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Steam continues to show growth despite steady “year-over-year unit declines in PC sales,” says Newell

Tuesday, 17th September 2013 17:51 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Steam as a platform continues to grow despite a steady “year-over-year unit declines in PC sales,” according to Valve boss Gabe Newell.

Speaking during Linuxcon yesterday, Newell believes the PC market will eventually see “significant restructurings, or market exits,” by top-five companies in the PC space, which is “pretty grim.”

However, the silver lining according to the Valve man, is that PC as a games format is quite “immune” to such declines.

“So despite the huge declines in PC sales, on the gaming side there’s growth,” he told the audience. “Steam is going up 76% year-on-year while PCs are going through double-digit declines. Several years ago we got very concerned about directions that the PC was going. We thought there was some bad thinking.

“There were these new platforms that started to emerge, and they had this nice characteristic that [they] could control access to those platforms. If you didn’t like competing with Google, you just didn’t let them ship on your device, or you could determine how often they update. You could have control on things like pricing, and that was a very seductive opportunity which led to some poor decisions by the key players in the PC space.

“I think they should have doubled-down on the openness of the platform, rather than going the other way.”

Newell went on to state that he believes PC is where innovation in the games space is occurring, and not on “consoles [or] closed systems.”

He feels Linux is part of gaming’s “future,” noting that at present Steam has around 200 games available for the platform.

You can watch his presentation through the link above via our previous post.

Thanks, CVG.

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22 Comments

  1. noamlol2

    all the next gen idea are current garbage

    no mods, PAYED SUBSCRIBTION, HDCP on both devices
    and the worst of all… locked digital market

    buying digital games for steam is very cheap since it’s a free market
    you can buy codes from any site (there is always sales and stuff like that every month) and now with steam sharing, buying digital isn’t obsolete
    since you can always share the games you don’t play with others

    like physical games, the reason they will never allow to sell licenses is because of the sales, when you buy a 30$ for 5$ what can you want them to give you? 2.5$?

    also mods, a huge boon for PC gamers
    games like CIV 5 has mods right off the menu and it’s fantastic

    there is no need to download some dime and nickle DLC to enjoy more content

    in one word, screw the PS4, if the steambox actually DOES comeout
    buy it instead (since if it will be a linux/valve operated OS
    they will optimize games for that system)

    #1 11 months ago
  2. TMRNetShark

    PC units? Maybe more people are buying tablets for work or feel their older systems work for every day use while they build their own gaming PCs.

    Or maybe, if you’ve bought a decent computer with a mid range card in the past 2 years, you can still run a majority of new games. My PC is 2 years old and I will still be able to run Battlefield 3 on mostly high settings.

    #2 11 months ago
  3. DSB

    The decline in PC sales is workstations, not gaming computers.

    It’ll still hurt the companies making the gaming components though, so it’s certainly not good. But it won’t impact the gaming scene just yet.

    And Windows 8 is a bust, so that doesn’t really move hardware either.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. sebastien rivas

    @3
    I know right, I have seen a windows 8 screen last year or so (2~3 months before win 8 was on the market). I was like what are these ugly and massive GUI like I slap an icon on your forehead do exactly?
    Pazzaaammmm, you got GUI’ed, my forehead… it hurts… ;)

    Anyway, ever since, believe it or not, I did NOT even make a single research about Win 8 and still don’t know what it does and don’t(s) :)

    Perhaps MS will come to their senses with win 9. In the meantime, I am very happy with win 7.

    So last question, 1 says PC is in declined and you say only Workstation are in declined, who is right, who is bluffing? How do you know only workstation are in decline? and what doe his research value is based on “PC is in decline” is quite massive. Does that include HTPCs, servers, and also component sells? or is it just and ONLY attributed to major brands such as DELL, SONY, HP, IBM??? that is question!!!

    In any case, it is good to hear Valve/Steam have something up their sleeve… +1 guys +1 :)

    #4 11 months ago
  5. DSB

    @4 I may have abused the word workstation there, but what I meant was “the 21st century typewriter is in decline”.

    http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/07/five-consecutive-quarters-of-sliding-pc-sales-mark-a-new-industry-record/

    But then it’s really also worth remembering that the PC shifts more units in a quarter than most consoles ship in a generation.

    The GUI slap thing was hilarious though. That’s exactly what it feels like to use Windows 8! :P

    #5 11 months ago
  6. MFBB

    Gabe is also changing his mind depending on what kind of PR Steam needs.

    Few years ago when he appeared on consoles with Steam he was all pro consoles and said something like …I am sorry about what I said before, well at least we are here now (think it was during E3 on Sony stage).

    Now when Steam is developing his own hardware which is a direct rival to consoles he changes his mind again and consoles are evil closed systems again :)

    Typical PR crap talk we see every month in the gaming industry.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. DSB

    @6 I think it’s pretty consistent. Valve obviously chose to work with Sony because they saw an opening there.

    http://www.develop-online.net/news/38486/Valve-We-need-to-reward-Sony-for-opening-PS3

    With the PS4 Sony is locking it down even further by having people pay for online, and that’s obviously the kind of nonsense you don’t like to see if you’d like to sell games on that platform.

