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Steam sets another user record, right on schedule

Holiday season drives millions to PC games

Bog standard screenshot of guy with a gun in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which turns 10 years old in August, was yet again Steam’s most-played game by concurrent users.
Image: Valve
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

On the last day of a two-week, weekend-holiday slowdown throughout much of the world, Steam set an all-time record for most concurrent users: 27,942,036, all logged in at the same time around 7 a.m. EST on Sunday. That surpasses the 26,922,926 users counted during the week of March 29, 2021.

The figures are according to SteamDB, as spied by Reddit user Turbostrider27 on Sunday morning in a post getting a lot of attention at r/pcgaming. At the time of writing, the concurrent user total was a shade over 27 million at the same time on Monday morning, but it typically peaks around the 7 to 8 a.m. EST hour each day (including weekdays), so it’s unclear if another record could be set today.

screenshot of a trendline for steam concurrent users, lifetime, a jagged line steadily increasing over time. Image: SteamDB

The 27 million concurrent users is simply what it says — users logged into the Steam client. The actual number who are playing a game is a lot smaller: 8,219,950. That number still just eclipses the previous in-game record of 8,171,592 recorded during the week of March 30, 2020 — a couple of weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared and people worldwide began lockdown lifestyles with lots of indoor activity.

The all-users figure for the same pandemic week in 2020 was then a record, beaten, intriguingly, almost one year later in March 2021. But a scan of Steam’s user chart going back to its launch in 2003 shows record-setting user spikes right around the new year. In the week of Jan. 4, 2021, Steam’s 25,425,816 concurrent users set a record, and so did the 18,801,944 for the week of Jan. 20, 2020.

The 18,537,490 for the week of Jan. 8, 2018 also set a record, as did the 14,370,042 in the week of Dec. 26, 2016. The latter figure eclipsed Steam’s second-biggest non-holiday spike of the past six years — 13,474,259 users, for the week of Oct. 19, 2015.

As for what folks are playing, that continues to be the top multiplayer games of the past decade or so. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, launched in 2012, peaked at 824,298 so far today, with 2013’s Dota 2 in second at 748,189. In a distant third place is PUBG: Battlegrounds, at 336,367. The biggest 2021 launch in the top 10 is the MMO New World, in seventh place with 117,504 users.

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