Technological progress: lost on the masses


Technological progress: lost on the masses

I loaded up Steam for the first time in a while last night and was promptly asked to participate in Valve’s ongoing hardware survey. I’ve done this before, and the results are always fascinating, so I jumped right in. A few clicks later, and a quick scan of my cobbled-together PC, and I got to see the breakdown of nearly 1.8million gamers’ systems – with some surprises.

Just 41% of polled users have made the much-needed step to a dual or quad-core processor – the norm in pretty much all new PC systems sold today – and 38% have shelled out on 2GB or more of RAM. Assuming a correllation between the two, that leaves a huge proportion of PC players who are still trundling along on 1GB of RAM or less and a single-core CPU.



Monitors are also an interesting point. Despite the fact that we almost never review them any more, and few manufacturers are even pushing new models today, a startling 75% of polled users are still playing on 4:3 monitors. Of those that have moved to widescreen, nearly 35% have opted for screens sized 24in or larger, while nearly 70% are at 20in or larger – if you’re going to upgrade, you may as well aim big.

The graphics card section is out of date, with no entries for ATI’s HD cards or Nvidia’s 9-series or faster, so can be ignored, but there are still more interesting stats to be gleaned from the survey:

  • Intel leads AMD roughly 60-40
  • An awful lot of people don’t upgrade their graphics drivers
  • 1,396 polled gamers have less than 10GB of total hard disk space in their PC
  • Nearly 3% of polled users still don’t have a DVD drive
  • 8,105 Steam users speak a language called ‘Simplified Chinese’

And then there’s the old Vista issue. How many gamers do you think have upgraded to Microsoft’s flagship – with DirectX 10 it’s surely a gamer’s paradise, right? Wrong. Of the 1.8million Steam users polled, more than 80% are still running trusty old Windows XP. Ouch.


Admittedly, this Steam survey has been running for nearly a year now, and some of the categories and entries could certainly do with updating and starting afresh, but as a snapshot of a community made up almost entirely of gaming PC users it’s fascinating.

Journalists like us can sometimes get carried away in the constant hunt for bigger, faster, better, forgetting the fact that the vast majority of users don’t want to spend money on their PCs every five minutes, and that for many, running Crysis at Low settings is good enough to get enjoyment out of it (strange people).

But mostly a survey like this just highlights the problem that will always exist for PC and component manufacturers: that consumer inertia is just as powerful as technology in determining their bottom lines.

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