A massive data mining initiative has been set up by the tech wizards at Ars Technica, undergoing an effort meant to offer a clearer picture of the gaming world, more specifically when it comes to percentages of games owned and the total time spent playing them.
The data is collected through parsing publicly available information on Valve's worldwide distribution service Steam, gathering information related to the number of games and hours played for each of the 780 million total registered accounts.
The data mining effort has revealed that Valve's games are among the most popular when it comes to number of owners, which pretty much makes sense considering Steam is their platform, showing that Dota 2 is owned and played by around 26 million Steam accounts, and that Team Fortress holds second place with around 20 million owners and players.
What the data mining has managed to unveil is the fact that even though some games are owned by a large number of users, the actual number of users who actually play the games is sometimes incredibly disproportionate.
Such is the case of Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, owned by 11 million users but only having been played by 2.8 million, and Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, owned by almost 13 million users but only having been played by 2.1 million.
The most interesting thing that the collected data shows is that over half of the owned games have never been played even once (36 percent) or have been played less than one hour (17 percent), offering what looks like a staggering look at buying habits.
Of course, one has to take into account the fact that most gamers get their games through bundles (including the unplayed Half-Life ones listed above) that usually include one or two games they are genuinely interested in, with the others being forgotten in the vast virtual library.
A recent survey ran by Kotaku also shows similar information, showing that for a number of 1400 respondents, 60 percent of the games bought in the last 12 months were offered on sale, out of which 40 percent are still unplayed.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Sid Meier's Civilization V, also part of the "most owned" Steam list, are also among the most played by their owners, under 10 percent of them being owned but unplayed.
If you want to gleam more information on Steam playing habits, or want to know exactly how the guys went about the data mining process, you can read the entire Ars Technica article on the subject.