A recent SteamSpy comparison of Steam game sales in April 2015 and 2016 is a classic case of good news and bad news, depending on where you sit on the charts. Sales of games at the top of the heap are doing as well as ever, but everything else is in decline.
SteamSpy boss Sergey Galyonkin said on his Patreon page that he was spurred to investigate the situation further when he realized that the number of owners of an average game on Steam had dropped from 32,000 in April 2015 to just 21,000 in April 2016. What he found is that while quite a lot of new games have been released on Steam over the past year, the distribution of sales has remained unaffected.
“As you'd probably expect, we saw a lot of new games released since the last year, and they've skewed the numbers toward lower sales. But the distribution of sales (second graph) remains pretty much the same with some minor increase in lower sales and minor decrease in the middle,” he wrote. “Or, in layman terms: we've got a lot of new bad-selling games on Steam, but it didn't affect the top games, which still sell pretty well.”
Galyonkin also revealed some less-than-inspirational data (and note that this is SteamSpy's data, not direct from Valve) from the same period . The number of games on Steam increased from 2,675 in April 2015 to 3,677 in April 2016, yet the number of copies sold dropped from 36.5 million to 26.4 million, while total revenues were down from $551 million to $366 million—despite an overall decrease in the average purchase price. The pattern held true for indie games as well: The number of the games in the category increased from 1,352 to 2,099, while copies sold dropped from 14.9 million to 13.0 million.
The same comparison but for all games on Steam this time. GTA V > Dark Souls III. pic.twitter.com/t1Zxnrl8ISApril 26, 2016
Despite that, he said that the numbers aren't actually a sign of “market saturation or indiepocalypse.”
“Median indie games sales in April 2015 were 5,400 copies and they dropped to 2,800 in April 2016. But on the other hand the sales for #10 indie game in April 2015 were 104,000 copies and 102,000 in April 2016,” he tweeted. “So the tail become longer as more games get released on Steam, but if your game is one of the top indie titles, you're safe.”