US, China, and Russia account for almost 40% of free-to-play game owners on Steam, with older hits dominating market

VG Insights recently released a report on the state of free-to-play games on Steam. It takes a deep into the most played titles and the main trends in the area.

VG Insights: US, China, and Russia account for almost 40% of free-to-play game owners on Steam

  • According to VG Insights’ State of Free to Play on Steam report, F2P games accounted for 51% of total time spent on Steam in 2023.
  • They are followed by $10-15 premium titles (31%). Interestingly, AAA games, which usually fall into the “Over $50” category, have a share of just 11%.

  • Eight of the top 10 titles by average concurrent users (CCU) last year were free-to-play live services, led by Counter-Strike 2 (877k CCU) and Dota 2 (429k CCU). Valve’s titles have been dominating the charts for over 10 years now.
  • Baldur’s Gate 3, ranked 8th, was the only fully premium game on the list.

  • VG Insights noted that free-to-play games have lost their share a bit since the beginning of 2024 due to the rise of successful $10-50 premium GaaS titles such as Palworld and Helldivers 2.
  • The share of $50+ games has also increased since 2021, from 5% to 12%. Analysts attribute this to “overperforming hits” such as Elden Ring, Hogwarts Legacy, and BG3, as well as console titles coming to Steam.

  • Free-to-play remains an area with only a few winners and many outsiders, with the top 10 titles in this category capturing 88% of all F2P engagement on Steam. Counter-Strike 2 alone accounts for 25% of all F2P games’ CCU.
  • The average age of F2P hits in 2023 was 7 years. This is in line with Newzoo’s PC & Console Gaming report, which noted that the top 10 games by MAU in 2023 were over seven years old on average and these older titles accounted for 61% of total playtime.
  • This leads to another problem: as old hits remain popular, the F2P market is getting crowded. Only four new releases have entered the top 10 free-to-play games on Steam by average CCU since 2021. Moreover, only two of them — Naraka: Bladepoint and Call of Duty: Warzone — remain there to date.

  • Interestingly, 38% of all F2T players on Steam come from three countries: the US (15%), China (12%), and Russia (12%).
  • Analysts also highlighted other territories that could be important for developers of free-to-play games: Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, Poland, UK, and Turkey. They collectively make up 23% of the total F2P audience on the platform.

More data and insights can be found in the full report.

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