If there’s one thing I remember from high school biology, it’s that the GPU is the powerhouse of the PC. Ask PC gamers what build they’re running, the first words out of their mouth will usually be the name of the graphics card their beast is packing. Even the CPU, the brains of the whole operation, will often be left playing second fiddle. It’s the part we dedicate most of our PC spending, bragging, and drooling on.
The GPU can also say a lot about what you’re is trying to achieve from a build. Someone running a tight setup with a 4000 series Nvidia card, for example, is looking to get the best of the best without care for the cost. Older cards paint a picture too. Someone with a 1080 is likely to be attractive, smart, and responsible with money regardless of how much they desperately want something better.
Steam’s video card stats (opens in new tab) paint a broad picture of the PC gaming community, giving us a look into what’s popular en masse. Currently, they’re telling a story that sees many turning to the previous generation’s mid-ranged RTX 3060, with the popularity of these cards actually increasing as the current generation rolls out.
The RTX 3060 (opens in new tab) was rolling along quite nicely in October last year as one of the fastest growing cards on Steam, but with the release of new cards, holiday sales and gift-giving we saw those numbers start to drop off over November. Not hugely, but enough to harken in a new generation of cards as expected.
The following months were fairly steady for 3060 uptake, but in February we saw the highest numbers since the previous December. The percentage of 3060 users on Steam appears set to grow further as it currently sits in fifth place for popularity on the platform (opens in new tab). That’s behind much older cards, its equivalent 3060 laptop GPU, and the RTX 2060.
But these numbers don’t really surprise me much. It felt like Nvidia’s 30 series barely saw the light of day before the 4000s came careening around the corner. While powerful cards, the new series are huge, have massive power draws, and are wildly expensive.
When an RTX 3060 (opens in new tab) goes for under $USD400 and the cheaper RTX 4070 Ti (opens in new tab) is still sitting at over $800, it makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the 4070 will come in at a better price (opens in new tab), but until then I doubt we’ll see many beyond the higher tier of enthusiasts rushing out to adopt the latest gen.
It’s also a good reminder of what the average PC gamer is actually running at home. It’s easy to get swept up in the hype of top-tier builds and want the most powerful piece of kit, but you don’t really need it for most games. The glorious GTX 1060 still sits in second place, surpassed only by the GTX 1650 (opens in new tab). Maybe I should be a little more respectful towards my own GTX 1080. It’s still higher on the popularity list than any 4000 series card.