It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out the number of games arriving on Steam has skyrocketed. This is fantastic for PC gaming. It’s never been in ruder health. The best, the worst, the most diverse gaming experiences; they’re all to be found on PC. But is it all too much? Could we perhaps even be headed for another video game market crash, such as was notoriously seen in 1983?
So let’s put this into perspective. Steam launched back in 2003 with just a Counter Strike Source beta to tempt punters in. After a slow start and a hostile reception, it eventually became a sought after way for developers to publish their games. By 2006, 63 games were launched in the span of a year. That’s just over one a week. If you spotted a new game on Steam, it was quite a big deal basically. By today's standards however, this seems positively quaint.
Fast forward to 2009 and it had accelerated. There were 333 games added that year. Pretty close to one a day now. It hung around this marker for the next three years. Over this time the old generation of consoles began to really show their age. Digital distribution had taken off in a big way. Console gamers were jumping ship to high end PCs. It was boom time for PC gaming.
Naturally enough, indie developers jumped on the bandwagon in spades. Back in 2012 there were ‘just’ 392 games released on Steam. Two years later, this number went stratospheric. 2014 saw a staggering 1,812 games released. By the end of 2015 there were roughly 6,000 games on Steam. We’re now nine months into the year and we’ve already passed the 10,000 mark. That’s over 4,000 new games in the space of nine months; around 15 a day. Every four days in 2016, there are as many PC games released on Steam as there was during an entire year in 2006.
You’d assumed that would automatically be a good thing, but it’s meant it’s become extremely difficult for games to be noticed. There’s some truly brilliant games that have been instantly buried by 30 other games launching on the same day, never to be seen again. I click through my Steam recommendations and all I see is mountains of trash, while the true gems are buried deeper and deeper. A combination of the popularity of PC gaming, the ease of development and the lowering of the barriers to entry by Valve has meant a huge increase in the number of games while the level of quality plummets.
It hasn’t taken long to notice the same 10-20 games occupy the bestseller list. They’ve made it. They’ve been exposed, and it’s becoming incredibly tough for smaller developers to break in; to be discoverable. It does happen, of course, with breakaway hits like Stardew Valley and Undertale, but they’re few and far between.
So what do you think, should Valve have more control over what games make it to Steam? Is there even such a thing as too many games, or do the best always rise to the top eventually? Let us know your thoughts!