Steam hits new concurrent user record due to coronavirus

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For the third weekend in a row, Valve’s Steam platform set a new concurrent user record. During March 28-29, 23 million people logged in to the online gaming system. The service’s usage surges have coincided with widespread government lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the outbreak’s spread not slowing down, Steam and other online entertainment services will likely set even greater usage high water marks soon.

Steam’s Big Weekend

Before the COVID-19 global health crisis, Steam’s highest number of concurrent users was 18 million, a record set on this year’s Super Bowl Sunday. However, the popular gaming platform hit a new benchmark on March 15 when 20 million people logged on simultaneously. That record proved short-lived as 22 million players signed on at the same time the following weekend.

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TechSpot reveals gamers aren’t flocking to Steam to try out new titles while in quarantine. The eight-year-old “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” topped the weekend’s most concurrently played list with more than 1 million contemporaneous users. “Dota 2,” which debuted in 2013, came in at second place with almost 750,000 simultaneous players.

The newest game in last weekend’s top five was 2016’s “Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds,” a title that drew about 560,000 competitors. Notably, “Counter-Strike,” “Dota 2,” and “Battlegrounds” topped the most concurrently played ranks for the past three weekends. “Grand Theft Auto 5” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege” claimed the fourth and fifth spots respectively, and both games have been available for more than five years.

Steam has a well-earned reputation for hosting quirky new games. But right now, users are turning to the platform to indulge in a multiplayer version of comfort food.

Record Levels of Digital Escapism

It’s not just PC players who are leaning extra hard on their game library to ride out COVID-19 quarantine. The Xbox and PlayStation online ecosystems have reportedly experienced “record levels of engagement” in recent weeks. As a result, Microsoft and Sony put out separate statements letting gamers know they are closely monitoring their respective networks to prevent outages.

Indeed, analytics firm Deepfield reported a 400 percent week-to-week increase in online gaming on March 26.

Movie fans have also been getting in more binge-watch time than usual lately. On the weekend of March 14, Disney Plus experienced a 300 percent surge in signups. Similarly, HBO Now saw a 90 percent spike in new subscribers while Netflix had a 47 percent jump in membership additions.

Meanwhile, Apple TV recorded a mere 10 percent jump in signups because word got out about its programming.

In Europe, coronavirus prompted upticks in popular streaming service viewership have been so significant, the regional government has intervened. Two weeks ago, Netflix agreed to reduce the bitrate of its programming by 25 percent within the European Union. The firm made the change after EU official Thierry Breton expressed concern about the region’s dwindling bandwidth.

YouTube and Amazon also downgraded the quality of their streams in the area to not disrupt EU internet availability.

Even though they aren’t available in the highest possible definition, it’s good to know online gaming, movie, and TV streaming are available for billions of deeply bored and sequestered people.


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