Steam continues to reach new highs despite the overall games industry facing post-covid headwinds.
Q3 2023 saw Steam beat records in terms of new games released, total units sold as well as full game revenue.
3,547 new games released on Steam
3rd quarter of 2023 saw a whopping 3,547 new games released on Steam. This is more than the previous record of 3,473 in Q4 2022. It’s also 12% more than same time last year.
However, AAA & AA games only saw 38 new games released, a -13% YoY decline. Growth in new games releases continues to be led by small hobby developers and indie studios.
1.7 million games sold on Steam per day
Steam saw 154 million game copies sold in Q3 2023. This is +26% more than last year. Although strong performance, it falls short of the traditionally strongest Q4 performances, driven by Black Friday and Holiday sales.
Strong Q3 unit sales were largely driven by strong AAA launches. Baldur’s Gate 3 & Starfield dominated the premium game sales while Overwatch 2 and Counter-Strike 2 helped to boost free to play game installs.
Over $2 billion in full game revenues
Q3 2023 saw $2.43bn in full game revenues on Steam, up +51% YoY. Q3, traditionally one of the weaker quarters as a result of steep sales, saw a big boost, driven by new game launches, selling at full price.
AAA & AA games made up $1.8bn or 74% of all Q3 revenues and grew by +74% YoY.
The domination of Baldur’s Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3, Starfield and Armored Core VI were the top 3 biggest releases of Q3 2023. However, there was really only 1 massive hit in that period – Baldur’s Gate 3.
With over 10 million units sold in the first 2 months, Baldur’s Gate 3 overshadowed all other releases by a wide margin.
Even 2 months after launch, there are c. 200k people playing the game at any given time
Leading up to a strong year for Steam games in 2023
Steam market is on track to generate over $9bn in full game revenue in 2023, a strong +18% growth over 2022.
This is a welcome sign of strength in the PC market. Steam saw a strong revenue growth in 2020. However, 2020-22 were fairly flat as a result of post-covid normalization and weaker consumer spend.
2023 shows that major AAA hits can still deliver growth in the industry, boosting revenues to new highs.
This article explores the average selling price for Steam games. It is important to differentiate between
base price – the original price set for the game and average selling price – the true price people paid for the game, including things like promotions
The analysis below includes the average selling price and takes into consideration promotional sales.
Players are willing to spend more than ever – what recession?
Our analysis shows that the average price paid per game on Steam has increased from $11 in 2018 to $15 in 2023. That is, on average, 6% growth per year. Inflation in the US in the same period has been c. 4% per year. So video game prices seem to have outpaced general inflation.
The biggest price jump happened in 2020, as COVID boosted both engagement, but also players’ willingness to spend on video games.
2021 saw some normalisation in games prices, but the prices have continued to grow since then.
This increase in prices is likely mostly driven by players purchasing more expensive games, rather than buying at lower discount rates. Many publishers have moved their default game price up from $59.99 to $69.99 in that time period as well as pushed their B tier games to be priced at more expensive price points.
Indie studios continue to see significantly lower average selling prices
Indie games sell, on average, at 61% discount VS their AAA counterparts.
Of course, indie games tend to be much lower budget games. That also tends to be reflected in the base price. The original base prices for indie games are, on average, 63% cheaper VS AAA to begin with. The fact that the promo price adjusted average prices are similarly lower indicates that there is no substantial difference in indie VS AAA games promo strategies.
Large and small studios see a divergence of price increase in 2023
Historical pricing trends for large and small studios have been very similar. Both have seen large positive COVID impact to pricing as well as some normalisation in 2021.
However, 2023 has seen an 11% price increase for AAA and AA games as a result of some larger game releases that have driven up prices.
At the same time, indie studios’ average price has decreased by -3% year over year. This comes at a time of high inflation, putting extra pressure on smaller studios and their ability to monetise the games.
Some genres attract higher prices than others
Key highlights on pricing differences by genres
Sports and racing genres tend to sell at higher prices than other games. Their player base tends to be different to typical hardcore Steam players. The players tend to be more tied to the specific sport or race as fans and, therefore, willing to pay higher prices and wait less for steep discounts.
Action and adventure games see the highest variability of prices within genre. Large AAA games like CoD continue to attract players at high price points while smaller studios have to come in at much lower prices to compete with the mega-budget games.
Casual games continue to be in their own category, with many games being free to play or priced at $1.99. This category most resembles mobile games and their business dynamic.
All genres have seen price growth in the recent years
Key highlights on pricing differences by genres over time:
Most genres have grown their average selling prices by over 10% a year in the last 5 years.
Simulation games have grown less than others. This might be driven by an increased amount of lower tier simulation games being released on Steam.
RPG games have seen the highest increase, though that is largely driven by some major RPG releases in 2023.
