Steam users played for nearly 21 billion (yes, billion) hours in 2019

(Image credit: Valve)

With 2020 now well underway, Valve has shared a look back at the "major updates and new features" that were added to Steam throughout 2019. It was a big year: More new games "found success" on Steam in 2019 than in 2018, according to the Year in Review blog post, and median earnings among new releases went up too. Monthly active users grew to nearly 95 million, and despite the occasional perception that Steam sales aren't the big deal they used to be, "2019 finished strong with our most successful sale ever."

Much of the post is dedicated to things we've covered previously, like the launch of Steam Labs and the "experiments" to emerge from it, like Micro Trailers, the Interactive Recommender, and Community Recommendations, and the Big Library Update, a major cosmetic overhaul that also added a significant number of new features including better sorting options, custom "shelves," and improved game pages.

There are some interesting bits of trivia, too. Nearly 21 billion hours of game time were played on Steam last year, 4.3 million items were uploaded to the Steam Workshop (including some "fake items" used to hijack accounts that forced the introduction of new verification steps), 44 review bombs were addressed, and over the final two months of the year, 3.7 million people used Remote Play, and 2.3 million used Remote Play Together.

That's right, 21 billion hours.  (Image credit: Valve)

It's a thorough overview of Steam's evolution over the course of the year, and worth diving into if you're interested in the nuts-and-bolts of how it all works. Maybe more interesting, though, is a look ahead at Valve's plans for Steam in 2020:

  • Data Deep Dives - We've seen a lot of analysis from third parties that have taken a stab at figuring out how games are doing on Steam (and overall health of the platform), based on the limited amount of data that is publicly available. Since we have access to more data, we thought it would be useful to do our own analysis and share the results as a multi-part series of blog posts.
  • Soundtracks - We're adding new functionality to better support gaming soundtracks.
  • Steam Trust - Trust (the tech behind Trust Factor Matchmaking in CS:GO) shipped in a closed beta to several partners last year and is being rolled out to all partners later this year.
  • Steam PC Café Program - Launched in an open beta last year to over 8 thousand sites, we're working on bringing the program to schools and libraries, along with the expected Cybercafés, PC Bangs, VR Arcades, etc.
  • Steam Labs - More top secret experiments are actively being tinkered with, and we're planning on graduating some of these features so that they are available to everyone.
  • SteamVR - The team is hard at work on SteamVR 2.0, which will feature a number of customer experience improvements.
  • Top Lists - We're taking what we learned from the top lists posted in Steam News this past year to develop new store destinations designed to display compelling trending content to customers.
  • Steam Mobile App - The mobile app is getting a refresh to add more login types and help users secure their accounts.
  • Sale Events - Building on features that first shipped in the 2019 Lunar New Year sale, we're exploring more ways to reward users for participating in sale events throughout the year.

Steam sale events could be fun, but what I'm really looking forward to are the "deep data dives." It might be more relevant to my specific interests than to gamers in general, but something along the lines of an "official" SteamSpy (which, admittedly, this doesn't really sound like, but I live in hope) would be very useful.

Valve is also working improvements planned for Steam TV, chat, the library, the Steam Store, and other features, plus "more projects that we're not quite ready to talk about just yet." We can expect to learn more about all that over the course of the year. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.