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The latest Steam Survey had a huge surge of Simplified Chinese

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After waiting a while to see if Valve issued any corrections, it seems that the latest Steam Hardware & Software Survey for March 2023 is staying as it is, with a huge surge of Simplified Chinese. The last time we saw such a thing, it was an error in the Steam Survey, as it was over-counting cyber cafe customers. This time, maybe not then.

Looking at the latest details it shows users with Simplified Chinese as their language now at 51.63% (+25.35%), knocking down English to 22.83%. That's the kind of increase that certainly raises a few eyebrows. 

Due to the influx, it also caused the Linux user share to go from 1.27% in February to 0.84% in March. Quite a stark drop, since Linux isn't particularly popular in Asia and again, we've seen that happen before a few times when Simplified Chinese as a language choice on Steam goes up, the Linux share goes down with it.

The biggest winner on the survey is Windows 10 64 bit, which went up to 73.95% (+11.62%). Filtering it over to just the Linux details, these are the most popular distributions for March 2023:

  • SteamOS Holo 64 bit 21.20% + 0.15%
  • Arch Linux 64 bit 10.36% + 0.19%
  • Ubuntu 22.04.2 LTS 64 bit 9.61% + 9.61%
  • SDK 22.08 (Flatpak runtime) 64 bit 7.10% - 0.17%
  • Manjaro Linux 64 bit 6.95% + 0.45%
  • Other 44.79% + 8.33%

The question is of course: what's going on? What do you think has happened? 

More can be seen over time on the GOL Steam Tracker.

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CatKiller Apr 13, 2023
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We did have a previous shonky month where you gave up waiting and put the data on your tracker as the best option, and Valve finally got round to publishing the correct data after something like three weeks.
TheSHEEEP Apr 13, 2023
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My own participation got messed up by a bug triggered by whatever Steam uses to do a hardware survey - that bug causes a complete amdgpu reset (probably not on all GPUs, but at least a few).

I am unsure how common that bug is, but if a percentage of Linux users are affected, it could lead to some skewing as well.
elmapul Apr 13, 2023
"Quite a stark drop, since Linux isn't particularly popular in Asia and again, "
or maybe it is popular on asia, but not on cybercafes?
by popular i mean as much as it is elsewhere, arround 1%...

anyway, where is the GPU data on the survey? to be more specific the model used on steamdeck...

Last edited by elmapul on 13 April 2023 at 2:17 pm UTC
Eike Apr 13, 2023
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Quoting: elmapulanyway, where is the GPU data on the survey? to be more specific the model used on steamdeck...

As expected, a drop as well:
AMD AMD Custom GPU 0405 0.18% -0.09%
It's not like the Chinese would install Windows 10 on their masses of new Steam Decks...
Romlok Apr 13, 2023
Given that Steam proper is blocked in mainland China, but AIUI many people there still use it because the local version of Steam has very few games, here's some hypotheses:

1. Steam proper got temporarily un-blocked by the Great Firewall for whatever reason, and all the people with Steam installed were able to connect for a short time.

2. Some very popular game was released/updated on Steam, so a lot of Chinese people risked using a VPN to connect and download it.

3. Some game was released on Steam which was interpreted to be critical of the CCP, so a bunch of fake accounts got created to review-bomb and report the game for "hate speech". (As has happened before)

4. Valve accidentally mixed in the stats from the PRC Steam version with the main Steam stats (again?)
gradyvuckovic Apr 13, 2023
I have some theories and opinions on why Linux isn't particular popular in non-English speaking countries.

It's because, in my opinion, the experience for Non-English speaking users on Linux isn't particularly great.

Aside from often lackluster translations available for software on Linux, and the OSes themselves, and even the distro websites, or OS manuals, the bigger issue is that the UX on Linux is still not quite at the point where someone could sit down at a Linux OS desktop PC and figure out every issue through navigating a GUI alone. It's not that completely self explanatory. It's still necessary to go online for help, and often the answers will be on Reddit, or Github, or some online forum, etc, and all of it in English.

