Stardew Valley made way more money than Call of Duty on Steam, and other 2016 sales insights

Steam sales soothsayer Sergey Galyonkin, otherwise known as the creator of Steam Spy, has released a report on sales of games on Steam in 2016. Alongside Valve's own official ranking of the best-selling PC games of 2016, Galyonkin's graphs and figures provide a more granular picture of how the estimated sales of specific games might compare to one another. It also reinforces something we already knew: 2016 was an insane year for strategy games.

Before I dig in, it's important to underline that Steam Spy uses sampling to generate its data. These figures are estimates based on that sampling, and are by nature extrapolations. One discrepancy up front, for example: Steam Spy puts Doom as the fifth highest-earner of 2016, and Rise of the Tomb Raider as sixth. But Steam's official revenue ranking has neither of these games in the top 12. I asked Galyonkin to clarify this:

It's also worth noting that sales of in-game items, like those of Dota 2, aren't included in these figures. With those well-salted caveats hopefully in your mind, onto the takeaways:

Table via Steam Spy. Click for link.
  • $3.5 billion worth of games were purchased on or redeemed through Steam last year. That figure includes keys that were bought outside of Steam, in bundles or directly from developers' websites. Galoyonkin disclaims that "The margin of error on this particular number is quite high," and that his estimates varied between $3.3B to $3.6B.
  • No Man's Sky was the most successful independent game of 2016 on Steam, earning an estimated $43 million. (This estimate does account for refunds.)
  • Although Dota 2 and CS:GO likely earned more if we could account for their microtransactions, Steam Spy says Civ 6 earned more revenue than any other game, an estimated $79 million.
  • In copies sold, CS:GO outperformed everyone by a massive margin: 6.7 million new owners, with Rocket League miles behind at 2.6 million. Some amount of this, surely, can be credited to the use of alt accounts by CS:GO players. The official CS:GO website says that Valve's FPS had 10.8 million active players in December.
  • Stardew Valley probably earned about $24 million last year. Steam Spy thinks that it earned $9.2 million in March after it released on February 26. Stardew may have sold 1.5 million more copies than Mafia III. Not bad for a one-man project.
  • Call of Duty is a notable omission from Steam Spy's top 25, both in copies sold and in revenue. "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare performed way worse than Black Ops III," Galyonkin notes. Black Ops III does make some appearances in the best monthly sales of January, February, September, and November.
  • Steam Spy thinks that CoD: Infinite Warfare sold about 245,000 copies in November, slightly less than Planet Coaster.
  • "An average game on Steam got median sales of 6,640 copies in 2016 with $25,245 in revenue," says Steam Spy.
  • 4726 games were added to Steam in 2016, according to Steam Spy.

Read the full report, which includes other notes on trends in independent games, right here

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.