The uninitiated may not realize that Valve's ridiculously-successful content delivery platform Steam collects data about their hardware every month. Put down your pitchforks, privacy nuts—it's all anonymous. The company publishes the data, too, which occasionally makes for interesting reading. February's numbers are out now, and it's been a while since we last looked at them. Let's take a peek.
For the most part, the survey's 173rd verse is the same as its predecessors. Steam users mostly still have Intel CPUs, Nvidia GPUs, and 8 GB of RAM. However, almost every category-topping result saw a negative change this month, meaning that trends could be shifting. Plus, even though nearly every category barely moved this month, it's pretty interesting to compare to last year's numbers.
Most notably, in the last year, Steam has enjoyed a massive influx of Chinese-speaking users. According to the most recent survey, some 64% of Steam users are now using Simplified Chinese as their display language. That number dwarfs the share the second-largest cohort, English-speaking players, at 17.6%.
Until relatively recently, PC gaming was the only type of video gaming going on in China because the country's government had issued a ban on all foreign game consoles. That ban was lifted in 2015, though, so the the Asian Steam invasion isn't fully explained through this data alone. Part of the influx of Chinese users almost certainly has to do with the release of the mega-hit PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds in that region. Steam could also be an easy way to acquire games that are otherwise unavailable in China, as many titles on the service likely haven't been formally approved by the government.
In any case, the massive influx of gamers from the Sino-Asian sub-continent has shifted the results in a couple notable ways. In June of last year, half of Steam's users were on Windows 10 64-bit. Today that number sits at around 25%, and some 68.5% of Steam users are now on Windows 7 64-bit. Last year, around half of Steam users were using monitors with a resolution of 1920×1080. That number has now increased to over 76%. The percentage of users using Full-HD monitors dropped slightly from last month, but it looks like most of the gains went to the 1366×768 displays that make up the next-largest fraction of Steam users, at 8.2%. Less than 5% of Steam users have 2560×1440 or higher-resolution displays.
Intel still holds the CPU crown with almost 91% of Steam users. However, AMD is gaining ground—albeit slowly. The scrappy underdog gained a whole percentage point of Steam share last month, putting it a bit over 9%. AMD also gained a little ground in graphics cards, although Radeons' sub-one-percent gain was really just a recovery from a loss in January. The red team sits at 8.9% of the Steam graphics card market, while green giant Nvidia holds over 85%. Most of the rest goes to Intel, although there's a tiny fraction (0.16%) of "other" graphics chips in there.
Over in VR land, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are making their way into the survey. Those visors comprise a bit more than 5% of the surveyed market. The HTC Vive was formerly the champion among Steam users, but it's taken second place behind the Oculus Rift in recent months. The two headsets still vie quite closely for supremacy: the HTC Vive has 45% of the SteamVR market share, while the Rift has 47%. Of course, less than a third of a percent of Steam users have any VR headset at all.