Steam names the best-selling games of 2018

Boy, the folks in charge of Steam sure do love their data, don't they? They're not alone in that regard, but unlike certain other organizations we'll refrain from naming, Steam shares its data with the rest of the world. The digital content delivery platform just announced its "Best of 2018" results, and the information is enlightening. Let's take a peek.

Before we get started, I want to make it clear to anyone confused that these lists are not related to The Steam Awards. Those community-picked awards are still open for voting through January 3, and the winners will be announced in February. No, these lists—one each for Top Sellers, Top New Releases, Top Played, Top Early Access Graduates, and of course Top VR Titles—are based on sales revenue or player count, not community favor.

The 12 top-selling Steam games in 2018. Note that the order within a category is random.

The most interesting of the bunch is probably the "Top Sellers" list. It's broken down into Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories and lists the top 100 revenue generators on Steam in 2018. Many of the titles in the top three tiers of this list (comprising the top 40 money-making games on Steam in 2018) are older titles. Only three games out of the top 12—Far Cry 5, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, and personal favorite Monster Hunter: World—came out in 2018.

The situation doesn't change much as we move down the list, with older games like The Witcher 3 and Cities: Skylines filling in the roster alongside newer titles like Kingdom Come: Deliverance. For the most part, this trend can be explained by noting that the majority of the top games are titles like Warframe and CS:GO that have been continually supported with major content updates. Certain other titles on the list have transitioned into being "living games" after a major retail release, like GTA V, which persists primarily on the strength of its surprisingly rich online mode.

September was arguably the most "interesting" month in 2018 for new releases.

The fact that the "Top Sellers" list is propagated primarily by older titles might explain the existence of the "Top New Releases" list. Alternatively, Valve may have simply wanted to highlight some smaller titles with this category. That would make sense given that the list, which names the 150 most profitable games released in 2018, is sorted by month rather than by revenue.

There are some real surprises in this list. As Valve itself noted, the distribution of the 150 games among the months is pretty uneven. Twenty-two games from February and 18 from August make the cut, while July put up only six releases, and April just five. Also notable is that a huge portion of the month-to-month top sellers in 2018 were indie games. Smaller, arguably niche titles like Dungreed, Cultist Simulator, and Lethal League Blaze appear alongside much larger releases like Final Fantasy XV and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

The 10 Steam games that had over 100,000 simultaneous players in 2018.

The "Top Played" list includes every game that had over 15,000 simultaneous players in 2018, and the list is longer than you might think. It's split into groupings of games with over 15,000, 25,000, 50,000, and 100,000 concurrent players. The trend of PC gamers preferring old favorites continues here, where only one of the games (Monster Hunter: World) was released in 2018. As you'd expect, most of the top of the category consists of persistent online experiences, but there are a surprising number of offline, single-player games to be found here, too.

The top 12 Steam games that exited Early Access in 2018.

Valve's Early Access program has been met with similar amounts of criticism and acclaim, but the company clearly wants to trumpet its victories with the "Top Early Access Grads" category. This list, again sorted by gross revenue, highlights the most successful games that came out of Steam Early Access in 2018. Many of these games, like The Forest, are titles that launched in Early Access years ago in a very rough state, but that are now some of the most praised titles on the platform.

The 12 top-selling VR games on Steam in 2018.

The last category in Steam's Best of 2018 is the "Top VR Titles" list, because of course it is. VR is still a vanishingly small portion of the market in 2018. It's hard to blame Valve for trying to push it, though, because the experiences offered by modern VR headsets are pretty incredible. This list is composed entirely of games that require a VR headset and doesn't include games that are VR-optional. With that said, many of the games on the list are VR adaptations of popular titles, like Fallout 4 VR and Superhot VR. Here, too, we see a preponderance of older games populating the list.

If you look at the Steam data, it might seem like the games industry is in a bit of a slump. Players are primarily playing older games, and save for a few exceptions, newer titles have been striking out on the sales floor. Steam's data doesn't tell the whole story, of course. A number of big titles hit consoles this year, like Red Dead Redemption 2 and the recently released Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Some bigger titles for PC aren't represented here either, like Activision's Destiny 2 and the entirety of EA's catalog on Origin. 

What have you been playing this year, gerbils? Let us know in the comments.

