreamlight Valley decided it wouldn’t be free-to-play when leaving Early Access after all; looks like CI Games’ Lords Of The Fallen cost $42.2m to develop and $19.3m to market; ‘Meet the men hiding their FIFA Ultimate Team addiction from their families’.
Finally, the Japanese devs of Rose & Camelia, in which “a common-blooded member of the aristocratic Tsubakikoji family must fight your way through a familial struggle for wealth and power”, by uhh, slapping your rivals, have revealed a surprising unofficial peripheral for Switch. That’s right, it’s a ‘Joy-Con x brass knuckles’ add-on, so you can get a better grip for the ‘ladylike’ gameplay:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]