Steam games hit a record high for concurrent users last year – here's why

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Steam registered a new record in users concurrently logged into Steam, topping out at a massive 26,401,443. This beats the previous record from January 2 of this year by roughly 1 million users.

The record from January sat at roughly 25.4 million users. Keep in mind that number is for users connected to Steam only, and not for players actively in-game. Meaning, all those millions of users were at least logged into Steam, but not necessarily playing a game at the time. That number of in-game users, though, peaked at 7.3 million at the time the new concurrent connected user record was reached.

In terms of users who were in-game, that record remains unbroken, sitting comfortably at 8.1 million recorded in March of 2020. This was spearheaded by Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which at the time became the third game on the platform to break the 1 million concurrent player mark – no doubt helped by the move towards stay-at-home lifestyles last year.

Getting steamy

While the pandemic has been a major factor in Steam’s steady growth over the past year, it’s not the sole contributor. Chinese players will be particularly active online right now. As a country which had some of the strictest lockdown measures, it’s unsurprising that many gamers found their options limited.

Tale of Immortal, an immensely popular RPG that’s exclusive to the region, saw China log the game as the fourth most popular in terms of player count on the entire Steam platform. This is behind only CS:GO, Dota 2 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

China and other countries in Asia will also be celebrating Lunar New Year and its variants this Friday, February 12. Vacations have already begun for many, no doubt contributing to the boost Valve is currently enjoying on its platform.

 Onwards and upwards

Looking at Valve’s 2020 year in review, we can see the company anticipated this kind of growth: “While Steam was already seeing significant growth in 2020 before COVID-19 lockdowns, video game playtime surged when people started staying home, dramatically increasing the number of customers buying and playing games, and hopefully bringing some joy to counter-balance some of the craziness that was 2020.”

Valve shone some light on key stats from that year too. Their results include record numbers for monthly active users (120.4 million), daily active users (62.6 million), first-time purchasers of products on Steam (2.6 million per month), total playtime (31.3 billion hours) and a 21.4% increase in games purchased in 2020 over 2019.

Many countries are still in full swing of dealing with the pandemic and various lockdown measures. It’s not out of the question that Steam’s concurrent user base will continue to grow in 2021.

However, with the statistics Steam has posted (especially their recordings of first-time purchasers and number of games purchased) it might well be that a lot of new users will be there to stay.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.