2016 End of Year Statistical eXamination Part 1

About a year ago, I wrote a piece that brought together data from SteamSpy and Steamcharts to do an analysis of 4X games launched in 2015. At the time, I didn’t know what to expect from an examination of such data, but in the 12 months since that article was published, I have found myself referencing it time and time again. I have decided to do a similar analysis for 4X games launched in 2016. However, I’m going to be making a few changes.


For starters, I’m going to look at a lot more data, going all the way back to the numbers from 4X games launched on Steam in 2014, the year eXplorminate launched. This includes games that may have been on the market prior to 2014 through some other store or platform, but not on Steam. Almost all the data in this article comes from Steam – I specifically want to examine that marketplace and community to see what conclusions we can draw from year to year.

I’m also going to look at qualitative data from Metacritic and eXplorminate. I want to make a comparative examination of review data from those two sites along with Steam’s own review scores.

Finally, I’m making a small change to what I called “Sales” last year. I knew that term was problematic when I used it last year, but this year it’s even worse (thanks in large part to Planar Conquest). As a result, sales figures for all games in this article will either be labeled as “new owners” for games launched in 2016 or “total owners” for games launched in 2015 or 2014. As I mentioned above, all ownership numbers are for Steam only, since that’s the only service on which good numbers are available.

Because of all this new information, I’m going to split the article into two parts. There is going to be a lot of data dumped in this article, and I’d like to give readers the chance to examine it for themselves without any biasing from me, so part 1 of this year’s article series will be just the raw numbers. Part 2 will have my own analysis. For part 1, data will be arranged according to year with the most recent year first. In part 2, I’ll analyze the years side by side according to category. All numbers are accurate as of December 31, 2016. So without further ado, here are the charts:



Estimated New Owners:

Our numbers for estimated owners comes from the all-time peak owners on SteamSpy. From the research we have done, and the communications we have had with numerous developers large and small, the all-time peak number most closely matches a game’s actual owners on Steam.


*Special Note: All owners of Worlds of Magic automatically received a free copy of Planar Conquest. At the time Planar Conquest launched, there were approximately 17145 owners for Worlds of Magic. There are currently around 20746 owners of Worlds of Magic.

Peak Concurrent Players:

Peak Concurrent players comes from the all time highest number of players registered playing a game at the top of every hour by Steamcharts. This number, however, excludes anomalous numbers that might come from a free weekend or other promotions that do not reflect long-term ownership or interest in the title.


Peak Monthly Average for Concurrent Players (Rounded):

The Peak Average number comes from the mean average for the hourly count of concurrent players over the course of a month for a given title. The numbers in the chart below represent the highest monthly average as generated by Steamcharts.


Price Variations:

In this section, each game has three price values: high, low, and regular. The highest price is the total asking price for a game on Steam within the 12 month span of 2016. The lowest price, likewise, was the least amount asked by a publisher for a game in that same span excluding free weekends or giveaways. The regular price is the listed non-promotional price of a game as of December 31, 2016.


Review Scores:

Review scores are taken from five sources: Steam’s Old Score (that includes games gotten for free through giveaways, Kickstarters, review copies, or other promotions), Steam’s New Score (which only includes games that the owners actually paid for and are in the user’s native language), Metacritic’s “Metascore” (which is the average of official reviews done by websites that have passed Metacritic’s screening process), Metacritic’s User Score (which is generated by users who vote on a score and may leave a written review), and finally eXplorminate’s score (you can read our review policy HERE). For the “Average for the Year” I took the mean average for all scoring categories except for eXplorminate’s scores which is the mode average since we don’t use a numerical value.




Estimated Total Owners:


Peak Concurrent Players:


Peak Monthly Average for Concurrent Players (Rounded):


Price Variations:


Review Scores:




For the year 2014, I’m including two games (Distant Worlds: Universe and Pandora: First Contact) that were actually launched in 2013 but didn’t make it to Steam until 2014. I am most interested in examining market forces on Steam especially competition and pricing, so including these games as part of the market forces of 2014 makes sense to me. These games had modern technology behind them and therefore couldn’t be considered remastered versions of old games or games launched many years ago and now brought back from an publisher’s old library and put up on Steam which I would not include in my data. For many on Steam, these 2014 launches was the first time they had heard or seen of either game, and that is why I am choosing to include them in this data set.

