Is Windows 11 being abandoned by gamers? That’s what it looks like on the face of it with the arrival of the latest Steam hardware survey, but there’s a lot more to those stats if you dig under the surface.
Valve’s survey for March shows that Windows 11 has dropped a massive 9.65% for operating system share among Steam gamers, leaving it on 22.41% (shedding almost a third of its hard-fought adoption figures, no less). Meanwhile, Windows 10 is up 11.62%.
Leading to the obvious question – what’s happening here, are folks leaving Windows 11 to revert to Windows 10? Well, no – there’s a strong clue as to what’s going on if you take a look at another part of the survey, namely the language used for the surveyed operating systems.
This shows a huge jump in ‘Simplified Chinese’ which represents 51.63% of the PCs surveyed in March (up 25.35% on the previous month). Whereas ‘English’ language installations have dropped to 22.83% (down a hefty 12.44%).
Of course, the Steam survey takes a sample of a whole different swathe of PCs (rigs whose owners have indicated they want to take part) every time around, which often accounts for variations in percentages. And a big change in the geographical focus of the survey, as seen here, is going to make a major difference no doubt – as we see with Windows 11 adoption.
We do have to consider the possibility that Valve’s March survey is flawed somehow, too – and perhaps the numbers of Chinese installations of Windows have been inflated. There have been theories about this in the past, contending that Valve is potentially misreading installations as Chinese (or that other factors could be at play, such as bots).
Analysis: Untrusted Platform Modules?
The biggest impact is clearly that Windows 11 shift, and this makes sense for the Chinese market due to one obvious upgrade blocking factor – TPM.
In China there was a big fuss made when Windows 11 was wheeled out with its TPM requirement, because in that country, they use TCM chips instead – not trusting TPM. (Ironically, we suppose, as technically that makes them UPM or Untrusted Platform Modules).
At any rate, this was a big problem for Microsoft, what with TPM being a hard requirement for Window 11 in order to bolster security levels with the desktop OS. It’s something Microsoft has worked around for enterprise clients in China – that’s far too large a cash cow to ignore – but as for your average Chinese consumer, well, they’ve been left out in the cold. And they’re still shivering there as of 2023, something clearly illustrated by this latest Steam survey, in which the large influx of Chinese PCs has caused such a swing between Windows 11 and Windows 10.
In summary, then, no, gamers aren’t fleeing Windows 11 in droves, but Microsoft still has a big problem in the Chinese market when it comes to TPM and adoption of its newest OS. Clearly, Chinese users are not keen on trying to fudge an installation of Windows 11 without TPM (which is possible, but not recommended).
We weren’t sure what Microsoft was going to do regarding the consumer market in China back at the launch of Windows 11, and we still aren’t sure, but presumably, this is an issue that needs to be addressed at some stage.
Otherwise, Microsoft’s desktop OS dominance in China – a massive market where Windows currently accounts for 82.5% of PC operating systems as of March 2023, according to Statcounter, is surely going to be eroded. Remember, Windows 10 only has a couple of years of support left in the tank.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).