Steam usage patterns reveal shameful number of unplayed games

Raise your hand if you have a ton of unplayed games in your Steam library. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably mired in a bog of sale and bundle acquisitions that you’d never be able to play in three or four lifetimes.

 

If that’s your fate, you are not alone.

Ars Technica has quantified a number of traits of the Steam gaming ecosystem using a new tool, the aptly named Steam Gauge. Their analysis mashes up a broad range of data, ferreting out obvious things like the most-owned and most-played games to some really nifty stuff, like crossing "owned" versus "played" numbers to reveal the extent of unplayed "freebie" games. There’s a chart detailing the games with the most hours put into them, which brings up a lot of strategy titles one might not have guessed were so popular. For those games that offer both single- and multi-player components, they compare the time spent in each mode. The icing on the cake? Median number of hours per user and game, just so you can compare your own shame to everyone else’s.

 

Let’s say that I don’t fare all that well, especially when it comes to the sheer number of hours sunk into Civilization V while a host of other games in my library remain virtually untouched.

 

Ars’ collected data also reveals approximate sales figures for many titles. Somewhat against what I’d expect, even in indie-friendly and greenlit Steam land, the lion’s share of the market goes to the big hitters.

 

This analysis draws from publicly-available data, but not just from Steam’s stats page. Oh, no. The authors took it upon themselves to scrape data programmatically from a sample portion of the Steam Community’s user profiles. Those profiles are public by default and include data about the games played and hours spent in them. In true geek fashion, they went at it with an Amazon EC2 instance and some scripting and database work.

 

Some spoilers: 37% of owned games are never played, lending credence to the idea that we buy far more bundles than we need. DotA 2‘s player base really is as massive as you’ve been led to believe, and Team Fortress 2 is still huge after seven years and the transition to a free-to-play model. I won’t spoil the rest, but the whole article is worth reading.

Comments closed
    • burntham77
    • 5 years ago

    I blame Skyrim. 300+ hours and I think I might make it to 400 hours.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 5 years ago

    Only 26% unplayed since 2009, there was an oversight in their methodology.

    [url<]http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/04/steam-gauge-addressing-your-questions-and-concerns/[/url<]

    • shaurz
    • 5 years ago

    Steam have mastered the art of selling games nobody wants. The trick is to reduce them to throwaway prices in hyped sales events.

    • puppetworx
    • 5 years ago

    I seem to be in the minority as I have around 40 games and have played almost every game that I bought to (main storyline) completion. The two games that I haven’t completed (and have no intention of playing again) are Dead Space (24min) and Just Cause 2 (22min), both came from bundles. The only game I haven’t played is Dota 2 which is a F2P that just showed up in my account one day.

      • jessterman21
      • 5 years ago

      Same here – I’m very aware of the games I haven’t finished, and so I carefully consider even the $5-10 game purchases now… Also, joint bank account with my wife.

    • quarantined
    • 5 years ago

    I realized last year how badly my backlog of unplayed games had become overgrown and I have since curbed my impulse buying on Steam sales way back.

    Like this midweek madness sale has Saints Row IV for 13.59. A year ago I may have been like what they hey, but now I stop myself remembering how badly I got burned by SR3 and tell myself IV is gonna have to be under a fiver before I’ll look twice at the gee darn thing.

    Really, it seems like we’re on the verge of an oversaturated market. There is just no way I, or most others with an overgrown library, will ever have enough time to play all of these games. I’d guess that more and more people are going to start realizing that and put the brakes on impulse buying. As much as I love variety and a huge selection, I get the feeling both inde and AAA devs will start thinning out before long. I wouldn’t think another crash like that of the early 1980s would happen again, but still, it feels like something’s gotta give.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 5 years ago

    I think i have around 250+ games. Most are all from Steam sales and bundles. “Oh I can get all of Rockstar’s games for $45 dollars?”

    suuure…

    I’ll play them one day for sure

    suuuure

    heh.

      • sjl
      • 5 years ago

      In my case, there were a few games that I wanted, and it was at the time of the summer (I think) sale; it was cheaper for me to buy them in a bundle that included a bunch of games I wasn’t really interested in than to buy them individually.

      So I have Battlestations: Midway; Battlestations: Pacific; a bunch of games in the Hitman series; and a few other Eidos games, simply because I wanted the Deus Ex series, Thief 3, and a couple of other minor titles.

      Some of them, I do want to play at some point, but a lot of them, to me, are “meh” – and, frankly, I’m finding I have very little time these days for gaming. I got my money’s worth out of the bundle, so the “unplayed” games don’t bother me in the slightest.

