Half-Life 2 patch tool Steam makes history for the 2nd time this year with a concurrent user count of nearly 35 million people

PC gaming: it’s a pretty big deal. An alarming statement to read in the pages of PC Gamer dot com, I know, but I’ve got the numbers to back it up: Steam has once again hit a new concurrent user record, with 34.6 million people online across the world on March 3.

That’s according to SteamDB, the usual stalwart record keeper for these kinds of things, and is an increase of around a million over Steam’s previous concurrent record of 33.6 million, which it set back in January. 34.6 million is more people than there are in Peru, if you’re keeping track (of either PC gaming or Peru).

The number of those players who were actually in-game was almost as record-breaking, if that’s a concept we’re all willing to let me have. On the same day, Steam hit a concurrent in-game player count of 11,146,564, a few hundred thousand below its current record of 11,582,167, which it also set in January.

It’s funny to think that, back when it launched, Steam was regarded as little more than a doomed and onerous bit of DRM for Valve games. An ostensible bit of patching software that plenty of gamers regarded as an unwelcome intruder in their task bar. You can even find old forum threads to that effect still online. Things have changed now, of course: we’ve transferred all of those feelings onto the Epic Games Store.

It’s not hard to guess just why Steam is smashing record after record at the moment. Games like Palworld and Helldivers 2 are tearing up the charts, enlisting millions worldwide in a quest to establish Pokémon-based capitalism or else a doomed war against bugs and robots. Plus, of course, “gaming” as a concept gets more popular year on year and PC is the best place to do it. That’s not just me waving the flag: where else are you gonna play Horizon Forbidden West and Starfield? I mean, sure, maybe eventually PS5 if recent moves from Microsoft are any indication. But right now? Only on your desktop, baby.

Of course, Steam isn’t the alpha and omega of playing on PC, so maybe it’s premature to leap to conclusions based on its numbers alone. I feel confident about taking it as a sign of the platform’s popularity, though: it’s far and away the largest brick in the wall of the great edifice that is PC gaming.

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