Over a third of all games bought on Steam aren’t played at all

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Did you know that 36% of all Steam games purchased haven’t been played? Not even once? Well, that’s exactly what Ars Technica’s research into Steam’s publicly-available data revealed in a report published on the site yesterday.

Over a period of two months, Ars Technica scraped publicly-available data from Steam using their own server, and then applied a clever algorithm to it that turned that tiny sample into useable – and accurate – info. Their methodology was similar to that used to predict election results from surveys conducted on a small number of people, and their findings often correlated with a publisher’s announcement that game X had some Y million copies so they’re pretty confident of their results.

The report also covers which games are owned by the most people, which are hardly played and how long on average people have spent playing each. Surprisingly, over half of all games bought through Steam have been played for less than an hour, so clearly I’m not the only one with a backlog to work through.

It makes for some pretty interesting reading, if you’re into that sort of thing. It should come as no surprise that the majority of the top 20 most-owned games are made by Valve, since Steam is Valve’s platform, after all. The only three non-Valve games on the top 20 are Skyrim, Civilization V and Garry’s Mod.

DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2 clock in with the most hours played overall, with both Counterstrikes (vanilla and Source) and Civilization V following not-so-closely behind. I was surprised to see that Civ V has been played for longer than Skyrim, which is my most-played Steam game at just below 260 hours.

Some older games don’t feature nearly as much as they should in terms of time played, though, as Valve only started tracking game time in 2009 when games like Half-Life 2, Left for Dead and Portal weren’t quite as exciting to gamers as they were when they first came out.

If you’d like to read the entire report, grab some coffee, strap your thinking cap on and head over to Ars Technica now.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.