    • Wall Street
    • 5 years ago

    It is worth keeping in mind that Steam didn’t track this data before 2009. So some of the games which were never played are truely never played, but some have been played but haven’t been played/installed since 2009. I know I have quite a few games not installed since then. Also, some of the games are free with other purchases or are part of a bundle. For example Half-Life 2: Lost Coast was automatically added to some Steam accounts but is a tech demo, I have this but never installed it.

    • albundy
    • 5 years ago

    luckily, many lives dont revolve around steam.

    • sweatshopking
    • 5 years ago

    BRUNO?!

    • UnfriendlyFire
    • 5 years ago

    And then Steam summer sales is going to ensure that some people will sit on unused games.

    • Bensam123
    • 5 years ago

    Cool… Civ 5 and Skyrim are expectedly up there. Unfortunately there are a lot of top tier games that aren’t on Steam because they’re limited to other services… like WoW. I’d love to see stats for WoW.

    Go figure ‘Me toos’ don’t do well. It’s those rare game changers that mix everything up and reshape game culture.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 5 years ago

    *raises hand*

    • slowriot
    • 5 years ago

    None of this surprises me. What does annoy me are the people who continue to “blame” bundles and sales about their vast unplayed library of games. How about you blame yourself bud, you’re the one who wasted money on something you’ll never even open.

    Basically, Steam shows you how little self control people have over their impulse purchases. Kinda depressing.

    Steam account since October 2003 with a total of 72 games.

      • NovusBogus
      • 5 years ago

      Oftentimes what happens (as in my case) is that the bundle has one or two things you want and do play plus a bunch of other stuff for the same or lower price. Case in point, when I bought XCOM:EU for ten bucks it came with all the oldschool XCOM games which I haven’t touched and have no particular desire to.

        • lilbuddhaman
        • 5 years ago

        Shoulda loaded up the originals and ignored the new one, noob.

          • odizzido
          • 5 years ago

          Yeah the new one was too dumbed down to be more than okayish. The only thing it had going for it was difficulty, but a lot of that was artificial anyways so I won’t be playing it again. The presentation/music was very good though. Oh, and the controls were just awful. They must have just not given a shit about the PC version to release it was such awful controls.

          If you want a x-com style game with far more depth I would suggest checking out UFO:AfterShock. It is pretty much the opposite to the new x-com…..no polish and bad presentation, but a lot of depth and a far better game.

        • Parallax
        • 5 years ago

        Steam needs a remove option to help with this, even if it’s just to remove games from the main list to reduce clutter.

      • Arvald
      • 5 years ago

      Wasted money? On a Humble Bundle? Or another bundle that saves you a ton of money for a game you’ve been waiting for a good price?

      I’ve bought entire bundles for $4 for one game and got 10 games. how is that a waste unless you care more about the length of your Steam list.

      • cobalt
      • 5 years ago

      I don’t know; I generally have good impulse control, but sales aren’t just good prices in relative terms, they’re good prices in absolute terms, so even if you partake in many sales, it’s not that much money when you add it up. I think I counted up the prices in my sizable Steam collection, an embarrassingly tiny fraction of which I’ve played, and it’s only a couple hundred bucks over multiple years. That’s the equivalent of about 4 full-priced AAA titles.

    • paulWTAMU
    • 5 years ago

    I’m not alone! YAAAAY.

    Seriously, I haven’t bought a game since Dishonored because I realize that I’ve got more games than I could play given the rest of my life to do it in.

    • WillBach
    • 5 years ago

    I was devastated when I missed buying a bundle during the last Steam sale. My computer was down and I raced against the clock to get it up and running. I booted up with only minutes to spare to find out that I had already missed the deadline due to the timezone I was living in. Putting my hurt aside I decided to buy the bundle anyway – they were all games that I wanted after all. The pop up told me that I already owned [i<]every[/i<] title and asked if I would like to gift the keys to a friend.

    • south side sammy
    • 5 years ago

    the only games I have on steam are the ones that require steam to play them. I don’t play any and rarely if ever log on to my steam account. currently steam isn’t and hasn’t been installed on any of my machines and I don’t play games or buy games anymore that require an internet connection to play…….. rather have my freedom.

      • PrincipalSkinner
      • 5 years ago

      And you got downvoted for expressing your opinion.

        • slowriot
        • 5 years ago

        I think it’s the ridiculous “rather have my freedom” line that gets the down votes.

          • NovusBogus
          • 5 years ago

          Yup, it’s totally ridiculous that someone might want to not have access to their entertainment dictated by some guy in the Pacific Northwest.

