The holiday season means getting some time off for workers and students, which usually involves relaxing activities, such as gaming. So, early January seems like a good time of year for Steam player counts, and as it turns out, Steam just broke its concurrent user record. Again.
According to Polygon, the digital distribution service set an all-time record for most concurrent users: over 27.9 million concurrent users, all logged in at approx. 7 am EST on Sunday. That number surpasses the previous record of 26.9 million users set during the week of March 29, 2021. It’s worth pointing out that these numbers represent concurrent users logged in to the platform, and the actual number of gamers playing video games was significantly smaller, sitting at about 8.2 million. Even that number eclipses the previously recorded in-game record of 8.1 million set a couple of weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared and lockdowns came into effect.
The all-user figures for the same global pandemic week in 2020 were also a record back then, which was beaten in March the following year. The scan of Steam’s user chart shows record-setting all-user spikes around the New Year holidays. For example, January 2021 saw more than 25 million people playing, which was also a concurrent user record at the time, while almost 19 million concurrent users were logged in for the same week one year prior.
The largest proportion of those playing games on Steam were actually playing Counter-Strike despite all the possible options available in Steam’s digital store, and the number of players shooting digital terrorists peaked at over 824,000. 2013’s Dota 2 came in second, at more than 748,000 players, while PUBG: Battlegrounds came in a distant third, at more than 336,000 concurrent players. The biggest launch in 2021 in the top ten was the MMO New World, in seventh place, with 117,504 users playing the game at one point.
This isn’t all that surprising, actually, considering that Steam held its annual holiday sale, selling prominent gaming titles at a discount of up to 90%, including some AAA titles, like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. However, with workdays lurking right around the corner, those numbers are expected to plummet, considering that workers and students must get back to their respective duties. It’s sad when gaming sessions suffer due to work and study schedules, but as every gamer knows — life beckons. But Steam might have another ace up its sleeve, one that could help them extend this all-users peak, and that’s the release of Steam Deck — Steam’s new handheld PC gaming console whose release has been pushed back to February 2022.
One could argue that it’s a strategic move that would boost Steam’s numbers and establish it as a dominant gaming service, but it’s a bit too late for that anyway. Steam Deck’s delay is actually a result of the continued component shortages caused by the disruption in the semiconductor supply chain. It would seem that Nintendo Switch is set to dominate the gaming market this year as well.