COVID-19 Pushes Steam to Record Number of Active Users

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The continued spread of coronavirus has prompted many people to spend more time indoors, and what can one do while locked away from the world? If you said “play video games,” a lot of people agree with you. Steam reports this past weekend broke the record for active users at just a bit over 20 million. 

Steam regularly breaks its own player records — every few months or once a year the service’s peak usage will inch upward just a bit more. Although, there’s usually something happening in the gaming world to precipitate the new milestone like a new game or one of Steam’s major sale events. This time, nothing like that was happening on Steam’s end. 

According to Steam, the 24-hour peak over the weekend set a record with 20,313,451 active users on the afternoon of March 15th. There were also nearly 6.4 million people playing a game at that time. So, the larger of those numbers doesn’t include people in a game — they could be chatting, browsing the store, or installing games. That number is lower than the record active players from January 1, 2018, when 7.2 million people were gaming. The higher number of non-gaming active users might have been thanks to people hunting for something to pass the time over the coming weeks. 

Steam’s active user count naturally rises and falls, but it rose a little higher than it ever has before over the weekend.

Unsurprisingly, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was the most popular title on the service, hitting 1,024,845 concurrent players. Shooter PUBG managed 515,050 players, and Dota 2 maxed out at 701,632. This might just be the start. Schools around the country are beginning to close, with many states predicting they won’t open again until the fall. That could mean lots of kids spending time on Fortnite during the day. Epic might start gloating about its player numbers any day now. 

It’s quite likely that the jump in gaming happened because everyone had to bail on their weekend plans. Health authorities have taken to promoting “social distancing” in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. As the epidemic has continued to unfold, we’re learning that many younger people can become infected with the virus and not know it. When they go into public spaces, they can spread the infection to vulnerable populations like the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

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