July 2015 Steam Survey: modest hardware rules the world

— 11:25 AM on August 12, 2015

Steam's July 2015 hardware and software survey results are in, and they point to a a sharp divide between casual and more dedicated gamers, at least going by hardware specs alone.

Out of the gate, it's easy to notice a trend: half of the PCs surveyed have modest CPUs. 51% have either one or two physical cores, while quad-cores make up 45% of the lot. The CPU market share majority continues to belong to Intel, whose chips can be found in 75% of the surveyed systems—a figure that's remained pretty much unchanged over the past year and a half.

Looking at the GPU distribution further confirms the trend—20% of gamers are playing on Intel's integrated graphics, a number that's actually been rising since February 2014. Those gains appear to have come mostly at AMD's expense. The red team's cards are in 27% of participants' PCs. Predictably, a 53% majority is playing on Nvidia graphics hardware. These results aren't that unexpected, though: Intel's integrated GPUs have gotten pretty competent over the last few years, and the sheer number of independent and otherwise non-AAA titles tend to have much tamer system requirements. Also, Steam itself and many games on it are free, making it likely that more casual gamers will join in on the fun.

CPU and graphics horsepower aside, one troubling fact sticks out: though 35% of gamers play at good ol' 1920x1080, a whopping 62% are playing at resolutions under 1080p, with 42% using 1600x900 or lower. In fact, the most popular resolution after 1080p is the cheap-laptop-ish 1366x768.

Overall, there seems to be a clear divide between those with "gaming PCs" and those without. For instance, the most popular discrete graphics cards are Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 and 760, and AMD's HD 7900 series. None of those are anything to sneeze at. Even so, only 6% of all Steam gamers own a GTX 970, which is still rather impressive considering it's a card that that retails for well over $300. Then there are CPU speeds: only 16% of Intel CPUs in the survey are clocked over 3.3 GHz, and just 4% of AMD processors are over 3.7 GHz. It seems like the PC master race is alive and well, but we're all sharing a bigger, broader tent than one might expect.

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