At the time of this post's publication, Steam has 17.9 million users online. That figure is a bit short of what was, at the beginning of February, an all-time record high for Steam of 18.8 million users. That record was broken over this past weekend as Steam crossed 20 million concurrent users, and because of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it seems likely we'll see a new record high next weekend along with rising player counts on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
The administrators of Steam Database, an unofficial website that monitors all manner of statistics related to Valve's digital distribution platform, announced that the concurrent user count crossed 20 million on Sunday. The February record had already been broken a day earlier as Steam crossed 19 million concurrents, and today's earlier peak of 19,054,854 concurrents is already considerably higher than last Monday's high of 16.7 million.
Xbox Live usage was also up over the weekend according to Phil Spencer, Microsoft's head of Xbox. "Thanks go out to all the Ops/IT teams at all the companies that are working hard to keep everything running smoothly with all going on around them," Spencer wrote Sunday. CCN.com notes that both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network saw simultaneous issues likely related to surges in users tagged on Downdetector.
Back in February, Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad speculated that the then-record Steam peak was driven by Chinese users, as it coincided with China's Lunar New Year holiday and the early days of lockdowns intended to halt the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Now, as Italy enters its second week of national quarantine, and with parts of the US and other countries implementing lockdowns, it seems incredibly likely that the Steam record will be broken again in short order. Whether voluntarily practicing social distancing or quarantining oneself for fear of spreading the virus, it looks like more folks are turning to gaming than usual.
On Saturday, with the number of Steam users actually in-game peaking at 6.2 million, our sister site Eurogamer reports that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive hit a new all-time player peak of over 1 million players. Right now, the top five games being played on Steam are CS:GO, Dota 2, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and Grand Theft Auto 5.
If you're one of the many folks stuck at home and looking for a game to play, it may be worth keeping an eye out for more free offers on Steam and elsewhere in the days to come. The entire Half-Life series happens to be free-to-play until March 23, and designer Terry Cavanagh gave away 1,000 free copies of Dicey Dungeons, VVVVVV, and Super Hexagon through itch.io earlier today.
The global impact of the coronavirus has hit the video game industry hard, from the cancellation of E3 2020 and postponement of this year's GDC, to hardware production delays and other knock-on effects. Seeing Steam's user count go up isn't exactly something to cheer about at this time, but at least if you're turning to games for solace or just as a solution to boredom in these times, you can take these numbers as a sign that you're not alone. Be safe, and remember: that person who just ruined your day in CS:GO is probably in quarantine, too.