It has been roughly two years now since Valve shut off the source of Steam Spy's huge, randomly sampled sales estimates and promised a "more accurate and more useful" replacement to come. We got our first glimpse of what that replacement might entail today, as Valve gave a rare glimpse into its treasure trove of aggregate sales data across thousands of PC games.
The blog post sharing that data correctly points out that the raw number of games finding some minimum level of sales success on Steam has increased vastly since 2012 (when Valve launched Steam Greenlight and loosened its tight control of what games could appear on the storefront). But Valve's selective view of the data leaves out a huge mass of games that make less than $5,000 in their first two weeks on Steam's virtual shelves. An Ars analysis finds those titles have made up the vast majority of Steam releases for the last five years.
Filling in the holes
To get at that data for the charts above, we started with the graphs Valve itself provided in its blog post today. These lay out the number of games making over $5,000, $10,000, $50,000, $100,000, and $250,000 in their first two weeks, respectively, by release year. I used photo editing software to measure and convert the bars in those graphs into raw numbers, but the actual numbers may be off by a fraction of a percentage point from Valve's internal benchmarks (we didn't decipher the graphs for 2005 and 2006, when the total number of Steam releases was too small to draw much meaningful data).
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