Comments closed
    • Khali
    • 10 months ago

    2018 was a disappointing year for me. Not much in the RPG genre that appealed to me. There were some great looking isometric games but I can’t play them any more due to my eyesight. I have issues with focusing on my character for some reason. Eye doc says its a common issue when people get older and have extreme nearsightedness like I do.

    Any way, I spent most of 2018 replaying older games. Ark, Conan Exiles, Skyrim SE, Fallout 4, Star Trek Online, etc. Not really satisfying but it filled the time.

    I hope 2019 is better. I am keeping my eye on these games. Some I have strong hopes and others just fit into my keep an eye on list. Any way, here they are in no particular order.

    Mech Warrior 5
    The Outer Worlds
    Dying Light 2
    Metro Exodus
    Left Alive
    Imperator: Rome
    Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
    Cyberpunk 2077
    Journey to the Savage Planet

    • Voldenuit
    • 10 months ago

    What I’ve been playing this year:

    Hades (Early Access) – isometric roguelike action game by Supergiant Studios
    Cogmind (Early Access) – Tileset/ASCII cyberpunk roguelike
    Into The Breach
    Slay The Spire
    Nier: Automata (recently replayed with fanmade UltraHD texture pack)
    Tesla vs Lovecraft – bullet hell/swarm shooter by 10ton, lots of fun
    Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
    Dead Cells

    Games I finished this year that stuck with me:
    The Thin Silence
    What Remains of Edith Finch
    Haven’t finished GRIS yet, but expecting it to make it to this list.

    Games that disappointed me this year:
    Sunset Overdrive (PC port) – meh controls, meh gameplay, no multiuplayer. Great visuals, though.
    Below – probably my biggest disappointment of 2018

    • NovusBogus
    • 10 months ago

    I wouldn’t call it a slump so much as big tent AAAs losing ground to the explosion of smaller niche titles. The revenue is there, it’s just not being hoarded by four or five entertainment empires anymore.

      • LostCat
      • 10 months ago

      Destiny 2 and Black Ops 4 not being on Steam and all…

        • Chrispy_
        • 10 months ago

        Destiny 2 was such a huge disappointment.

        It’s probably going to be good when it’s finished but I’m not paying $480 for the whole thing. Hell, the total cost of my five-year WoW addiction cost less than Destiny is going to cost.

          • LostCat
          • 10 months ago

          I dunno. I’m bored of it but Destiny 2 is still most of what I play.

        • aspect
        • 10 months ago

        And Fortnite has like 100 million players.

      • Voldenuit
      • 10 months ago

      I’ve heard that the AAAs oversaturated the ‘live game’ market and are in deep trouble. You know, the games that keep people playing and/or grinding for hours on end. Games like Fortnite, MH:W, Warframe, Destiny, Black desert: Online, etc. It used to be the purvey of MMORPGs, but now they want it in our shooters, with lootboxes, grinding for in-game currency, cosmetics, etc.

      What they don’t realize is that most people only have time for (at most) one soul-sucking game in their life. No matter how good your game is, you have to sink your claws into the market first, or it won’t gain traction.

      And if your game is lousy, then you have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it (*cough* Fallout 76 *cough*).

    • albundy
    • 10 months ago

    far cry 5 was meh. these other games mean nothing to me. MW5M is all i care about.


      • 9 months ago

      Do you play MW:O? still a lot of fun to be had there

    • Anovoca
    • 10 months ago

    Grinding Gear Games not nominated for developer of the year? That is disappointing.

      • DancinJack
      • 10 months ago

      PoE isn’t [i<]that[/i<] good, bro.

        • RAGEPRO
        • 10 months ago

        It’s pretty good. IMO. Probably the best example of its type. Better than D3, TL2, and TQ or Grim Dawn in my eyes.

          • shaq_mobile
          • 10 months ago

          I think D3 and POE are similar enough to compare. I felt like grim dawn and tl2 have an unmistakable vibe where you are only really meant to get so much time out of it. D3 and POE are specifically designed to be massive time sinks. Grim dawn felt like a much better experience for the time I invested than D3 or POE. However, if you’re tired and just want a fun and semi rewarding (if not unforgiving) grind, I’ll take POE any day of the week over the unimaginative but polished blizzard title. Maybe unimaginative isn’t a fair term. Brittle? Fragile? It’s almost like once you see through blizzards usual methods, D3 becomes this completely untempting game. There’s no hope for growth. It’s clearly little more than a numbers game. Even wow has new raids with mechanics and environments. POE has new game features every patch and a staggering skill tree with a fascinating player controlled economy.

