Nvidia's RTX 3060 is the new Steam Survey king but something fishy is going on

Zotac RTX 3060 on a bright background.
(Image credit: Future)

Ray tracing is fo' real peeps. For proof, look no further than the latest Steam Hardware Survey, which places the a ray-tracing-capable GPU at the top of the tables for the first time. The GPU in question? None other than the Nvidia RTX 3060, now the most popular graphics card among surveyed Steam users.

If that seems inevitable given Nvidia's first RTX GPUs launched over four and a half years ago and pretty soon all new graphics cards will have hardware ray tracing acceleration, there is a catch. This particular Steam Survey looks a little fishy.

If you track the RTX 3060 over recent months, you'll see it gradually increasing market share over time in the survey. In November last year it was 3.41% of users, 3.88% the following month, it then actually dipped slightly to 3.67% in January, before hitting 4.36% in February and then...kaboom...10.67% of all Steam users in March.

The RTX 2060 saw a pretty big jump up in March, too, having sat pretty level for the previous four months. That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense given it's an old GPU that is essentially no longer on sale in most markets.

AMD also saw a sudden drop in overall GPU market share in March to 10.8% from 14.9% in February having remained at around 15% plus or minus a decimal point for several months previously.

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In the broad scheme of things, that's a huge change in one month and doesn't look plausible. Dig further into the data and one particular stat jumps out. In March, the proportion of surveyed Steam users reporting Simplified Chinese as their OS language exploded from 27.08% to 52.7%.

That, again, seems like a fairly bizarre and unlikely scenario. It's as if an army of Chinese gaming cafes have suddenly been given internet access.

Anyway, we'll probably never know for sure what it going on here. Some might argue this reflects a sudden unleashing of ex-mining cards. But was the RTX 3060 really ever big in mining?

One thing is for sure. We've seen fishy looking Steam surveys before. So, we'd advise waiting a few months for the numbers to settle down before assuming any of this is terribly accurate.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.