Steam’s Hardware and Software survey for April reveals interesting trends

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Every month Valve conducts and publishes the results of a hardware and software survey that is done by users through the Steam client. The results are often pretty close to depicting the market as things stand right now for gamers on the PC, and it comes in very handy for referencing changes in trends over time by PC gamers using the Steam client. This month showed some interesting trends that I’d like to highlight for the Windows, Linux and Mac platforms as well as hardware in general.

Windows continues to dominate

We’re all familiar with the fact that if you’re a gamer, your options for AAA titles most of the time have limited you to the Windows platform. This month sees Microsoft’s operating system climb back to 96% overall market share, with the growth this month going to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 64-bit, which eat up 46.94% and 29.47% market share respectively. No other OS version or platform sees much growth, with most of the platforms recording a drop in their user numbers. However, the drops in user numbers for Windows XP and Vista are compensated for by the Windows 7 and 8.1 growth of 0.27% and 0.74% respectively.

Hardware-wise, Windows machines are seeing growth in the amount of machines with 4GB to 8GB of RAM installed. There’s a 0.28% increase in the amount of machines with 4GB of RAM and a 0.66% increase for 8GB. Mind you, these numbers are skewed by the amount of people who have the Steam client installed on their work machines, tablets or notebooks, so these trends in hardware don’t mean as much as they used to in the past.

There’s an increase of 0.34% in the number of people with 100 to 249GB of free drive space. Either people are buying new drives to make way for more games, or they’re installing less games on to their system than they did before. Also interesting to note is the exact switch in processor vendor numbers for this month, with 0.56% of users jumping from an AMD CPU to an Intel one. If we just use the amount of users active as of February 2015 (125 million) to give us an idea of how big that number actually is, 0.56% of 125 million is 700,000.

That’s right, in between the March and April surveys, roughly 700,000 active users switched from an AMD system to an Intel-based one. That’s not an indication of actual sales performance for either company, but that is quite a turn-around in just one month.

Apple’s had a pretty decent month so far

You might not consider Apple’s OS X as the platform ideally suited for gamers, but the hardware that Apple employs is usually up to the job of running games at low settings and the device’s native resolution, so its not too bad. Its been a good month for Mac OS X 10.10.3, with 12.34% of users jumping to it pretty quickly from 10.10.2 (less 6.89%) and 10.10.1 (less 3.23%). Apple’s software is usually the only place where this happens, but I’m hoping to see just as drastic a switch for the month following the Windows 10 release. In terms of market share overall, though, OS X drops this month by 0.23%.

In the GPU department, there seems to be a rapid adoption of Apple’s new hardware as people begin to retire their older Macbooks from years past. Intel’s HD4000 drops by 0.54%, HD300 drops by 0.48%, the Geforce 320M drops by 0.33% and the Geforce 9400M drops by 0.26%. This is offset by increases in the number of users running Intel’s integrated graphics processors found on their Haswell and Broadwell platforms, in particular HD5000 (+ 0.46%) and HD6100 (+ 0.60%), the graphics chips found in the 2014 Macbook Air 11 and 13 and the 2015 Macbook. Nvidia’s Geforce GT 750M also sees an increase of 0.42%, which suggests that more people are going for the Macbook Pro 15 instead of the cheaper options with smaller displays.

Linux stumbles a bit, but is getting there

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For the Linux platform, things have been a bit weird. Some sites like Softpedia are pronouncing the 0.11% drop as a “dramatic” drop, but the reality is that things are just fine. Looking at the reported spread of operating systems, there’s a 7.09% gain in the “Other” category, which means that there are people now using distributions that aren’t strictly reporting themselves as a Ubuntu derivative. That could mean more people are using something like ElementaryOS Freya, or more people have switched to OpenSUSE or Fedora. I’m hazarding a guess that the drop seen in Ubuntu 14.10 at 1.36% will be offset by more users reporting that they are running Ubuntu 15.04 next month, as 15.04 was just released.

Also interesting in the OS space for Linux is the listing for “Linux 3.10 64-bit”. This is almost certainly what is being reported by SteamOS and there’s a tiny 0.06% gain for this month. Its nothing much on the 7.85% market share in the Linux space already there, but it is always increasing, a good sign for Valve.

Going to hardware, almost all of Intel and Nvidia’s GPUs reported in the Linux category see increases, while AMD sees decreases for almost all of its entries. The biggest jump comes in the form of Intel’s HD4400 GPU, which tells me that more and more people are using Steam on their notebooks running Linux.

Head on over to check out the Steam survey for yourself. While you’re drilling through the lists for your platfom to see where you compare, check out the Steam Charts website for a live representation of what Steam’s user base is doing right now.

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