Only around 10% of Steam gaming sessions are played with a controller

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(Image credit: Activision)

Valve has released a bunch of interesting info in its Steam Year in Review 2021, including controller usage statistics. According to Valve, there are currently 48 million controllers "registered by Steam users," and they're used in over 10% of all gaming sessions. I wonder how many of those are Steam controllers?

Back in February, a Steamworks update added a new controller usage stats page where developers can see a detailed breakdown of how often players are using controllers in their games, and what kinds of controllers they're using. The data includes gamepads, flight sticks, racing pedals, and even dance pads. Basically, anything that plugs into your PC and can be used to play a game (like a banana) but isn't a mouse and keyboard is counted as a controller. 

It wasn't surprising to read that, back in 2021, over 70% of fighting and sports games were played with a controller (or a fight stick), while that number falls to below 1% for RTS games. Only 7-8% of players use a controller for first-person shooters. 3rd person action/adventure games like Elden Ring saw a near 50/50 split between controller and keyboard and mouse usage, which is surprising, as the genre often puts controllers first. Elden Ring's mouse and keyboard support isn't the best, for example.

It seems a lot of PC gamers prefer to stick with keyboard and mouse controls, even in games that prioritize controllers.

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Valve offered examples of how using this data could help a dev improve controller support for their games. Suppose you notice that PlayStation controller usage falls below the global average (24%); you might want to check if the correct PS button prompts are displaying in its game instead of an Xbox controller.

Steam's year in review also noted that players logged over 21% more playtime in 2021 than 2020. The active daily users sit around 69 million, with a concurrent count of 27.4 million. Steam also delivered over 32.9 exabytes of data, which is a lot of games downloaded in 2021.

Jorge Jimenez
Hardware writer, Human Pop-Tart

Jorge is a hardware writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, he's reviewing all sorts of gaming hardware, from laptops with the latest mobile GPUs to gaming chairs with built-in back massagers. He's been covering games and tech for over ten years and has written for Dualshockers, WCCFtech, Tom's Guide, and a bunch of other places on the world wide web.