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Secrets of Steam: Data cruncher reveals most popular games

Based on months-long daily scrape of publicly viewable user Steam user IDs, gaming editor Kyle Orland has developed what he calls the “Steam Gauge,” and it is a much richer picture of what goes on inside Steam than owner-operator Valve Interactive has ever offered.

Ars Technica

Some truly impressive data-hacking by the technology site Ars Technica is offering new estimates about what people are playing on the super-popular PC gaming platform Steam.

Based on months-long daily scrape of publicly viewable user Steam user IDs, gaming editor Kyle Orland has developed what he calls the "Steam Gauge," and it is a much richer picture of what goes on inside Steam than owner-operator Valve Interactive has ever offered.

Here are some of the key takeaways, but it's worth reading the whole thing if you play on Steam, or just like data journalism.

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  • A huge chunk of games downloaded on Steam have never been played
  • The most-owned games on Steam were made by Valve (yes, that includes free-to-play monsters like Dota 2, so it skews the numbers a little)
  • The most-played games (since 2009) are a more mixed bag, with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Football Manager 2014 in the lead (the latter is a clearly addictive simulation where you manage your own soccer club).

Seriously, read the whole thing. It's great.

Note that Mr. Orland's methodology has come under fire for randomly sampling a very small percentage of the total user base. A second article lays out methods in even more detail, and I was persuaded that this is at the very least a good reference point for how to think about Steam. Also, here's the Steam Gauge top 100 most-played games.

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About the Author
Technology reporter

Shane Dingman is The Globe and Mail's technology reporter. He covers BlackBerry, Shopify and rising Canadian tech companies in Waterloo, Ont., Toronto and beyond. More

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