Report: 37% of purchased Steam games are never played

A study of Steam community members' playing history reveals that an estimated 37% of games are owned but not played.

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If you’ve ever felt ashamed of games you’ve picked up but never played, at least you can rest assured you aren’t alone. A study into Steam playing habits has found that more than a third of all games purchased through the service have never been loaded up even once.

An extensive Ars Technica (via GameSpot) report combed through 172 million Steam community IDs over the course of two months, and some of the results are surprising. 36.9% of purchased games have never been loaded, while another 17% have been played for less than an hour. The study credits generous Steam sales or bundling for this statistic, noting that many users go in with the best intentions of getting around to all the games they pick up on the cheap but those tend to fall by the wayside.

The statistics on the games that are most played are revealing as well. The top two are the free-to-play Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2. Paid games seem to have a higher estimated number of people who own the game but have not played it. The closest in that regard is Half-Life 2, which has nearly as many non-playing owners (3.9 million) as players (4.1 million).

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  • reply
    April 16, 2014 11:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Report: 37% of purchased Steam games are never played.

    A study of Steam community members' playing history reveals that an estimated 37% of games are owned but not played.

    • reply
      April 16, 2014 11:02 AM

      Reverse piracy?

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      April 16, 2014 11:09 AM

      There's a hole in this, however...Steam only started tracking time played a few years ago. Time spent prior to that was lost.

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        April 16, 2014 11:16 AM

        yeah i'm surprised it's *only* 37%

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          April 16, 2014 2:52 PM

          Yeah I bought the entire DCS pack when it was on sale a long while back and haven't played any yet. I also bought the iD Software pack and probably haven't played that much expect for some quake.

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        April 16, 2014 11:39 AM

        Yeah, the updated Ars article points that out.

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        April 16, 2014 2:40 PM

        And not all games get reported correctly. I have over 100 hours into Fallout 3, but Steam only says 8.6.

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          April 16, 2014 2:51 PM

          Yup. My logged time on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is only 33 minutes, but I've played at least 80 hours of that game.

          Half-Life 2 and the various episodes have no listed time either, but that was one of the first things I ever played on Steam. I'm guessing that quite a few of the 3.9 million who supposedly never played it simply did so when the game was new and haven't played since.

          Oh, there's also games where the *ahem* non-DRM version was the only playable copy. Prototype was like that for me, and for a long time Red Faction: Guerrilla. Yeah, I own a legit copy, but the only way I could play the damn game without things crashing was to use the non-legit version.

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            April 16, 2014 3:06 PM

            Same here at first, but for some reason S.T.A.L.K.E.R. works for me now (49 hours over the last month or so :D)

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          April 16, 2014 3:08 PM

          That bug has been around forever and it needs to be fixed.

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          April 16, 2014 4:37 PM

          If you run it from an outside EXE as far as I know it doesn't count it, so many games that get modded and require booting through the folder instead of the Steam interface won't show up

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            April 16, 2014 4:38 PM

            It also happens for games launching with Steam. It's just an old bug thats been around for a while.

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            April 16, 2014 4:48 PM

            This is when launching from Steam with very few mods (just MTUI and the community fix patches).
            It may be a GFWL thing since F3 still requires a GFWL login at launch; I don't remember having the problem with Arkham Asylum or other GFWL titles on Steam; I don't think AssCreed I and II (UPlay) tracked hours right either now that I think of it.

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          April 17, 2014 3:30 AM

          I've got 100+ hours in several games I only played once because they don't quit properly and Steam thinks they keep running.

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      April 16, 2014 11:18 AM

      I am contributing to this for sure

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      April 16, 2014 11:23 AM

      I'm probably close to that, went crazy on the first few steam sales and then wisened up the last year or two and only buy things I'll actually play

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      April 16, 2014 11:28 AM

      i have a lot of unplayed games, but they were all under $7 each, so it's not a big deal. i'll get around to most of them.

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      April 16, 2014 11:35 AM

      Sounds about right for me.

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      April 16, 2014 11:37 AM

      The only games I have on Steam that I haven't played are ones that I got in Bundles like the Rockstar one, or for free when I bought a sequel.

