Valve’s Steam Year in Review shows PC gaming on the rise — and VR, too

Valve is doing its part to illustrate gaming’s growth last year with its Steam 2020 Year in Review report. It includes some rather impressive numbers, like the fact that PC gamers increased their playtime by over 50 percent last year, and that each month, 2.6 million people bought a game on Steam for the first time.

2020 was a rough year, and many of us used gaming as a way to escape from the awfulness of everything going on in the world — an aim helped by the fact that so many good games were released last year. Over half of Americans played video games in 2020, and while Steam’s numbers only represent the PC (and doesn’t count games like Fortnite that appear on rival PC stores), it still speaks to the fact that PC gaming is not just surviving, but thriving.

In addition to the extra time spent playing and the newcomers to the platform, Steam’s data also shows that the number of games sold grew by 21.4 percent, and the platform had as many as 24.8 million people playing at once, setting a new record for concurrent players for the second time that year.

2020 was also the year that Valve’s own Half-Life: Alyx came out, which we hoped might finally be a killer app for VR, a game that would finally entice people to give VR a go. Do Steam’s numbers bear that out? Well, VR certainly grew, with 1.7 million people using Steam’s VR interface for the first time, potentially due to new headsets coming out to rave reviews, like the Oculus Quest 2. Valve also reports that there was a 71 percent increase in VR sales, with Alyx alone making up 39 percent of them. People were playing more in VR as well, with playtime going up by 30 percent.

Speaking of PC games being played outside the traditional “mouse and keyboard connected to a Windows machine” model, Valve also notes a 66.6 percent increase in game sessions that were played with a controller. Steam also notes its work on bringing games to Linux with its Proton runtime and calls out Death Stranding and Cyberpunk 2077 as games that were available on the OS soon after they were released on Windows.