Valve Software announced this year’s top 100 best games on its digital store front Steam. Although there are not many surprises, it further indicates that the concept of a simple collapse at the turn of the year in the gaming industry is fast becoming a historical object. Many of the “games of the year”
The way Valve presents Steam’s top sellers is an interesting counterpoint to many of the other end of year lists, which have naturally been more focused on what has come out in the last 12 months. While Valve’s thumb is a bit on the scale here, since its own game like Team Fortress 2 are multi-year high revenues on the store front, Steam top 100 paints a fuller picture of the overall marketplace than a simple annual top 10 can.
The latest list shows that making money in game publishing in 2020 is not just about finding an audience, especially on the PC. It’s about keeping it as long as possible, and the best-earned games on Steam have managed to hold the attention of the local community for years.
As usual, Bellevue, Wash. -Based Valve measures the game’s annual performance with gross total revenue, rather than just individual unit sales. This includes content packages, extensions, cosmetic purchases, paid currencies in the app and other various revenue streams. Valve also does not give hard and fast numbers on the subject, and prefers to award games in one of four categories – Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze – based on their overall financial performance. We know the 12 best games of the year since they achieved a Platinum ranking, but not exactly how they did in relation to each other.
As has become the norm, only a relatively handful of 2020 releases were among the most lucrative games of the year. Of the 12 games that hit Platinum on Steam’s list, only three – Doom Eternal, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, and Cyberpunk 2077 – actually came out the last 12 months.
Expand it to the top 40 games in total, in Platinum, Gold and Silver rank, and it only adds five more modern releases: Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, Baldur’s Gate 3, Phasmophobia, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Hades. Of the full top 100 for 2020, only 31 of them were released on Steam this year, and a handful of these are recent ports on older games, such as Hideo Kojima’s dream logical adventure in 2019 Death Stranding.
Valve also cut an agreement with California-based mega-publisher Electronic Arts to bring some of its games back to Steam in early September, which were previously only sold through EA’s personal online storefront. As a result, some of Steam’s best-performing games this year are gateways to some of EA’s latest revenue, such as The Sims 4 and the head-to-head hero shooter Apex Legends.
The rest of the top 100 are a selection of “games as a service”, which post new content to their players throughout the year, ie Microsoft Sea of Thieves; titles with recent major expansions, such as the free-to-play dungeon crawler The path of exile; and a handful of perennial bestsellers, for example Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, and action-adventure sandbox Terraria, which released its fourth and final major update in May.
The most lucrative games on this year’s Steam Top 100 are in the order Valve presented them:
- DOTA 2, Valve’s own multiplayer arena
- Eternal doom, the last part of id Software’s classic series of shooters
- Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, a streamer-friendly competitive game where players try to be the last to fall off a cartoon obstacle course
- Grand Theft Auto V, the best-selling game of all time, further powered by the multiplayer sandbox GTA Online
- Monster Hunter World, the latest and most popular contribution in Capcom’s best-selling fantasy survival series
- Red Dead Redemption II, which was ported to Steam right at the end of last year
- Rainbow Six: Siege, which successfully mixes the series’ pseudorealistic action with the “hero shooter” mechanics of something similar Overwatch
- Counterattack, Valve’s seemingly eternal shooting game against the head
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the original “battle royale” experience
- Among us, this year’s sudden virus success story
- Destiny 2, running the release of the latest expansion Beyond light
- Cyberpunk 2077, CD Project Reds science fiction RPG
Some other Pacific Northwest revenue on Steam in 2020 includes 343 Industries’ Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a collection of the first four Hello games that made their delayed Steam debut right at the end of 2019; Basic, an Xbox Game Studios-published survival / adventure about children who have been shrunk to microscopic size; ConcernedApes hit for indie farming Stardew Valley, who pushed out a major content update on Monday with its 1.5 patch; Marvels Avengers, developed in Bellevue, Wash., by Crystal Dynamics, which accuses players of rebuilding the famous superhero team; and Valve’s own Half-life: Alyx, which recently cleaned up industry awards as a “killer app” for virtual reality.
2020 was a good year for Steam, as life during the COVID-19 pandemic left many people with little to do but play more video games. The service broke its own record for the simultaneous number of players three separate times during the year, peaking at just under 24.7 million simultaneous users on 12 December. This is believed to be related to the launch of December 10 of Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most anticipated games of the year, and which actually runs reasonably well on advanced PCs.
Steam celebrates its 17thth anniversary in September. Originally founded as a specialized client to make it easier for players of Valve-developed games such as Half life To find and install software updates, Valve slowly developed it into one of the first fully digital PC game store fronts. Despite recent competition from Epic, Discord, GOG and others, purchases on Steam are still estimated to account for a significant share of PC game sales worldwide, with some analysts attributing Steam as much as 18% of the total market.