Windows 10 is extremely popular among gamers

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Windows 10 appears to be making good progress as, in January, it overtook Windows 8.1 in terms of usage share. Its lead varies, but no matter which web analytics resource you choose to go by, the new operating system is still very close to its predecessor at this time. Meanwhile, the gap between it and Windows 7, while no doubt getting smaller, is shrinking at a very slow pace.

The difference in usage share, when looking at NetMarketShare's and StatCounter's numbers, comes from the fact that both analytics companies sort through web traffic. But, if we look at how all the major Windows releases fare on the popular gaming platform Steam, things are very different -- Windows 10 comes quite close to Windows 7, which may surprise many.

Steam's numbers for January 2016 place Windows at a combined usage share of 95.39 percent for all the major versions, with OS X releases taking 3.55 percent and Linux the remaining 0.95 percent usage share. On the gaming platform, the majority of Windows users are rocking Windows 7, which has a combined usage share of 42.08 percent, for the 64-bit and 32-bit versions. Windows 10 is not that far off however, as the 64-bit and 32-bit versions are used by 34.05 percent of Steam users, which represents a huge increase over what both NetMarketShare and StatCounter reported yesterday.

Windows 8.1, the 64-bit and 32-bit versions, has a usage share of 14.43 percent, while its predecessor, Windows 8, is placed at 2.06 percent. Windows Vista is at 0.42 percent, while Windows XP comes just above Windows 8 with 2.31 percent usage share.

Steam's numbers show that Windows 10 has increased its lead over other Windows releases by a combined 1.59 percent compared to the previous month. The gains come mostly from Windows 7 64-bit and Windows 8.1 64-bit, which are preferred by gamers over their 32-bit counterparts.

What does this all mean? For one, it shows that gamers represent a group of Windows users who are more eager and willing to embrace a newer Windows release. Windows 10's performance is quite impressive if we consider that it was only launched six months ago. It would not be surprising to see it overtaking Windows 7 soon.

Gamers also typically upgrade their PCs much more often than the casual Windows users, and when that time comes it is much easier to also slap on a newer operating system. Not to mention that top-tier hardware is also typically well supported on newer versions of Windows. Gamers are also more likely to be early adopters, the users you are most likely to see toting the latest and greatest in terms of hardware and software.

When looking at the PC market as a whole, Windows 10's performance is a bit "meh". Realistically speaking, that is to be expected because the average user, as long as things work, will not bother making the jump to something new and unknown. People are also used to getting the latest version of Windows 10 when they get new hardware anyway because, in the past, it made little sense to spend hundreds of dollars on upgrades. I would not be surprised to hear that most users have no idea that Windows 10 is even offered as a free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Given time, things will change, but for the moment we have to keep in mind the fact that the Windows crowd as a whole is very conservative. Newer versions of Windows take a very long time before they reach critical mass. Steam's numbers may not be representative for the Windows market, but they do suggest that Windows 10 has what it takes to gain significant traction going forward. It has made good progress since the last time we covered Steam's numbers too.

Microsoft is being pushy about the new OS, seemingly going out of its way to get more and more users to install Windows 10, whether they want it or not. It will be interesting to see if the new operating system will indeed reach Microsoft's goal of being installed on a billion devices in the first to three years of availability, but, right now, things are looking good. The latest official numbers place Windows 10 on more than 200 million devices.

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