Steam Stats and What They Tell Us About Video Game Popularity

March 22, 2023 • Shannon Flynn


For many years, Steam reigned supreme as the de facto storefront and games launcher for the PC gaming community. Today, there’s rising competition from the Epic Games Store, EA Origin, GOG (Good Old Games), and distribution channels on other platforms, like Xbox Game Pass.

Steam is an online game store and desktop app that uses the digital distribution model. If it’s a game, and it’s published for Windows or macOS, it’s almost a certainty it’ll appear in the Steam store sooner rather than later.

Despite new sources of competition and a worry about consumers lacking disposable income after the pandemic, Steam is still the dominant platform of its kind. We know this because Valve publishes real-time Steam stats to help us understand how many people are using the service and what they’re using it for.

Let’s look at some of those Steam stats and what they reveal about the state of the video game industry.

What Kind of Steam Stats Does Valve Publish?

In September 2022, Valve brought some useful changes to its Steam stats page. It’s now called Steam Charts, and it includes a variety of historical and real-time data of interest to any gamer who uses Steam as their primary game store and launcher.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting Steam stats published by Valve.

How Many Video Game Players Use Steam?

There’s nothing video gamers enjoy more than a good competition.

Steam hasn’t had any credible competitors since its creation that do exactly what it does, the way it does it. Gamers praise Steam’s convenience and the fact that major holidays see the Steam store hosting major sales and deep discounts from indie and well-known publishers alike. If you want to play AAA video games for (sometimes) pennies on the dollar, PC gaming plus Steam is where you want to be.

That said, the Epic Games Store is nipping at Valve’s heels. In May 2019, Steam had over 1 billion unique accounts. In February 2022, Epic claimed to have 500 million unique accounts. Steam boasted 120 million users per month in 2021 compared to Epic’s 56 million.

The gap is wide but potentially closing fast, depending on how many developers and publishers Epic manages to coax into distributing games on its platform.

How Many Peak Online Players Use Steam?

The Steam Charts page reveals two key pieces of data about historical and real-time player counts. As of late October 2022, here’s how many people were using Steam:

  • Players Online Now: 24,788,726
  • Peak Online Players: 26,142,055

What Are the Top-Selling Games on Steam?

At any given time, Valve publishes a list of the top 100 best-selling games on the Steam platform. This roundup is subject to change, obviously, but as of the time of this writing, it featured many usual suspects known to gamers far and wide:

  1. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II”
  2. “Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection”
  3. “Gotham Knights”
  4. “Destiny 2”
  5. “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (“CSGO”)
  6. “Lost Ark”
  7. “Apex Legends”
  8. “The Sims 4”
  9. “Red Dead Redemption 2”
  10. “Dead by Daylight”

Valve has confirmed that this ranking is based on sales revenue — including purchases of the base game, expansions, and any in-game micro-transactions. The platform also tracks raw player numbers in real-time to see which games are truly more popular in terms of time logged.

What Are the Most-Played Games on Steam?

As of this writing, these were the 10 most-played games on the Steam platform in terms of players actively logging time:

  1. “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (“CSGO”)
  2. “Defense of the Ancients 2” (“DOTA 2”)
  3. “PUBG: Battlegrounds”
  4. “Apex Legends”
  5. “Lost Ark”
  6. “Grand Theft Auto V”
  7. “Naraka: Bladepoint”
  8. “Team Fortress 2”
  9. “The Sims 4”
  10. “Rust”

Both of these lists reveal plenty about gamers’ habits. In terms of both player numbers and revenue over time, it’s easy to see which game series spend years in the limelight and are slow to fall out of favor. “Call of Duty” and “Apex Legends” have been fixtures in these roundups for a while now.

Other games come and go from these lists, like new releases such as the “Uncharted” anthology collection and “Gotham Knights.”

Other cohorts seeing representation are the intensely competitive set forever doing battle in “Destiny 2, “Dead by Daylight,” and “DOTA 2,” plus casual gamers, who log countless hours in perennial favorites like the highly accessible “Sims 4.”

Where Else Can I Find Steam Stats?

The Steam stats published by Valve themselves are the most dependable source of information about revenue and active players. That said, other websites provide up-to-date information about what’s happening on Steam. Here are some of them:

  • SteamSpy.com publishes lists of trending games, recently published games, and top games by playing time. The trending list provides an interesting counterpoint to some of the other lists because it especially highlights new releases.
  • SteamPlayerCount.com publishes a ranking of the most-played games in real-time, which appears to mirror Valve’s own figures. SteamPlayerCount also includes a seven-day peak player count for each entry.
  • SteamCharts.com is another Steam stats project not affiliated with Valve, although the publisher says all the data comes right from Steam. The website lists trending games with current player numbers as well as the most-played games by active players.

Steam Stats Tell Us What Gamers Value

You can learn a lot about the state of gaming by studying Steam stats. It seems like no matter how much time passes, you can count on certain franchises maintaining their popularity. “Call of Duty,” “CSGO,” and “Apex Legends” have practically become institutions, and their placements in year-end lists and most-played games roundups drive that home.

Digging into some of the details — like weekly changes in rank — can show us which games are gaining traction, which ones have become meme-worthy, and which ones are worth watching as they explode in popularity.

It’s also going to be interesting to see how this list changes as Valve’s Steam Deck continues to disrupt the gaming industry. Not all Steam best-sellers are playable on Valve’s new hardware, but that could change rapidly as developers take this and other new consumer technologies into account.

Ultimately, everybody games differently and has different tastes. Looking into these Steam stats is a great reminder of how varied and yet closely knit the gaming community has become.