          POE is an amazing game and definitely beats the pants off D3 but i wouldn’t always recommend it over something like grim dawn or tl2 (though Torchlight is largely irrelevant, unfortunately).

          • DancinJack
          • 10 months ago

          I didn’t say it wasn’t a really good game, but I was just trying to say it isn’t enough, IMO, to make GGG “developer of the year.” It appears maybe some that down-voted either just didn’t like that, or didn’t get it.

          Either way, whatevs!

          • Kretschmer
          • 10 months ago

          I liked PoE, but had three gripes:
          -most builds were out of reach for self-found players
          -the mechanics generally were more basic than games like D3 where 5 or 6 skills would work together in combination
          -certain gem combos took decision-making away from the player (e.g. CWDT)

            • Anovoca
            • 10 months ago

            I can see where you are coming from on this entirely. I do think that the issue with self found players has been mostly resolved this expansion with the changes to crafting. Being able to craft +element type skills, or trigger socketed gem on x, with only a bit of luck in illuminated gear crafting has caused the value on many items such as poets pen to completely vanish. The biggest limitation for gearing in self-found right now is shaper, uber, breachstone, or awl specific unique drops, which should never be a mandatory gearing piece for a self-found player anyways.

            I wouldn’t necessarily say the mechanics were more basic because of skill limitation. You can still use 5+ skills in poe, you just are not going to be able to get over a 6-gem links on more than two items unless you have boots, helm, or gloves with +gem equipped bonuses. That means that to be effective you should stick to 1 single target and 1 aoe attack for primary dps (or one for both and switch your linked gems situationaly) and use other skills to buff/debuff and enhance the damage of your primary attacks. Usually a 2-3 link ability with maim and bleed or high elemental ailment proc is a huge asset to a build allowing you to use support gems like brutality and elemental focus which offer the highest dps gains on enemies inflicted with ailments for skills but prevent them from causing ailments.

            I think the biggest difference between how these skills come together in a finished poe build vs diablo is that 1.) Diablo has everything prebalanced so you cant really combine abilities that negate themselves in a way that would drop your overall dps, 2.) Diablo only shows character effective damage, not skill specific dps. I think this latter point means that many of the skills in your 5-6 ability diablo builds attribute far less overall dps than most people realize or have anyway of discovering. That said, the biggest difference between they and your secondary poe skills, is that in poe you know ahead of time they aren’t going to be world beaters in the 3,4,5 skill slots and you are better off using them for utility purposes.

        • Anovoca
        • 10 months ago

        IMO, Developer of the year has less to do about the game quality and more to do with community. How GGG: communicates, solicits feedback, helps promote its live streamers, highers independent add-on developers to put them on their payroll and give them new content early access, produces multiple releases of new (free) content per year, are all points in their favor that put them head and shoulders above a lot of studios.

        All that in the same year where gamers have seen slapped around by so many of the AAA studios, the lack of so much as a nomination is nothing short of an oversight or under-appreciation.

      • RAGEPRO
      • 10 months ago

      GGG didn’t make it, but [i<]Warframe[/i<]'s Digital Extremes did. I threw them my vote; they deserve it.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 10 months ago

    Still playing Battletech…every time they update the game its mechanics change, so dealing with that while still trying to save a little piece of the galaxy has been challenging. Still playing Borderlands 2 with Nanoflower–who is the expert’s expert on that game.

    • chuckula
    • 10 months ago

    Not that I play it, but is Fortnite not on Steam? It’s all I hear anybody talk about.

      • thedosbox
      • 10 months ago

      No, it’s only available from Epic.

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 10 months ago

      It’s really easy to uninstall.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 10 months ago

    How did DOTA 2 sell the most if it’s free?

      • drfish
      • 10 months ago

      It’s top revenue generators, in-game purchases are no joke!

        • tay
        • 10 months ago

        A lot of dota2 revenue goes into the prize pool for The International which is the yearly major tournament. The prize pool the last couple of years has been nearly 25 million. It’s an old MOBA but it’s a great game.

      • Kretschmer
      • 10 months ago

      In-game cosmetics can go for $30+ (to Valve) and $1,000+ (on the market).

    • Krogoth
    • 10 months ago

    None of the contenders have “3” in their title. Coincidence? I think not.

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