The latest Steam survey has been released, and one of the key takeaways from the latest numbers is that gaming PCs are slowly making headway in their core features. Quad-core CPUs have been the most popular chips for what seems like an eternity, but according to the March numbers, six-core chips finally took the top spot (by Sweclockers). Progress.
This is only true if you’re talking about Windows PCs, as OSX and Linux users skew things a bit. If you include these two platforms, quad-core offerings manage to maintain the lead, at 33.52% versus 33.42% for six-core chips.
Eight-core chips are also gaining popularity, although with just over half the market for four- and six-core chips, it will be a while before they become the standard. Apple really helps a lot here, as the M1 is an eight-core chip, so as they upgrade to the latest hardware, they’re jumping right into the beefier chips.
Returning to the focus on Windows PCs, we can mainly thank AMD for this shift to higher core counts, as their Zen architecture and Ryzen chips actually promoted higher core counts. Intel has also been forced to follow suit, meaning that anyone looking to upgrade their machine will now be looking at six-core CPUs at a minimum. For example, both the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel Core i5 12400 they are 6-core chips.
This is good news for PC gaming because the market shift to more cores will allow developers to start making better use of those cores. This should lead to better AI and physics, as well as more efficient engines. This also means that any new gaming PC is likely to have a minimum of six-core chips.
One machine that is bucking the trend a bit here is Valve itself. steam deck, which comes with an eight-thread quad-core CPU. This is a bit of a special case, and given the number of units that were shipped in March, it probably doesn’t affect these numbers that much. Still, don’t be surprised to see it reduce the average core count, at least for Linux machines.