Steam has been one of the major success stories in the gaming world over the last few years. Valve's digital game retail and delivery platform had 75 million daily active users by January this year and, in all likelihood, more than that now.
It's so successful, in fact, that many of its users don't bother playing games they buy through the platform. Many of them not even once.
Ars Technica found that on average 36.9 per cent of registered games per user remain completely unplayed. Never even loaded. And a further 17 per cent of games have been played for less than one hour. That effectively means that Steam owners don't want or can't be bothered to play over half (53.9 per cent) the games they download.
And with only 21.6 per cent of registered games having been played for more than 10 hours, that leaves a lot of driftwood floating around in people's accounts or even on their hard drives.
You might think that the vast majority of unplayed games are free-to-play titles. However, Ars Technica found that practically 100 per cent of free-to-play games have been played at least once. So those remaining untouched have more than likely cost the user money.
The methods used by Ars Technica to discover this data might not be perfect but are clever. Its automatic crawler searched through between 80 to 90,000 public Steam user profile pages each day, which contain information on each user's library of games and how often they have played them. While that doesn't include users that have chosen to hide their profile or those who have been inactive for a while, it amounted to a rolling, randomised of the Steam community. And was run over a two month period.
The random survey also found that the top 20 most owned games on Steam were almost entirely dominated by Valve's own titles. Dota 2 tops the pile with an estimated 25.93 million owners.
Skyrim, Sid Meier's Civilization V and Garry's Mod are the non-Valve games to make the list. However, they each have a high played estimation, with only between 0.3 and 0.7 million owners not playing them. Compare that to Valve's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, which has an estimated 10.7 million copies remaining dormant and only 2.1 million still being played.
There are a number of theories you could draw from the statistics. Sales and cut-priced games could account for the whimsical nature of purchases, which at least ensures publishers, indie or otherwise, are being paid. However, we're pretty sure they'd prefer you to play the results of their efforts, rather than stare at them in a menu bar in perpetuity.