Every month, we are covering Valve’s Steam’s monthly hardware survey [July 2009, August 2009, September 2009, October 2009], now covering month of November 2009. November meant a whole month of not just Windows 7 sales, but also full month of sales for ATI’s Radeon 5000 series. There were several major breakthroughs, so without further adue:

OS Wars: Windows 7 captures around 1.5 million new users
For the first time since the introduction of Steam [September 2003], Windows XP no longer holds 50% of the market. This venerable operative system lead since the very beginning, but every reign has an ending. 32-bit version of Windows XP lost over two percent and dropped to 47.97% of all Steam users [around 11.5M gamers still use this OS]. Windows Vista also lost market share by 2.26% [20.98%] for the 32-bit and 1.8% for the 64-bit version [9.19%].

All these loses went in favor of Windows 7 – 64-bit version gained massive 3.62% or approximately 1.5 million gamers in a single month to capture 13.16%, overtaking all of the 64-bit OS’es combined [10.24% overall]. 32-bit version is no slouch either, gaining 2.64% in a single month for a grand total of 7.43%. Combined, Windows 7 almost has the user share of 32-bit Windows Vista and we expect to see Windows 7 overtaking Vista first combined, then 64-bit version is probably going to capture even more gamers.

During 2010, we expect to see Windows 7 replacing Windows XP as well, given the momentum we’re seeing here. The real results will be December 2009 [Jan 17, 2010] and January 2010 [Feb 17, 2010] numbers will include Christmas sales and first after-Holidays month. If Windows 7 keeps the steam [pun intended], 2010 may well be the year of W7.

CPU Wars: Running to standstill
Every month, there seems to be just one constant: Intel gains a share, even a microscopic one, while AMD loses a percentage point or two. This time around, Intel gained around 0.17%, while AMD lost approximately the same share. Intel now powers 68.97% of all Steam users, while AMD kept the remaining 31.03%. No Steam users use VIA or similar embedded CPUs for their gaming rigs. The interesting move is that now, quad-core processors make up for 21.15% of the market, a 9.54% gain during this calendar year. More importantly, this is the first month where quad-core processors overtook the single-core models [20.77% overall, 2.03% loss]. Dual-core processors still dominate the field with 57.18% share and marking continuous gain as Steam captures more and more notebook users. As we all know, quad-cores inside a notebook are a rare find.
GPU Wars: nVidia still leads, AMD makes gains
In the world of graphics cards, nothing new happened. nVidia leads the market with 63.46%, while ATI captures 28.98% of all Steam users. Intel counts for 5.03%, while players such as Matrox, SiS and S3 make up for remaining 2.54%.

In terms of individual graphics products, GeForce 8800 still leads with 9.28% [0.42% MoM loss] but we expect that Radeon HD 4800 series takes over that spot in the next couple of months. ATI’s venerable 4800 series captured 0.32% and now accounts for 8.49% of all Steam users [approximately two million cards]. When it comes to the amount of shipped cards from Radeon HD 5000, Steam started to record the cards with Radeon HD 5800 capturing 0.17% of the market. Given that AMD shipped more than 850,000 Radeon 5700 boards, we expect to see major impact of these cards in report for December 2009.  It was also interesting to see multi-GPU systems dropping to 2.21% overall share – it seems that GeForce 8800 SLI users moved away to a single-board setup, mostly Radeon HD 5000 series or a single GTX 275/295. All in all, even in Steam Hardware Survey, we can see that AMD is gaining forth and nVidia keeps up the higher share courtesy of hit products from the past. If we take a look at AMD as a company, the role is reversed in world of CPUs: AMD lives off the old glory, while new users are predominately buying Intel-based products, while in GPU world, AMD is gaining new glory while the competitor has nothing new to show.

On the software side, the success of Windows 7 propelled the percentage of DirectX 10 capable systems to 45.1% and we would expect to see more than 50% DX10-enabled users within three months time.

Memory: 4GB heavily gaining, is 3GB the new 2GB?
In the world of system memory, new systems are coming equipped either with 4GB or 3GB of system memory. In case of 3GB, this is a combination of installing a 32-bit operating system on a rig with 32-bit operating system or the OEMs installing 3GB instead of 4GB [2+1GB SO-DIMM]. Three Gigabytes of memory now account for 28.89% [+0.48% gain], while 4GB marked the largest growth, 0.96% to 12.84%. 32.47% of all Steam users use 2GB memory and that amount of memory gained another 0.35%. All these gains come at the expense of older systems – Sub-1GB systems now make for only 5.10%, while 1GB dropped by 1.11% and is looking to be overtaken by 4GB systems in December 2009 update. But very important shift happened between Sub-1GB and 6GB systems. 6-8GB systems now make up for 6.39% i.e. higher share than "512 to 999 MB" segment. It is very positive for game developers to see high-memory systems replacing low-memory systems with such percentage.

Storage: Desktop shifts to 1TB drives, notebooks move to 320GB models
In the world of hard drives, SSD still isn’t making a significant impact, as the gamers are typically very multimedia savvy and need storage space not just for games but music and movies as well. Thus, it is not surprising to see 1.5TB and 2TB drives gaining 0.37% to a total of 11.80%. Seagate and Western Digital are probably very happy with this level of progress, as their high-end models now account for almost 12%, much higher share that CPU or GPU vendors.

Biggest gain was the 320GB model in notebooks, which also witnesses a shift from desktop to notebook – more and more gamers are on the go, and the 250GB to 499GB range now makes for 30.99% of all users. Also, 1TB models marked a 0.63% gain for a grand total of 8.30%.

Display Wars: 1080p 16:9 displays overtake 16:10 1200p ones
Earlier this year, widescreen displays overtook the conventional 4:3 and 5:4 displays. In overall terms, conventional ratios took "Steam-share" of 40.14%, while widescreen displays take 59.86% – a staggering change from just 12 months ago. Now, it looks like the battle is on in the world of widescreen displays. Given that 16:9 are cheaper to make, Taiwanese panel makers shifted their focus to 16:9 and as a result, 16:10 now faces a limited growth potential.

16:9 panels now account for 12.31%, while 16:10 panels take the commanding 47.55%. But in the world of FullHD panels, 1920×1080 [16:9] now accounts for 5.67% [0.73% MoM growth], while 1920×1200 [16:10] dropped to 5.57% [0.27% loss]. With 21.1%, single most common resolution is still 1280×1024, gaining 0.36%, followed by 1680×1050 with 18.48% [0.31% gain].

In 2010, we expect to see continuous growth for the widescreen panels and it looks like 1680×1050 might overtake the 1280×1024 prior to 1920×1080 taking over. Given than 12 months ago, 1080p wasn’t even on the charts, it is easy to see who is recording a meteoric growth in popularity.

Steam is not just a digital content distribution service but arguably the best look into the world of gamers. Over 20 million people installed Steam on their computers and the anonymous hardware survey [performed automatically inside the Steam app] makes up for single largest database of gaming hardware in the world. Naturally, as every survey this one cannot account for each and every gamer out here, but offers a very solid viewport into the world of gamers. If you’re a gaming developer, following these trends can aid you in seeing what is really out there, not what publisher tells you. 45.1% of all Steam users can use DirectX 10 API, and the rise of 64-bit operating system gives a solid backbone when it comes to targeting a platform.

Here at BSN*, we’ll continue to follow Steam survey as it goes along, as well as offer a yearly look after the results of December 2009 survey are posted. Stay tuned.