    Imagine if you had a console manufacturer that was brave enough to let third parties compete on their platform. It would be a huge boon to the industry, and ultimately the customers.

    Instead you get to pay for a bog standard (perhaps even slightly outdated) online service for no particular reason, except “they can get away with that”, and the digital storefront will be almost entirely immune to competition.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. nollie4545

    I just wish Ubisoft and EA would ditch their respective services and hand them to steam.

    As for PC gaming, it makes total sense. I will never understand why people invest money in consoles now.

    A budget gaming PC will deliver better performance and the games are cheaper to start with, soon pays for itself.

    The days of me paying more money for less, and lower quality content, are long gone.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. Dragon246

    @6,
    Not surprising. The entire “linux is future” bullcrap is essentially because they are afraid MS will sometime in the future knock them out of windows.

    #9 11 months ago
  10. livewired500

    PC’s are a lot easier to build now so more and more PC gamers are just building what they want (and saving money as well).

    More tablet sales to the average home user. Who needs a cheap internet box now when there are phones and cheap tablets that do the same.

    PC Gamers probably only make up about 10% or less of PC users. I’m totally guessing there. Would be an interesting statistic to find out.

    Would be interesting to see if parts sales through Newegg and Amazon are up.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. pcbros

    @9 – The Xbox One is based on Windows 8 (most people hate Windows 8). The Playstation 4 is based on FreeBSD (I don’t know anyone who uses this).

    So you are telling me Microsoft’s and Sony’s options are MUCH better than Linux? Get real… Windows is in the position it’s in thanks to it’s previous massive install base. But if Windows, Mac OS and Linux all released at the same time, I predict things would be a lot different today. Who wants to pay $100 – $200 for an OS that doesn’t offer anything that a free OS can’t do?

    Linux is gaining a lot of popularity. It’s a fully capable OS that’s 100% free. If you have kept up with technology, you’d know how Linux is growing (in part thanks to Ubuntu). You can have Linux running on your console (Steambox), desktop, tablet and even phone… and they are all connected.

    I use Windows because I HAVE to, not because I want to.

    Btw, you can run Windows software on Linux using Wine (open-source program). So I’m sure Valve will come up with a way to get your entire Steam library on the box.

    All I know is that if Valve can pull this off and I can play all my Steam games (from classic 1990′s graphic adventure games, to today’s hit titles ), that’s going to be huge. I will never go back to consoles.

    EDIT: If they can manage to allow people to install emulators (a la Ouya), that would be even better! :)

    #11 11 months ago
  12. smoke.tetsu

    FreeBSD is also an integral part of Mac OS X and helped it get its Unix certification.

    I’ve used Wine quite a bit and I find it’s hit or miss. You can’t count on games automatically working on it without a lot of work. It’s certainly not a solution for someone who expects plug and play gaming unless they do a hell of a lot of work to it and make a curated garden version. But even that’s not a guarantee that everything will work as properly as with a natively ported or developed game.

    Speaking of natively ported games I’ve noticed Valve’s games only support two channel audio on Linux (or Mac) despite what type of audio hardware one has setup. You could have 5.1 or more channels enabled in your sound card and working in some games (such as open source ports or third party ports or even wine games) but Valve’s games refuse to use it and so far the devs from Valve are saying they have no plans on fixing that. https://github.com/ValveSoftware/Source-1-Games/issues/93

    Sadly, at this point Windows still has more devs serious about taking full advantage of all the hardware features that our hardware has… or making sure those features are used correctly. Alternative operating systems need to catch up to the present before they can be the future.

    Also, Linux doesn’t have porting studios like Mac has that are willing to port the years greatest titles to it. There’s no Aspyr Media or Feral Interactive for Linux yet and they have no plans to branch out to Linux. They barely have the resources to even support one platform much less two.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. smoke.tetsu

    Also, I think it’s pretty obvious that Steam sales are going up while hardware sales are going down because people buying hardware within the past 2 years haven’t felt the need to upgrade especially because of the protracted current gen console cycle holding things back to some degree.

    #13 11 months ago
  14. TheWulf

    I don’t think that PC sales are going down at all, though. I just think that shitty, mass market PCs are selling less. Why? Windows 8.

    See, I think more and more people are going to enthusiast PC builders, the sort you see advertised in PC games magazines. They’re doing this because they can get a semi-custom built and they can have Windows 7 put on it, as no one in their right mind seems to actually prefer 8 over 7.

    So because the mass market sales are dropping, it’s assumed that PC sales are dropping. What’s happening is that smaller businesses are picking up the sales because they’re smart enough to sell computers with Windows 7 optionally on them. Go figure.

    It’s not really that surprising when you think about it.

    If you had the choice of a very expensive mass market computer running Windows 8, or a somewhat less expensive enthusiast site-built computer running Windows 7, which would you pick?

    #14 11 months ago
  15. pcbros

    @12 – I didn’t mean Valve would be using Wine, I just meant that they can probably find a way to allow people to play games made for Windows.