And it's often the case that there's no where to go online to ask for help because most of the Linux communities are English-only. Either through enforced rules forbidding people from using languages other than English or simply because no one in the communities happens to speak a language other than English, or at least few enough speak non-English languages to make finding help online basically a non-starter.

I just don't think multilanguage support on Linux seems to be a particularly high priority and so it's not surprising to me at all that the userbase numbers in non-English speaking countries is so low.

English is spoken by less than 1 in 5 people on the planet, as long as multilanguage support on Linux remains lackluster, I think that's going to keep holding back growth in non-English markets.
CAVR Apr 13, 2023
Maybe we should stop using only percentage numbers as a measure for Linux adoption and also start using estimated absolute numbers (by multiplying the percentage of Linux users with the estimated total number of Steam accounts). It would be more inaccurate (since we are also using estimated numbers of the total number of Steam accounts), but it could give us a better understanding of speed of adoption (the percentage of the total might decline, but we still might get a higher increment of people using Linux in that month).
TheSHEEEP Apr 13, 2023
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Quoting: gradyvuckovicIt's because, in my opinion, the experience for Non-English speaking users on Linux isn't particularly great.
That's definitely an issue that will never get resolved unless someone took a humongous amount of cash into their hands and just made it happen.

Even when restricting it to Latin alphabet languages, you can get distros themselves with pretty good language support in some languages (German for sure, probably French, not sure about Spanish) - but as you said, as soon as you leave the confines of the distro interface, it's English or bust.
There is no "Microsoft help"-equivalent that would offer support for basically every question in basically every language - yes, I know those pages are crap, but at least they exist.
Or an automatically translated StackOverflow (and likes) that would be search-indexed for helping non-English speakers.

In my own experience, support is especially terrible for Chinese.
For a while I tried learning it and the hoops I had to jump through just to get keyboard support for Pinyin was absolutely crazy. Meanwhile on Windows, you can just go to languages, install Simplified/Traditional Chinese and you're done.

Last edited by TheSHEEEP on 13 April 2023 at 2:43 pm UTC
mr-victory Apr 13, 2023
Quoting: Guestand they have browsers (like Yandex Browser) that automatically translates all english text to Russian
Chromium can translate web pages as a whole. This is one of the reasons why I keep it around.
Purple Library Guy Apr 13, 2023
Quoting: GuestAnd let's admit it for once, it is a bit easier to use
Nah, I don't feel like admitting that for once.
Seriously, I use Linux at home, Windows at work, and recently tried briefly to use Windows for a very simple little box that was just for my wife to watch "TV" on, so all it had to do was run a browser. And my considered opinion is that Windows is a pain in the ass. It's just, because it's been so dominant for so long, Windows pain points, people have long learned to ignore and take for granted. Which means when Linux doesn't do those annoying things, that isn't seen as an actual improvement. But it is.
Windows is nagware. Even with just one program installed, it was constantly bitching at me. Do the updates, now! You should really make Edge your default browser! Your choice not to let us phone home with all your data was a bad one, don't you want to reconsider? This, that or the other completely irrelevant thing may be wrong somehow and you should acknowledge this even though we offer you no course of action to deal with it in any way! Popups, popups, popups, blah, blah, blah.
At work the Systems people keep most of this crap out of my way, bless 'em. Most, not all. On the other hand, we have Microsoft Fucking Teams, which ever since I was fooled into opening the application once now automatically opens every morning when I log in, and again any time I log in somewhere else, and last time I forgot to get rid of it I found everything crashing after a while.

With Linux (Mint, in my case) I can do something or watch something without constant BS. I like the Mint file manager better than the Windows one, too. Except changing file names, Windows does that well.

Last edited by Purple Library Guy on 13 April 2023 at 7:18 pm UTC
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