Windows 8 Adoption Rate Strong Amongst PC Gamers.

It’s no secret that my preferred gaming platform is the PC and the platform I run on top of that is Microsoft Windows. Whilst OSX and Linux might be gaining more momentum as of late they’re still quite far behind in terms of support from major titles, with the indie scene being the catalyst that’s driving them forward. With the introduction of SteamOS though Valve signalled that they had lost confidence in the Windows platform to deliver the same gaming experience as it had done for decades previously, predominately due to the changes that came in with Windows 8 and the WinRT platform.  This is where I and Gabe Newell start to disagree and if the latest numbers are anything to go by so do a good chunk of his customers.

Steam Hardware Survey December 2013The Steam Hardware Survey is a monthly data collection that Valve does through Steam to give an overview of the current trends in PC gaming. The results are a great insight into what gamers are using to play their games and is a great source of information for developers and pundits alike. The December 2013 results show a trend that even I didn’t think would be possible: a staggering 20% of Steam’s user base is now on Windows 8  or 8.1 64 bit. Compared to wider PC adoption rates this is even more impressive as it’s less than half of that of Steam users. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say that these figures should change Gabe’s mind (and indeed I believe he should stay the course with SteamOS) it does call into question the reasoning behind his recent musings about Windows as a gaming platform.

Another interesting titbit of information buried in the survey is that the fastest growing platform by far is Windows 8.1. Whilst it’s arguable that this is likely due to the improvements made in 8.1 (like the return of the start bar and the straight to desktop mode) I think it’s far more likely because this is the first Windows update that’s been made freely available to end users. Indeed it’s kind of hard to avoid upgrading to it as Windows will nag you every so often about it and since the update is completely non-destructive there’s really no barrier to getting the upgrade past a few hours. Still a raw increase of 2.5% of market share in a month is quite impressive and shows that Microsoft has done something right with its release.

I think it’s clear that Windows is still a very viable platform for gaming, even with Microsoft’s big push for things to start going the WinRT way. I’ve always been of the stance that the traditional desktop isn’t going to go anywhere, even in the face of tablets and other touch devices taking a bigger slice of the market that PCs used to occupy, and it seems a good chunk of the gaming community agrees with that idea. I’m sure Microsoft is also keenly aware of how much revenue the gaming community brings to them and how much of that is due to Steam so it’d be very surprising to see them do anything to push them away from the Windows platform.

 

4 Comments

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  1. Look at the aggregate shares: all win; all mac; all Linux. It’s pretty flat. All you are seeing is early adopters (as gamers tend to be) upgrading their OS.

    You really need to wait until after SeamOS (and boxen) launch before you can look at trends.

  2. Agreed that we’ll get a better picture when SteamOS and the Steam Machines start making their debut (although it is already available, technically) but the fact that it’s got a 20% adoption rate after only a year out does say a lot about its viability as a gaming platform. If it was too much of a hassle to keep running you’d expect those numbers to be going down, not up.

  3. It’s not even that early adopters go with Win8, it’s that most people just take what the vendor has, which now is Win8. People who specifically select an OS are still often asking for Win7, though I don’t know if they can actually get it. Also, those who buy Win8 with the “downgrade to Win7” option and then use it are still counted by MS, which is a marketing company more than a software company after all, as Win8 sales.

  4. Whilst I agree with your point that users typically take whatever is given to them it’s well known that PC sales have been flagging for some time so I don’t accept that new PC sales are what are the primary driver behind the rather large marketshare that Windows 8/8.1 has with gamers. It’s not the dominant platform by far, to be sure, but it’s still pretty impressive for a platform that only just recently celebrated its first birthday.

    You are correct in your assertion that downgrades still count as Windows 8 sales however the Steam Hardware Survey only refers to the actual operating system used which is what I was referring to.If we were talking in broader terms of WIndows 8 sales (where accurate numbers are much harder to come by) then you’d have a point but the downgrades don’t change these numbers.

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