When it comes to game development, Valve’s software distribution platform is probably the most important part of the industry.
Steam has more than 15 million users worldwide and is to software distribution what World of Warcraft is in the world of MMO games. But probably the most interesting part of Steam is world famous “Steam Hardware Survey”. Every month, Valve collect data from 15 million users and lists what kind of hardware do people use. This is an invaluable process that gives developers golden information about platforms they should target. In my discussions with game developers, I had countless verbal battles with people who didn’t want to create a game for high-end hardware, because the adoption rate is too low. Well, think again.
In survey for November 2008, stats show that Intel leads the CPU share with 63.62%, while AMD owns the remaining 36.38%. Dual-core dominates with 49.04%, e.g. almost eight million people own a dual-core processor. Quad-core captured just 10.43%, which means quaddies have a mountain to climb. It is surprising to see that 40.19% still own a single-core processor, but multi-thread support is a must-have feature today, not tomorrow – 59.47% own a multi-thread capable computer.
CPU-wise, best sellers are Core 2 Duo E6600 and E6700 processors (2.4-2.66 GHz), while owners of AMD platform just cannot get enough of Athlon 64 X2 2.2 GHz (4400+). Graphics-wise, Nvidia captured 65.11% of all steam users, translated into more than 10 million gamers. Here comes the most interesting part of the survey. According to Steam, GeForce 8800 captured the hearts of no less than 32.35% of users. Out of 10 million Nvidia users, more than three million people own a high-performing GeForce 8800 card – it is almost incredible to see that amount of 3D horsepower taking more market share than numerous mainstream and low-end cards.
API is a key decided in what platform to go with, and software developers will appreciate the fact that even though almost half of all Steam users use DirectX 10 hardware, only 21.43% of all steam users can actually use DX10 API. Windows XP is loved by more than massive majority of DX10 HW-owning users.
All in all, I would conclude that this survey proves just how popular Core 2 Duo and GeForce 8800 are. If you’re working on game code optimization today, and plan to launch the game on Steam in 2009, focus your efforts on following parts:
- Vista is a failure, gamers are waiting for Windows 7 to tell Good Bye to Windows XP
- Focus optimization on two cores, most likely in 2.5 GHz range
- 480.000 users overclocked their CPU beyond fastest shipping clock, additional 1.5 million moderately overclock their machines
- Users have around 100GB of free space on the hard drive
- Most of users have 512MB of video memory.
- Most popular resolution is 1024×768
- Most widescreen users use 27″ screens (surprised?), followed by 24″ ones. Thus, for widescreen focus on FullHD resolution
- Multi-GPU is esoteric at best, with 1.79% of overall share. Yes, only 280.000 people have multi-GPU configuration, with SLI dominating the share with 1.55% (240.000).
- Currently, nobody uses 4 GPUs with ATI chips and mere 4600 people own two 7950GX2 cards
- Valve currently makes world’s largest IT-based survey, and probably one of largest surveys in existence (does anybody know how many people Nielsen actually track?)
All in all, Steam survey offered an interesting insight. I’ll follow-up on this one in our future monthly reports on Steam.