Intrepid data-gatherer Sergey Galyonkin has an interesting API tool called Steam Spy that aims to gather information about what games are sold via Steam and in what quantities. While it’s not perfect, by Galyonkin’s own admission, it’s still a fascinating look into trends and raw data that usually isn’t available. And, according to Galyonkin’s recent blog post, free-to-play games rule the roost on Steam.
As the above chart shows, the average F2P game on Steam has 330,000 owners, compared to just 55,000 for the leading non-F2P category, role-playing games. The raw numbers are impressive, but there are several caveats:
First, all of this data uses Steam’s categorization system, so some games might be counted as both a F2P and RPG title. Second, as Galyonkin points out, the vast majority of people to download a F2P game never pay for it; he uses 10% as an estimate, which would mean the typical F2P game has 33,000 “buyers,” which put it in line with other categories. Third, while it doesn’t apply much to F2P games, “owners” on Steam Spy don’t necessarily mean “sales” via Steam; a game could have been bought at a retail store, via a Humble Bundle, etc.
Finally, if you look at his the Steam Spy page, sorted by Owners, you’ll see Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 at the top of the list with 51 and 28 million owners as of this writing. That’s sure to throw off the average by a solid margin. Then again, the same could be said of non-F2P games like Skyrim or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and there are probably a lot of poorly made F2P games limping along with a few thousand downloads that are dragging the average down. It’s easy to see why well-made F2P games, like TERA and PlanetSide 2, are eager to be on Steam, with the potential to add hundreds of thousands of players to their pool.
There are plenty of other interesting insights in the blog post, like a breakdown of what games go over well in other countries (Dota 2 is huge in Russia, duh) and how early access really is a game’s launch, no matter how much the developers might want to think otherwise. It’s worth a read.