Steam has never been more popular – and Valve promises big things for Linux gamers

Death Stranding
(Image credit: Kojima Productions)

Steam’s ‘year in review’ has just been published for 2020, complete with a raft of statistics which show that the gaming platform has never been more popular – along with some statements that Linux gamers will doubtless find exciting.

Of course, it’s no great surprise to hear that more people were playing games on their PC last year – what with Covid-19 lockdowns and folks spending far more time inside at home – and indeed Steam’s stats show that there was a huge 50% increase in the number of hours spent gaming on the platform.

Gamers were collectively on Steam for over 31 billion hours, in fact, and there was a new high in terms of monthly active users at 120.4 million (with daily active users peaking at 62.6 million). A new record was also set in terms of concurrent users – folks playing simultaneously at any one given time – at 24.8 million.

Valve’s coffers naturally felt the benefit of all this, and indeed the number of games purchased went up by just over 21% compared to 2019.

VR gaming also gained popularity, with even stronger growth of game sales which were up 32% compared to the previous year. Apparently over 1.7 million Steam users tried VR games for the first time in 2020.

There was also a marked increase in the number of gamers using a controller rather than keyboard and mouse, with some 46.6 million players using a gamepad in 2020 – compared to 31.8 million users in 2019. That’s a major increase of 46%.

Proton plus

Finally, we mentioned good news for Linux gamers at the outset, and Valve noted that: “Throughout 2020, work continued on Steam Play and extending Proton, our runtime for seamlessly running existing Steam games on Linux without additional developer work. We released Proton 5, which supported many new games, improved performance, and introduced support for DX12 and EA Origin games on Steam.”

Apparently there was also an increase in the number of developers testing their games with Proton during the development process, and what’s more, fixing issues that popped up with Proton after release.

Valve observes: “All in all, this resulted in exciting new releases this year such as Death Stranding, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Cyberpunk 2077 being playable on Linux at or shortly after release.”

The really interesting bit is that looking to 2021, Valve said it would continue to invest in this technology, and that it’s “putting together new ways for prospective users to get into Linux gaming and experience these improvements.”

That sounds promising indeed in terms of opening up Linux to further exposure as a reliable gaming platform and alternative to Windows.

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).