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      April 16, 2014 11:39 AM

      Its why I'm doing the steam roulette thing with a friend. Have hit a lot of games I'd have never have played, some great, some good, some meh. Been a fun journey though.

      Still I'll never play all the games I have. just not enough time.

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      April 16, 2014 11:40 AM

      It's crazy how many hours have been put into Dota2 considering how new it is compared to TF2, CS:S etc, and how it only recently came out of beta.

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      April 16, 2014 11:49 AM

      I haven't played 90% of the games I own. There's simply no time.

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      April 16, 2014 11:52 AM

      Hahahah, that's just great

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      April 16, 2014 11:53 AM

      Nothing wrong with that. I bought a bunch of publisher packages on sale and I'll never play a lot of those games.

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      April 16, 2014 12:16 PM

      I have a ton of games I've picked up on sale and never touched. I had Broken Age for a couple months before I played it this week. Awesome game, btw. Sometimes I buy games and forget about them.

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      April 16, 2014 12:17 PM

      In other news, Steam launches its "entertainment investment" program where gamers can purchase games now and play them in the future.

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      April 16, 2014 12:26 PM

      in my case it's 37% of purchased games ARE played.

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      April 16, 2014 12:31 PM

      but now i have them saved up for that time i'm going to be stuck in my house for about 6 months unable to do anything but play games.

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      April 16, 2014 12:32 PM

      i believe it.. steam sales make me go crazy but fuck if i don't have time to play everything i buy

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      April 16, 2014 12:55 PM

      That's actually lower than I expected, I wonder what the percentage is of games that are played for less than 15 minutes.

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        April 16, 2014 2:32 PM

        15 minutes would be an interesting figure to see. I'm also interested in times between half an hour and two hours. For a lot of FPSes that means "played it, found it was crap, never looked back". Did that with Red Faction: Armageddon. Literally could not finish it.

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      April 16, 2014 2:29 PM

      I will freely admit that certain games I've purchased with the intent of playing them "sometime" but never getting around to it. Fortunately, most are things I got on steam sale for ridiculously cheap. I'd feel bad if I blew $20 or more on a game and never played it. $5? Eh, not too bad a loss.

      Also, a huge portion of my library - damn near a third - comes from Humble Bundle and other bundled packages. Quite often I'll buy bundles for only one game I want because it's cheaper than the solo price anywhere else. Just did that with Master Reboot. $5 for that game plus 19 others I'll never touch.

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      April 16, 2014 2:29 PM

      steam sales FTW!!!! :D build up that library!

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      April 16, 2014 3:07 PM

      I just remembered I bought Saints Row 4 and I haven't played it yet.

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      April 16, 2014 3:13 PM

      It is time to begin my new life as an internet activist and force this issue to the forefront.

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      April 16, 2014 3:18 PM

      I blame the Humble Bundles. I got a dozen games from 2 Humble Bundle purchases, of which I got because I wanted 1 game, and it was a lot cheaper to buy a bundle than a single game on sale on Steam.

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      April 16, 2014 3:40 PM

      Humble Bundle would be one reason for this.

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        April 16, 2014 3:43 PM

        Yeah I've bought plenty of Bundles for one or two games and never touched the others or could even give them away because they were just too ubiquitous.

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      April 16, 2014 3:43 PM

      Does that seem low to anyone else? AITOO?? I'm scared as hell to do the math on my account.

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        April 16, 2014 3:55 PM

        46%. In my defense, I cut myself off of icon collecting almost two years ago. Everything I've purchased since then (not much) got played.

        It's those damn Steam sales, friends.

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      April 16, 2014 4:06 PM

      Most of the time I buy games because they're so fucking cheap; maybe in 10 years I'll have time to play them, but in the meantime, they're mine.

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      April 16, 2014 4:48 PM

      i'm more like 70% haven't played... and i have like 150 games .... *sigh*

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      April 16, 2014 5:56 PM

      Hahah, this makes total sense to me.

