Update: Ars Technica has updated its story to indicate that "hours played," a crucial statistic in determining usership, was introduced in March, 2009. This changes the percentage of unplayed games significantly.

The new data suggests that approximately 26.5 percent of purchased games are unplayed (down from the originally reported 36.9 percent). Ars Technica will be updating the relevant data more extensively, at which time we will update as well.

Original Story:

It has become a common phenomenon: Steam sales happen throughout the year, prices go down, and people open their wallets. But how many of those games are completely ignored and, possibly, never even downloaded? Over one-third.

In an extensive investigative study (which will continue to be updated), Ars Technica has created a mechanism to cull publicly available data about Steam usership. The data was collected over a two-month period prior to this first report, with off-record confirmation of sales statistics used to refine and provide confidence in the methodology.

The technology involves a three-day sample for any point of study, which includes approximately 250,000 randomly selected Steam user profiles. Ars Technica’s methodology has a purported .33 percent margin of error and applies the same overall approach as political polling to extrapolate the data.

Among the data gathered, the study indicates that 36.9 percent of purchased games have never been played at all. Another 17 percent have been played for less than one hour (just enough time to load it up and, maybe, get through a tutorial). 

Ars Technica also shows that Valve’s free-to-play games, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2, dominate the ownership pool (these are downloaded instances of the free games). Approximately 25.9 million players have downloaded Dota 2, with Team Fortress 2 crossing the 20 million mark. In fact, the top 10 spots are filled with Valve games.

The Ars Technica report is extensive, and includes more detail about playing habits, purchases, and ownership. You can read the entire story here.

[Source: Ars Technica]


Our Take
Sales data is one of the most protected and coveted things in the gaming industry. Ars Technica’s work here reveals more about PC gaming habits on Steam (uPlay, Origin, GoG, and others aren’t included obviously), allowing us to get a better picture of the industry than we’ve ever had. Kudos are in order to the site and Kyle Orland for this.