Valve's digital games platform Steam has set another usage record. Over 7.6 million gamers were using Steam simultaneously on December 29th.
According to Valve's statistics (via Gamespot), the exact record was 7,678,758. The total was reached at noon PST on Sunday, a point of the day when there's significant traffic from both American and European users.
While 7.6 million is an impressive figure by itself, it also demonstrate serious growth in Steam's user base. The service recorded 7 million concurrent users for the first time over Thanksgiving weekend. Steam hit the 6 million mark in November 2012.
All three of these milestones were spurred by sales. Currently Steam is hosting their annual holiday event with deep discounts on multiple games. Current sales include a 75% discount on Grand Theft Auto IV and a 90% discount on Alan Wake. Some of the sales are limited to 8 hours so there's incentive for players to stay logged in, whether through their computer or their mobile device. Users can earn trading cards by buying games during the holiday sale or voting on new discounts. These cards can then be traded in for bonus in-game items.
User activity on Steam spiked on Christmas when Valve gave away Left 4 Dead 2 for free. The stampede of players trying to get the freebie actually crashed the servers. The server problems are probably why Christmas isn't the record day.
Dota 2 is by far the most active game on Steam, with over 500,000 players at the moment. That's several times the player count for Left 4 Dead 2, flush with all of its new owners. Here's the current top 10:
The total amount of Steam users passed 65 million in late October. It's tough to compare Valve's numbers to other online services because Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo don't offer real-time statistics. Microsoft pegged the Xbox Live user total at 48 million in May. Sony said at E3 that PSN has 111 million users. Nintendo, to my knowledge, hasn't published any Nintendo Network stats. Concurrent user numbers haven't been revealed for these networks.
The Steam Holiday Sale will run until January 3rd. It's very possible, then, that the current record of 7.6 million will be surpassed very soon.
Speak of the devil: While I was writing this article, Steam hit a new record of 7,678,793.