I’m fairly certain that I haven’t played 8,400 games in my entire life, but that’s the number of new releases that rolled up their sleeves and threw down for Steam users’ time and money last year. That is, obviously, a lot. But it’s not that much more than the number of games released on Steam in 2018.
Since 2014, the number of new games released on Steam has shot up astronomically each year. According to third-party data-scraping site SteamSpy, 2014 brought 1,642 new games to the platform, while 2015 upped the ante with 2,722, 2016 showed up with 4,400, 2017 unleashed 6,322 new games on an unsuspecting populace, and 2018 rained down 8,195 new games like a dang hurricane. The gap between 2018 and 2019, however, is comparatively small. 2019's 8,400 is just a couple hundred greater than 2018's 8,195.
Now, a caveat: SteamSpy’s data is not ironclad. In the past few days, numbers have shifted slightly—not just for 2019, a year best known for having recently died a hopefully painful death, but also for prior years. SteamSpy creator and Epic Games Store director of publishing strategy Sergey Galyonkin chalked these irregularities up to a couple factors.
“Developers set game release dates, and it’s essentially a text field,” he told Kotaku in an email. “So, say, if you were just launching a retro title on Steam in 2019, you could set the release date to 1999 to reflect its original release date. On the other hand, Early Access titles have two release dates, and SteamSpy only reflects the latest one—when a title left EA. So, an EA title that has originally launched in 2017 can have 2019 as a release date now.”
Galyonkin also cautioned that people should not read too far into other data, like increases or decreases in average game price for each year, because games from, say, 2015 have had significantly more time to receive discounts than games from 2019.
Still, if nothing else, it does seem like Steam’s annual release flood is finally turning into a steady stream. This makes sense; Valve has widened the floodgates over time, first by admitting more and more new games through its user-driven Greenlight program, and then by abolishing Greenlight altogether in 2017 and establishing an anything-goes policy in 2018. The company still disallows certain games and sometimes even deletes them in gargantuan batches, but its system has largely calcified at this point. This has given Steam’s ecosystem a chance to normalize—at least, in terms of raw numbers.
What happens in 2020 is anybody’s guess, though. Some developers have complained that it’s becoming harder and harder to make money on Steam, which could lead to a reduction in the number of people who try. Or perhaps Valve will finally make some headway on solving Steam’s notorious discoverability issues, giving developers more incentives to use the platform instead of chasing guaranteed paydays from the likes of Epic or the Apple Arcade. Or maybe Valve will change its release policies again, and the floodgates will open even wider. In the meantime, I’ll get around to telling you when I’ve played 8,400 games... eventually. Give me a few more years. Or maybe a couple decades.