Casual games saw a large structural shift in price during COVID and have stayed fairly flat since then.
Steam market continues to be healthy
Steam market has continued growing in 2023. Overall price is up 7%, but total untis are also up year over year. Engagement data, including concurrent users on Steam and in-game continue to beat records quarter after quarter.
We’re able to see the full impact of Covid to the PC games industry now, 3 years after the start of the pandemic.
We can clearly see how different the Covid experience has been to small and nimble indies, the middle-market developers and the AAA giants of the games industry.
But first, let’s see what the PC games landscape looks like in general.
Indie games dominate new releases
Steam sees thousands of new games added on the platform every year, vast majority of them indie games. Out of the 12,434 games released in 2022, 99% were indies.
As a side note, indie studios tend to be small & independent game developers. This can range from a 1-person home studio to 100s of people in other cases. The definitions of indie, AA and AAA are often blurred. You can read more about our definitions here.
In fact, AA & AAA games made up 2.3% of Steam releases in 2018, but dropped to 1.3% during the Covid year of 2021. Large releases have recovered a bit since then, up to 1.5% in 2023, but remain below the pre-covid levels.
Overall new Steam game releases continue to grow at an accelerated pace since Covid
Pre-covid years of 2018 and 2019 saw an already large number of Steam games released annually, c. 8,500. That accelerated during 2020 as Covid allowed many people to work from home and increase their time spent on hobby projects.
The pace of new game releases has continued since 2020, reaching 12,000 new game releases in 2022 or 34 new games every day!
Flat giants, growing small studios and declining middle-market
The Steam game releases become more insightful when looking at AAA, AA and indie releases in isolation.
AAA studios were able to more or less mitigate covid impact quickly with better structured home working, better process and, let’s be honest, with some crunch. In fact, 2020 saw a record amount of AAA releases. It might be that some studios scrambled to get their game released early, in order to benefit from the Covid boost.
Indie studios have been the clear winners. Having already set up flexible working or fully remote studios meant many studios were barely impacted. Smaller hobby projects saw a huge boom as the working from home AAA and AA employees now had more time for side-projects.
AA studios were the clear losers. While pre-Covid saw c. 100 AA game released every year, this had fallen to only 62 by 2021. 2022 has seen some recovery, but it’s still significantly below pre-Covid years.
The fall of the AA games
We predict that the AA games continue to suffer, being squeezed form both sides. The c. $10-50M budget games have a significantly large cost base, but often don’t hit the critical sell-through rates.
On the indie side, Unreal Engine 5, AI and other developments have made it easier than ever for small teams to make great games, significantly increasing the B and C tier game supply.
On the AAA side, Game Pass, Epic store’s free giveaways and PS+ significantly increase the amount of “free” or cheap top tier games available to players. Players can also rely on their existing libraries of games or steep AAA discounts. The need to buy a new game at full price has taken a big hit.
It’s easy to see how macroeconomic squeeze to people’s wallets, tied to increased availability of free or cheap AAA and indie games make the “good, but not my top choice” of games struggle.
This all means that the “mid-tier” games have seen some pretty bad launches in 2022 and 2023, significantly underperforming expectations.
The recent news have highlighted Embracer closing some mid-sized studios and the underpefromance of games like Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids sequel or 2K’s Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Our platform also suggests some other recent launches such as F1 23 have been a lot weaker than previous iterations.
This trend is unlikely to stop in 2024 and 25. We are already seeing large studios shifting more of their eggs to larger game baskets and away from the “mid-tier”. We’re also seeing publishers like Embracer suffer, cancel games and restructure, as their focus on mid-tier hasn’t paid off.
The future is big and small, but not average
Our prediction is that big games and small studios continue to win and grow while the mid-tier of games falls out of favour for the foreseeable future.
As the innovation in game development technologies continues, it is likely that smaller indie studios will replace the current mid-tier at some point. What costs $20M to make today, might cost $5M in 5 years, making the economics much more favourable.
It looks like the pain for the mid-tier is here to stay.
Only 10% of Steam developers have ever made more than $100k in gross revenue. This article explores what they’re doing that other developers aren’t. It covers self-publishing, genre focus, number of games developed and more.
We’ve just launched another big updated on the platform! Every individual game’s page now shows an overview of quick stats about the game as well as player insights.
Quick game stats
In the example of PUBG (vginsights.com/game/578080), you can now see how many active players the game has right now, what the peak has been in the last 24h, how well the game has been rated, how many units it’s sold and what the average playing time is for a PUBG player. It’s crazy how much time people spend playing it!
This feature is available for everyone for free and gives an immediate overview of the game and its performance
This is a premium only feature that shows the game’s player distribution in terms of country split, regional split, average play time and how many games its players own on Steam in total.
We hope you’ll enjoy our new features! Happy exploring.