Valve has just updated its Steam Hardware Survey with results from January 2021. If you believe the numbers for videocards, Nvidia's RTX 30-series GPUs now account for over 1% of the total gaming market on Steam. These are some of the best graphics cards, but demand is so high (and supply is so low) that finding one for sale is virtually impossible, and prices are much higher than the launch MSRPs.
I've followed the Steam Hardware Survey for a long time, wondering at the statistics behind the data. The past few months give me (even more) reason to suspect it isn't a proper random sampling of users, which means no one should attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions. Valve has never revealed any details of how the survey gets conducted, but I suspect (based on being sampled on three different PCs all within a day or two of each other, all of which were using a 3080 card for testing) there's a higher chance for it to ask for someone's hardware details if it doesn't recognize the graphics card. This means new cards like the RTX 30-series are much more likely to get included. However, that's just a guess, and it's possible Valve is actually doing a proper random sampling and simply hasn't made that fact public. Still, without a clear explanation of the methodology, we shouldn't take these figures as any true indication of the distribution of various GPU models or other hardware, even among Steam users. Regardless, the numbers are still interesting and fun to gawk at, wherever they come from.
The biggest news is that the GeForce RTX 3080 now sits at 0.66% of PCs surveyed. That's up 0.18% from December, which was up 0.25% from November. The RTX 3080 has been on the charts for three months now, steadily gaining share, and is closing in on the GTX 1660 Ti. The other two Ampere GPUs to show up on the charts are the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, sitting at 0.27%, and the GeForce RTX 3090, which has 0.27% and theoretically has more hits on the survey than AMD's previous-gen Radeon RX 5700 (the non-XT model).
AMD's RDNA2 Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs are not yet part of the list, though there's still the nebulous 'Other' category with 9.29% of all GPUs. Presumably, the Radeon RX 6900 XT, Radeon RX 6800XT, and RX 6800 all fall into that category, with less than 0.15% of the total each. Interestingly, Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3070 also fails to show up on the chart, so for now at least, the 3090 appears to be ahead in terms of Steam use.
The top of the charts is also interesting. The GeForce GTX 1060 remains the most popular card, but its total share dropped 1.61%, falling below 10% for the first time in I don't know how long. (For the record, I actually do know how long: The last time the GTX 1060 was listed at below 10% was in September 2017. GTX 1060 supposedly peaked at just over 20% in December 2019, if you're wondering.) It could be all the users with Pascal are finally upgrading, or maybe just the Internet cafes have finally decided to move on from the 1060. Or it could simply be a normal variation in the sampling, as the GTX 1050 Ti use is up 0.61%, and GTX 1050 is up 0.44%.
Also of note is that several other reasonably popular GPUs have shown large dips this past month. The RTX 2060 is down 1.16%, 2070 Super is down 0.53%, and RTX 2070 is down 1.1%. The generic label of "Nvidia Graphics Device" is also down 0.68% (probably because formerly 'unlisted' GPUs like the 3060 Ti and 3090 are now showing up separately).
We're perhaps getting too far into the weeds, given we don't know the actual collection policy and statistical accuracy of any of the data. At best, this could be a random sample of Steam users from the past several months. At worst, it's a biased sample of Steam users. Either way, it doesn't account for any hardware that's not used with Steam. Still, it does bear at least some semblance to what we'd expect to see in the gaming market.
For instance, AMD CPU usage is up 3% last month relative to Intel usage, which is down 3%. AMD's total for CPU use is now 28%, the highest it's ever been. That makes perfect sense, as Intel's desktop CPUs have been stagnating on 14nm, while AMD's Zen 3 (Ryzen 5000) series CPUs are now at the top of our best CPUs list and lead our CPU Benchmarks hierarchy. Meanwhile, 1920x1080 still claims the lion's share of resolution usage, at 67% of the total, with the second most popular resolution being 1366x768 (yuck), and 2560x1440 usage represents just 7.5% of the users surveyed.
Let me close by once again calling on Valve to do the right thing and provide a clear statement on the statistics behind the survey. If it's a random sampling, tell us so we (and more importantly, game developers) know we can put more confidence in the numbers, and tell us (approximately) how many PCs were surveyed. And if it's not a proper statistical analysis, then fix it. Thousands of undergrad statistics students could explain what needs to be changed. It would also be great to allow numbers nerds like me to get the full list of GPUs, even for those with only a 0.01% share. And as long as I'm making wishes that are unlikely to be fulfilled, please fix all the PC component shortages, especially on the new video cards. Because hey, dreams are free!