Valve's Steam Storefront Saw Big Gains in 2020

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 14:00 | By: Robert N. Adams
Demos and VR Saw Big Gains in 2020

The Steam digital distribution platform has been around for well over a decade and it's just closed out a phenomenal 2020. Valve broke all sorts of records and today's "Year in Review' post reveals some surprising facts about PC gaming.

Every year, Valve releases a summary of what was going on with Steam throughout the previous year. 2020 was very different for the digital retail space due to the ongoing pandemic and that has created challenges for developers, publishers, and the infrastructure that supports them. Now, we have some firm numbers to give us an idea of what was going on behind the scenes.

Steam Year in Review 2020 Festivals

Sales, Events, and Demos

Naturally, a platform like Steam is concerned with the number of users it has and their activity on the platform. 2020 showed strong growth on all fronts — an unsurprising fact considering how many people were stuck at home without much else to do.

 
 

Here are some of the big stats:

  • 120 million monthly active players
  • 62.6 million daily active players
  • 24.8 million peak concurrent players
  • 2.6 million new purchases per month
  • 21.4% more games purchased compared to 2019
  • 50.7% more hours played compared to 2019

Growth on the platform has been pretty darn good. Critically, Valve has yet to have a full launch for the official Chinese version of Steam, although a number of customers in that country make use of it anyway.

One of the more surprising reveals was an increase in the popularity of demos. Many game developers eschew demos for one reason or another, but the Steam Game Festivals throughout 2020 showed a surprising level of adoption.

  • Spring Game Festival – 0.6 million demo activations
  • Summer Game Festival –3.1 million demo activations
  • Fall Game Festival – 5.1 million demo activations

Thus far, PC gamers got to participate in a Game Festival roughly every three months. We may very well see a Winter Game Festival in the next few weeks, although Valve has yet to make any official announcement.

Steam Year in Review 2020 VR

Steam VR and Valve Index Show Strong Growth

VR was another area that showed healthy growth on Steam throughout 2020. Valve's dedicated VR headset started taking pre-orders in May 2019. 2020, however, was an entirely different beast.

 

The release of Half-Life: Alyx resulted in a spike of popularity for the headset and quite a few people rushed to get them in March of last year. That was the last chance for many people to get one of these headsets, too — the pandemic resulted in a lot of delays and sales shortages throughout the year and the Valve Index was definitely one of the affected products.

Whether they used a Valve Index or another headset, Steam saw 1.7 million first-time SteamVR users on the platform. This contributed towards 71% more VR revenue in total and an increase in overall game sales of 32% compared to the previous year — and that latter number doesn't even factor in the phenomenal success of Half-Life: Alyx.

Steam Year in Review 2020 Data

Big Data

One of the biggest challenges Steam faced throughout 2020 was getting its games to customers. The strain on worldwide networks was bad enough that Valve adjusted how it updates its games to reduce overall load. Now, we know just how much data Valve moved throughout last year.

 

A total of 25.2 exabytes was delivered to customers throughout the last year — that's 26,424,115 TB (or 27,058,293,965 GB) of data. Essentially, Valve had to deliver 40% more data than it did in the previous year.

These are just some of the more interesting highlights of what's been going on with Valve's digital distribution platform throughout the previous year; you can read the full Steam 2020 Year in Review blog post for all the details. You can join a growing community of PC gamers by downloading the Steam client for free on PC and Mac.

Do you think Valve did a good job dealing with the challenges of the pandemic throughout 2020? When do you think VR will truly go mainstream? Let us know in the comments below!


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A photograph of Robert N Adams
Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!