Six-core CPUs are now more popular than quad-core chips on Steam

Intel Core i5 12400
(Image credit: Future)

The latest Steam Survey is out, and one of the key takeaways from the latest figures is that gaming PCs are slowly shuffling forward in their core capabilities. Quad-core CPUs have been the most popular chips for what seems like forever, but according to the March figures, six-core chips have finally taken over the top spot (via Sweclockers). Progress.

This is only true if you're talking about Windows PCs though, as OSX and Linux users skew things slightly. If you include those two platforms, quad-core offerings manage to hold on to their lead, at 33.52% vs. 33.42% for the six-core chips. 

Eight-core chips are gaining in popularity too, although, with just over half the market of the four- and six-core chips, it's going to be a while before they become the standard. Apple actually helps things quite a lot here, as the M1 is an eight-core chip, so as they upgrade to the latest hardware, they're jumping straight to the beefier chips.

Back to focusing on Windows PCs, we can mainly thank AMD for this shift to higher core counts, as its Zen architecture and Ryzen chips really promoted higher core counts. Intel has been forced to follow suit as well, meaning that anyone looking to upgrade their machine right now is going to be looking at six-core CPUs as a minimum. For example, both the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel Core i5 12400 are 6-core chips.

This is good news for PC gaming because the market shift to more cores will allow developers to start making better use of those cores. This should lead to better AI and physics as well as more efficient engines. It also means that any new gaming PC should probably see six-core chips as a minimum.

One machine that is bucking the trend here a little is Valve's own Steam Deck, which ships with a quad-core, eight-thread CPU. That is a bit of a special case though, and given the number of units that were shipped in March, probably doesn't affect these figures much. Still, don't be surprised to see it bring the average core count down, at least for Linux machines.


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Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.