    If Linux can make a footprint in the gaming market, developers will port their games to Linux. But right now they are overshadowed by Microsoft and Apple.

    But I think Valve can change that. Steam changed PC gaming in general. Steam made it easy to install, chat and play with friends. I’m confident they can make an impact and bring Linux to the forefront of PC gaming as well.

    If Linux is really DOA, Valve wouldn’t be investing time and money in the Steambox (unless they end up using Windows OS).

    #15 11 months ago
  16. smoke.tetsu

    There are no magic ways to allow people to play games made for windows in Linux without some kind of wine type solution or installing Windows in a virtual machine or dual booting to Windows. Pick one.. any one.

    Perhaps Valve can change that getting more studios to port natively… who knows.. but first I’d like to see them fully take advantage of what’s available to them on the hardware. I certainly don’t see stuff like basic stereo as the future of gaming. I’ve been waiting for years for them to fix the sound in the Mac versions and I’ve noticed they are using the same basic features in Linux. Their Windows versions beat both in terms of features sadly.

    Lastly, even if Valve manages to make a dent in getting studios to port their games natively. For one reason or another there’ll always be a huge catalog of games that will never be ported or playable on there if they use Linux. Even other systems like Apple that have a relatively higher market share and a head start and more studios that port games that haven’t gone out of business (Linux had some but they went out of business). Face this reality.

    #16 11 months ago
  17. pcbros

    @16 – As for the large back catalog, I think they could use some kind of emulation, streaming or Wine technology to solve that problem.

    However, I believe the most important thing for Steambox’s success will be getting developers to release their new games on it. Developers don’t care if a platform is based on Android, iOS, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS or Linux, they will release games for it if it will equal a profit for them.

    No one says, “Ugh! The PS4 is FreeBSD based… we’ll pass on it because FreeBSD is not so popular”. They know people will buy the PS4, so making games for it will = $$$. Same thing with the Steambox.

    How the Steambox can position itself to be successful is easy… release a PC in a box that will out-perform the PS4 and XB1 at a competitive price. Everyone knows that PCs dominate consoles in power and graphics. But people are scared of PC gaming.

    Steambox can bring some sort of “standard” to PC gaming. I’m really excited to see what happens.

    EDIT: One additional bonus is that with the Steambox, you could play your games on any PC (including tablets) as well. You are not locked in to using only the Steambox. Where as the PS4 and XB1 lock you to the console.

    #17 11 months ago
  18. smoke.tetsu

    Mentioning Wine or emulation is now resorting to a circular argument. So I point to what I said earlier.

    Streaming is going to be used for the consoles for backwards compatibility but personally I’d rather not use streaming as that’s the end-game of DRM where the person has not one iota of control to be able to run or make mods for their games or enable features that don’t come by default with a game (such as replacing libraries for better sound and graphics). Not to mention other issues such as not everyone having the bandwidth or stable internet connections necessary to make full use of streaming. Not to mention erasing the idea of ever being able to play those games offline for whatever reason a person might want to play an game offline… especially a single player game.

    Many if not most developers don’t release their games for systems seen as well.. less mainstream unless another developer who specializes in porting games steps in and offers to do the work for them. Including licensing said game (paying for the rights basically) and those markets remain untapped unless someone steps in (such as Aspyr and Feral, and so far Linux hasn’t proven to support these kind of studios).

    Steamplay so far hasn’t guaranteed that every game that is on Steam gets ported to every system supported (Windows, Linux and Mac). Especially considering that some studios simply have other priorities. You can’t force a studio to make a game for every supported platform even if you are Valve.

    More and more games are coming to Windows PC but only a fraction of them are being ported.. first or third party to Linux or even Mac. Maybe the Steambox will help Linux gain traction. But we’ll have to see.. it is possible for a new system to not gain traction in the market even if its technically and ideologically better. So far Linux has to rely upon Wine even more than Mac does due to lack of third party porting studios.. and again Wine is not a silver bullet that everything automatically works with. I’ve been using it for years and I wouldn’t count on games working perfectly or at all for technical reasons.

    #18 11 months ago
  19. pcbros

    @18 – I just want to see PC gaming become more accessible. And right now, Valve is the only one trying to do just that. The games are there. We just need some sort of hardware standard.

    #19 11 months ago
  20. smoke.tetsu

    We also need good development and software standards too or for example Valve’s ports will always be second rate with less features than the original game has. I’ve noticed much of the work done on Linux and Mac ports are done by individual third party contractors and they don’t take certain features (such as audio) very seriously instead making bare bones features for ports of games… and Valve isn’t the only studio guilty of this. I don’t know about you but I don’t want less features simply for being an an alternative system when I know fully well that those features are entirely possible as I have experienced them from other studios.

    Actually the hardest part is getting developers to agree to and use the standards or the best ones already set in place and use them correctly. It’s sort of like the saying.. you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

    #20 11 months ago
  21. pcbros

    @20 – I agree. But I can almost garuntee that if Valve releases the Steambox and it’s Linux based, you will not see handicapped Linux versions of the their future games.

    #21 11 months ago
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    #22 11 months ago

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