Estimated Total Owners:


Special Note: Data for owners during the 2014 year are not available. SteamSpy did not launch until 2015.

Peak Concurrent Players:


*Special Note: Games marked with an asterisk in this section had free weekends. Values from those weekends are disregarded for the purposes of this article.

Peak Monthly Average for Concurrent Players (Rounded):


Price Variations:


Review Scores:


Wow, that’s a whole lot of data! There is a lot more to digest this year than last. I’m really excited to have the chance to gather so much information about the state of our genre. Part 2 will be posted in the next several days and in that section I’ll try to draw some conclusions from what you’ve been shown here. Until then, enjoy!



11 replies »

  1. nice round up.

    now with that numbers i feel vindicated that CIV: BE was a big failure from firaxis.
    i avoided it and wanted to get my hands on CIV6, but since it has still much problems and seems to have the same update-intervall as CIV:BE i think i will completely avoid it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great roundup.

    I think it’s interest to note that Endless Legend concurrent player count continued to rise every year, whereas most games decline. I’d chalk that up to the fact that Amplitude continues to build on their game and release significant new expansions for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel like the only person on Earth who actually LIKED Civilization: Beyond Earth. But then, I seem to be one of the few people who played the hell out of Alpha Centauri (and MOO 2) back in the day, yet find them tedious now.

    I’m really curious about that surge in 2016 owners for Apollo4X, though. The game never did well in reviews, so what could have prompted THAT?


  4. Doh!

    I will await part 2 with great interest, then.

    I should also have mentioned I agree with the others… this analysis was quite interesting to read. I would have been happy enough with Explorminate if you were just another 4X fan site, but you’ve really brought coverage of the genre to the next level.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It will only get better. As each contributor to eXplorminate feels more comfortable and relaxed, their style will really shine. This piece and part 2 which is even better if you can believe it, really show Troy’s ability to parse the data into usable bits for everyday consumption.

      We also have an amazing eXposition in the works that will really shine a light on where the 4X genre needs the most amount of work.


  5. 2016
    Nothing unexpected. Civ 6 was the best selling game, more than all the others combined. I have to wonder if nuMoO would have sold more if it were priced $40 at launch.

    Most of the games released in 2015 have had decent sales in 2016.

    A shame there’s not a lot of data for past years.

    Interesting that if we go simply by Explorminate recommendations 2015 looks like a better year than 2016.


  6. Civ:BE get a beware but Stardrive 2 is recommended? Stellaris is “exemplary” and civ 6 is just consider? These are some very backward scores. Interesting data roundup none the less. Steam numbers always make me lose faith in humanity with all the killing games in the top ten.


    • Well, there was a bunch of growing up to do on our end. Civ:BE deserved its score, and Civ:BE Rising Tide got a Consider. StarDrive 2 was scored too high, it should have been a Consider, and SD2: Sector Zero fixed that. Stellaris was borderline, and we went with eXemplary, but it could have been a Recommended as well. We are okay with it, and Stellaris has only improved. Finally, Civ 6 was and still is a Consider. Not a single one of the editors fought for a Recommended during the editing process. These scores are a group score.


    • Look at the Steam Scores for each game. CIV:BE is in the 50’s. SD2 is in the 60’s. Customers seem happier with their StarDrive purchase than their Civ purchase. Also consider that Civ:BE was a $50 game while SD2 was a $30 game. At $50, we thought customers should beware when buying Civ:BE. At $30 for SD2, we felt customers would get a fair game for what they were spending. Perhaps, as Nate points out, a “Consider” would have been more warranted for SD2, but Recommend is what we felt about the game at the time. As always, we’re trying to improve our knowledge of the games and the genre. We hope to do a better job going forward. :)



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