With 2020 done and out the way, Valve have put up a 'Year in Review' post highlighting a bunch of facts about what people were doing on Steam and some of the numbers are pretty surprising.
Going over their past Year in Review posts for 2018 and 2019, it shows that Steam is growing nicely. 2018 saw 90 million monthly active users, 2019 saw 95 million monthly active and 2020 jumped a lot up to 120 million monthly active users. That's a pretty huge jump for one year, likely down to the COVID-19 lockdowns across various countries.
To put that into some perspective for the Linux side of things. If we take the December 2020 Linux user share on Steam as reported by the Steam Hardware Survey (0.78%) that gives us a figure of about 939,120 Linux monthly active users - which we note at the bottom of our Steam Tracker. Quite close to 1 million then!
Is Linux growing then? Well, obviously yes it is overall but not dramatically so - more of a slow and steady build up. If we take the 2018 numbers of 90 million, with the Linux share back in December 2018 of 0.82% it would have been 738,000. So we've added around 201,120 users between Dec 2018 and Dec 2020. None of that is exact of course, we're guesstimating based on the share Valve gives out in their surveys.
Linux and the Steam Play Proton compatibility layer got a mention too which is always good to see:
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. For a full list of changes, see our changelog.
We also saw an increase in developers engaging with Valve for early Proton testing during their game development, and fixing Proton-specific issues post-release. 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.
It's still amazing that Valve do actually put all this effort in for Linux with Proton, and all their other contracted developers to work on other parts of Linux from GPU drivers to the new container runtime system. Lots going on for Linux overall when it comes to gaming.
Looking to the future for Linux, Valve stated their clear intention to continue supporting Linux and not just with what's already mentioned. They said they're "putting together new ways for prospective users to get into Linux gaming and experience these improvements" - which sounds pretty exciting. What do you think Valve are cooking up to further Linux gaming? After all, I've long said they must have some real goals with all this work since Steam Machines / SteamOS didn't go far.
Through 2020 the Steam store expanded a bit too through features like the Points Shop, Text and Chat Filtering systems for both the Steam community areas and for developers to use in their games, the News Hub, support for Subscriptions and more.
VR seems to be doing quite well too, with Valve seeing 1.7 million first-time users of SteamVR through 2020. Valve has also been regularly pushing out upgrades to SteamVR and it's steadily become much more stable. On the subject of hardware, they saw a 66.6% increase in gamepad use over 2019 - showing to developers that well tested gamepad support can often be essential.
All in all, a really big year for Valve and Steam. You can see their full post here with lots of details.