The Steam Hardware Survey for August 2010 has been out for a bit, but it's always interesting to see what trends are influencing PC gamers over a period of months. There's a great deal of data available; we'll break down some of the more pertinent and interesting categories.
Video Cards:DX11 Ramping Well
The first thing of note in this category is the rate at which DX11
adoption is growing. Not only has the API's total market share grown by 82 percent in the past six months, the rate of growth from month to month has also grown. In May, DX11 market share grew by 10 percent; in June, July, and August it grew by 22 percent, 14 percent, and 18 percent respectively. Gamers have largely completed the shift to modern video cards; DX11 and DX10 jointly account for ~82 percent of the market.
At present AMD's Radeon 4800 is the most popular GPU family, with the HD 5700 and HD 5800 products accounting for 64.2 percent of all DX11 sales. NVIDIA is still limping badly on this front—it's most popular product is the GTX 470, which holds just 4.59 percent share. To give you an idea of how lopsided things are, note that ATI currently accounts for 87 percent of all the DX11-capable GPUs according to Steam. These results do not include NVIDIA's GTS 460 which is widely regarded as a strong, attractive product. Presumably the introduction and aggressive pricing of both it and the GTS 450 would tilt things slightly back towards NVIDIA.
Windows XP's Slow Goodbye
Checking OS numbers, Windows XP's share of the market fell 1.35 percent from July to August and 4.43 percent since April. Windows 7 64-bit is the big six-month winner here, up 1.42 percent since July and 5.41 percent since April. Windows Vista (both flavors) has lost market share as well, but less than some of its detractors might think. Over the past six months, total Vista usage is down just 2.58 percent. The rhetoric that Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been has had more of an impact on XP users than those of us actually using Vista. The lifespan and popularity of Windows XP make it difficult to argue that machines running it are automatically more likely to be replaced; Windows 7 now holds 46.66 percent of the market; if current trends hold it'll become the most popular OS in another 6-8 months. This is good news for gamers, as it increases the chance that developers will put more emphasis on DX10/11. Because the differences between those two APIs are much smaller than the gap between DX9 and DX10, it's easier to develop for both simultaneously. Those of you with DX9 or low-end DX10/11 hardware need not worry. Since virtually every PC game these days is a console port, DX9 will remain popular (and a key development focus) for the forseeable future.
For those of you who've upgraded recently, what's been the component or product that drove you to do so? DirectX 10 failed miserably when it came to giving people a reason to buy Windows Vista; has Windows 7 given any of you back on Windows XP a better reason to jump for DX11?