          I have a strict “rental for rental” policy when it comes to Steam, meaning I’ll get games but only if they’re under 15 bucks and not available by other means. I know I’ll lose them at some point in the future so I’ll never be as attached as something I can install and run directly, but the price is reasonable for a long-term rental and I’m not convinced that wearing a pirate hat is an effective protest against digital colonialism.

            • slowriot
            • 5 years ago

            I understand the decision to not purchase games via Steam or other services that operate similarly (Origin, Battle.net, etc.). But this has zero to do with freedom or even freedom specifically related to entertainment. The fact that you can choose not to use Steam is you exercising your freedom.

            Using Steam is not removing freedom, it’s making the choice that you’re satisfied enough with their terms of service to license access to games. The terms are not that draconian though. Not all games sold via Steam require you to be connected to Steam for use. You’d be surprised how many run happily launched from their executable.

            The lose of choice is not the same as losing freedom. When you want to buy a good that exists because of a larger market demand (games) then you’re ultimately tied to the decisions the market makes a whole. People find services like Steam beneficial, and to a degree they’re fine paying the “cost” that comes with the terms of service. You simply don’t like that trend or the fact you’re beholden to the greater market. But you’ve lost no freedom.

    • Chrispy_
    • 5 years ago

    Maybe if the long-winded AAA games weren’t artificially padded out to meet the publisher’s [i<]"must have x hours of gameplay"[/i<] checkboxes, games would be entertaining enough to actually play through in one or two sittings.

    • claymonkey
    • 5 years ago

    The metrics since they started recording them work. However I KNOW for a fact that I’ve beaten many games, through Steam, that show that I never played them. I bought them years ago. HL2 is a good example.

    • Arvald
    • 5 years ago

    Now if they could account for games that were purchased as an individual game and ones that came in humble bundles (or other bundles) then statistics may skew a little…

    • DancinJack
    • 5 years ago

    Bruno posting on the front page. A rare occasion!

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      That means he’s been stranded, everyone else got to go somewhere fun and he had to stay home in…Portugal? I think?

      • morphine
      • 5 years ago

      Why thank you.

    • bthylafh
    • 5 years ago

    I have a ton of games bought during older sales or as part of Humble Bundles that I’ve never played. For example, I bought Civ IV probably four years ago now and have never started it up… but it was a really good sale and maybe someday I will, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

      • Pbryanw
      • 5 years ago

      Go on – play it! It’s a brilliant game, though be prepared to say goodbye to your free-time.

        • bthylafh
        • 5 years ago

        I’ve got Civ V (also from a good sale), which I’ve played once; I get the impression that I’ll like V better than IV mainly because I’m not a very good Civ player and V has been simplified.

          • Pbryanw
          • 5 years ago

          Yes, Civ V is more streamlined and you can have quicker games, but IV feels more like traditional Civilization with its square grid, slower pace and stacks o’ doom (plus the bonus of Leonard Nimoy on voiceover duties).

          You can think of Civ V as not a sequel in the traditional sense, but an offshoot of previous games, where Firaxis have tried some new ideas and made it more accessible to newcomers. Just remember to play it with the Brave New World expansion for the best experience.

          I first played Civilization on the Amiga back in 91-92, so I’ve kind-of grown up with it. I think if this is your first time, then perseverance is the key, as well as starting on an easy difficulty setting to learn the ropes. If you can learn to love it, then it will be one of the most engrossing strategy games you’ll play on your PC, and can only get better with the Beyond Earth game to come.

    • indeego
    • 5 years ago

    [url<]http://promotions.newegg.com/premier/14-0730/trial/index.html[/url<]

    • indeego
    • 5 years ago

    [url<]http://promotions.newegg.com/premier/14-0730/trial/index.html[/url<]

      • nanoflower
      • 5 years ago

      That’s exactly where most of my games have come from. As with you I’m usually interested in just one game in the bundle (other than the Origin and THQ bundles) so that one game may be played but the others are either never played or just played for a few minutes so I get a taste of what they are like.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 5 years ago

    I have a bunch of games to get around to playing but also have a GREAT rationale for buying them–they are all a legacy for my 11-year-old son, who as he gets older will have a vast library of games to explore. I actually have to reinstall Steam on his machine today as it won’t connect so he can download and try FTL as a break from Spore and Minecraft.

    My cunning plan is beginning to succeed…muhahahahahahahaha!

    • Parallax
    • 5 years ago

    I’m suspicious of some of their numbers considering that one of my games sits at 300+ hours of usage, despite only actually having played it for around 40 (being serious here).

    Also, I’d take part in the hardware survey if they didn’t also insist on reporting back every bit of software on the machine as well.

      • bthylafh
      • 5 years ago

      Grand Theft Auto 4 did that to me. It shows 100+ hours when I probably put 5 hours into it max. I suspect that had to do with the social service it pushed you to use that must have been running in the background.