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury mega
      reply
      April 16, 2014 6:23 PM

      44 Percent of Twitter Accounts Have Never Tweeted
      http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2456489,00.asp

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      April 17, 2014 12:06 AM

      The only problem I have is that games before 2009 had their hours reset. So any game in my inventory before then that I haven't played again, well they just consider that I haven't played in at all. So saying I haven't played 30%+ of my games is completely wrong. I've had a Steam account since 2004.

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        April 17, 2014 12:17 AM

        They didn't even start tracking that stuff across the board until sometime around then I believe. For a while, TF2 was the only game that tracked stats like that and time played was an in game feature that also showed externally on the personal TF2 stats pages, but then they added a similar thing to every game on steam globally in 2008? I want to say.

        My library wasn't nearly as huge back then as it is now though.

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        April 17, 2014 8:40 AM

        Same here, had my Steam account since Counterstrike first came out. I've got the 10+ year badge for that... like that matters.

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      April 17, 2014 12:11 AM

      90% in my case

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      April 17, 2014 1:28 AM

      Ashamed? I do it to support the developers.

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        April 17, 2014 2:49 AM

        I'm sure there's plenty of folks that have repurchased a bunch of old games they loved digitally so they could forget about discs and cd-keys if they were to ever revisit them.

        Last year I tried to steam roulette my way through some of my backlog 30 minutes at a time to see if anything I had not played yet grabbed me. The first rule that I had to initiate with was allowing myself skip old games I had already played because there were so many of them getting spun, even though Steam's time played counter failed to show it.

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      April 17, 2014 8:37 AM

      I love Steam. That being said, I've bought quite a few bundles and never played any of them but the one or two I purchased the bundle for.
      Older games I've played and beat I've either purchased again on sale or added in my key codes just so I don't have to dig out of the boxes in the basement an older game should I get the whim to play it.
      I've bought games from devs that put out quality working Linux ports just to be supportive.
      I've bought games I've owned on earlier consoles just so I don't have to dig out those things should I feel the urge to play.

      Point is, maybe I have played a bunch of them already, it just wasn't with Steam, and I will admit there are a few I've never even touched due to bundles.

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      June 29, 2014 6:01 PM

      I think the ONLY reason people buy Half-Life 2 but not play it is because of MODS.

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      March 18, 2015 6:09 PM

      I have currently 140 games on my account and i have played about 35 video games in this account. My case is special. I am a software developer, so i am always between projects. When i have free time i love to play. Another reason is because games like Dirt and Fallout 3 do not work properly in Windows 7. That is why i am working on a game engine that works from windows XP to Windows 10, with the least system dependencies possible. Developers forget to fallback if something that is not mandatory fails, like games for windows. I build modular apps that can work without some modules. For example some applications do not launch without database server connection. How are you supposed to solve problems and settings if the application crashes at start? Things like that make people not able to play the games, but at least WE support the industry. I am going to build a new gaming rig and keep my windows XP x64. This way i can play ALL my games. If i use a more recent windows version, mine and all gamers investment that is not being respected will just be flushed into the drain... WE deserve that our money is respected. A lot of people started to buy Playstation3 games digitally, they took a long time to get used to that. And now Playstation 4 uses a diferent architecture and the software is not compatible. People are not moving to ps4 because of that. They did a big investment and they plan to continue to use it. Now with Windows 10 and DX12 we can kiss goodby to 40% if not more video games. Some i run in linux with wine like Mass Efect.

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      May 10, 2019 5:43 AM

      /* hope it's alright to write it on my native language */
      Да, я прекрасно понимаю тех, кто купил игру и не играл в не через стим. Я и сам такой. Главная причина - это то, что на самом-то деле многие игры были заиграны до дыр и до не могу. Но при этом не были куплены по различным причинам - отсутствие в продаже, отсутствие интернета, денег и т.п. Причём в странах СНГ отсутствие лицензионных дисков и доступного интернета действительно имело массовое распространение вплоть до ~2010 г, а где-то и по сей день. Приходилось играть в неофициальные издания, либо скачивать не лицензионные копии. Теперь же, повзрослев, многие отдают почести создателям, и покупают игры детства, особенно есть есть скидки.
      Вторая часть - платные игры по акциям бесплатно. Халява. Кто ее не любит. Даже если игра не интересная или скучная.

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