What Steam will look like in 3 years

21 September 2003, Valve’s standalone client software is launched. Initially created to provide automatic updates, it would expand to include products from third-party publishers, becoming the digital distribution platform for PC games we know today. Over the years many systems have been added to improve the experience for both buyers and sellers, but there is one that remains at the basis, to the point that no game can exist without it.

The genre.

There are currently 24 genres used by Steam games, but not all of them are commonly used, which is why I decided to only consider the 10 that are represented on the store home page. Together they are present on more than 40,000 different games, and if we also consider the DLCs, the value exceeds 69,000.
But making a game isn’t easy, and sooner or later any title will have to clash with the competition, so the safest choice is to avoid the more saturated genres and find a convenient niche.

You can explore multiple genres via the dropdown menu at the top of the chart.

2013 was a turning point for the video game industry, 2D support has finally arrived on the Unity Game Engine, and Twitch’s rapid rise in popularity has likely led many people to become more interested in game development, and perhaps even share their knowledge. The following year, games such as Shovel Knight, Goat Simulator, The Binding of Isaac, The Banner Saga make their appearance on the platform; proving that “anyone” can do it. The era of Indies has begun.

If we look at the numbers of the games released annually on the platform from that date, we can see that not all genres have been equally famous. More precisely, there are three groups.
The first is composed by Action, Adventure and Casual, and together they represent almost 80% of the market, and each of them in 2020 released around 3,500 new games.
In the second we find more specific genres and therefore less used, we are talking about RPGs, Simulation and Strategy, and the market for each is around 1,600 games per year.
The last one contains the MMOs, Racing and Sports, with no more than 500 games published in the last year.
You may have noticed that I left out one genre, the Indies, this is because it’s special. It is present in over 70% of the games on the platform, with a market of over 6,500 games per year, certainly unique.

But what will these numbers be like in three years?

The data I have collected tells me that all genres will continue the growth that began in 2013, but being all different so is their speed.
The majority will register 30–45% more games in 2023 compared to this year. The best, the Simulation, will exceed 50%, managing to be the only one to change position, moving to fifth place for the number of games released. The most modest of the predictions are for MMOs, whose growth will stop at 13%.

You can explore multiple genres via the dropdown menu at the top of the chart.

However, to obstacle the sale or purchase of a game, there is not only competition but also one value that every consumer will look at carefully, the price.
Less than 13% of Steam’s games are free, the rest, roughly 36,000 titles, are considered premium, the ones shown in the graph. And considering all them it can be seen that the average price does not change much between the genres, regardless of the number of games released, always remaining around € 8–9. But, what about special cases?
This year, and probably also in the future, the most expensive genre is Sports; and I predict that their average price will rise from €11.56 to over €19, more reasonably it shouldn’t exceed €14.
Once again, MMOs are struggling, with the lowest growth, this time even negative. They will drop by 5.7%, enough to lower the average price from €9.63 to almost €9. But that’s no surprise, considering they have to compete in a genre where over 56% of titles are free. After all, games of this type require masses of players and what better way to attract them than to let themselves try the product for free.
The rest of the genres will grow around 25–30%, with some borderline cases, such as Racing with 57%, or Action with just 12%. As for their values, the fewer games, the higher the price. We see that the leading group in 2023 will have averages between € 8–10, while the rest does not fall below € 12.

Downloadable Contents

Since the platform was born, there have been DLCs, i.e. digital products linked to a game. They are rarely necessary for the full enjoyment of the game but are rather a help (boost pack, special heroes, etc …), or an extension of the experience (bonus levels, new events, etc …). By publishing them the developers have the goal of improving the game, while still being able to earn from the extra effort. But recently, probably due to the rise of other forms of monetization, such as battle passes, or the concept of ‘game as a service’, these tools are becoming rarer.
As in the case of MMOs, which until 2018 has always seen more DLCs released than games. At the point of maximum expansion, 286 new DLCs have come out, alongside 230 games. But in the last 2 years, the numbers have dropped by 40% and if the trend doesn’t stop they could be gone by 2023. And unfortunately, they are not alone, even among Simulation, Sports and many other genres, the numbers are not positive.

Summary

Each game is different and so are their genres, my conclusion is simple: they will grow. Probably my forecasts are very optimistic, but I hope they will serve as a basis for your own. The data I used is available at this link.

Special thanks to Leonardo Giovanni Scur and Steven Yau for following the writing of the article.

Junior Game Programmer, making videogames. (he/him)