      ++ on the software gripe. That’s just too invasive.

      • indeego
      • 5 years ago
        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        60-70% of the time means you were playing Puzzle Quest 15+ hours a day, if it was open 24/7.

          • indeego
          • 5 years ago
      • ermo
      • 5 years ago

      [quote<]"Also, I'd take part in the hardware survey if they didn't also insist on reporting back every bit of software on the machine as well.[/quote<] I'm genuinely curious: Why do you feel that Steam knowing that you have a web-browser, an office suite, an image editor, a text-editor, a video player, a music player etc. etc. etc. installed (just like most other normal people using a computer with Steam on it) is a really big deal? Don't you think that the people analyzing your Steam account can already infer more about you from your choice of games than the fact that you have common tools installed? But sure, maybe Steam ought to limit itself to VS and DX runtime detection (for game compatibility) along with OS version and driver versions.

        • Parallax
        • 5 years ago

        I can’t find an example to show, but IIRC it looks at EVERYTHING installed on the system, including security updates. That’s bad for 2 reasons:

        1. I do not want to divulge information that would be useful to a hacker in the event that this information gets out. This information will also collectively be unique and thus by definition is a personal identifier.

        2. I have prototype and proprietary programs installed on the machine for testing, and knowledge of those cannot leave the computer.

          • Applecrusher
          • 5 years ago

          You have prototype programs that cannot be known about running on your gaming machine..

            • Parallax
            • 5 years ago

            Yes, I use the machine as an additional testbed for installation because it has far better hardware than any of the other test systems. This is not overly-sensitive stuff, but I’d consider it good form to not blatantly advertise it to 3rd parties.

            All I really want is to let steam know about the hardware, and just the hardware.

        • cobalt
        • 5 years ago

        I’m personally just not all that comfortable with a full software inventory of my machine.

        First, why the heck do they need to know that I have Audacity and Photoshop installed? It’s completely irrelevant, and they shouldn’t be asking.

        Second of all, what if I’ve got an old educational version of some program and I’m no longer a student, or I’ve got an emulator and some ROMs, or some other grey area where the legality might change over time? (Or worse?) I may have nothing to hide personally, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable that they’re snooping around for it.

        Third, my collection of software is far more personally identifying than my collection of hardware, because I’ve only got maybe a dozen items of hardware, while I’ve probably got hundreds of items of software.

      • slowriot
      • 5 years ago

      Most likely your game did not exit properly and the process remained hung in the background. Even if the window exists fully a process could be stuck. Steam is looking for the process and if for instance you didn’t notice Steam still detecting your game and walked away without killing the process you could accumulate hours of “game time.”

      GTA IV in particular did this often to me, it rarely closed right. I’ve seen it happen to many Steam friends as well and many games.

    • Alexko
    • 5 years ago

    I have 49 games in my library. I’ve played 8 of them.

      • Longsdivision
      • 5 years ago

      Is this due to lack of time or no interest?

        • Alexko
        • 5 years ago

        A little bit of both. Some of those games are in my library because they were included in bundles and I don’t really have much interest in them. Others, I definitely intend to play, at some point. I’ll probably play 60~80% of them, eventually.

    • Spittie
    • 5 years ago

    I barely play games, and thanks to the various bundle I have 140+ games in my steam account ._.
    Really, I’ll I’ve played lately is Super Meat Boy, Super Hexagon (I’ll conquer you Hyper Hexagonest, I swear) and Faster Than Light.

    • LostCat
    • 5 years ago

    I finally played Civ 5 and deleted it.

      • Forge
      • 5 years ago

      There’s no accounting for taste.

        • LostCat
        • 5 years ago

        Indeed! 🙂

      • UnfriendlyFire
      • 5 years ago

      Can I have Civ 5? Never played it, and it seems quite interesting.

      • odizzido
      • 5 years ago

      yeah I found civ5 to be too basic to enjoy. I still play realism ivictus for civ4.

        • jarom_antes
        • 5 years ago

        Agreed, Realism Invictus for civ4 is the pinnacle of civilization games.

    • Billstevens
    • 5 years ago

    Its not even always bundles. Many sequel titles get packaged with the original series of games in case you never got a chance to play those. The Half Life 2 package was like this and the Unreal Tourney 3 package. You never know when you may need a legit copy of an old game at a lan party 🙂

      • cobalt
      • 5 years ago

      Or, a sale price you just couldn’t pass up. I’ve got a pile of even some massive AAA’s I bought by themselves and haven’t installed, let alone played. (Not like I’m playing much else, but I do find it more feasible to tackle the occasional indie in my precious free time.)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This