As Nvidia prepares to launch its brand new RTX 30 line of GPUs, it’s time to take stock of just how well its outgoing RTX 20 line of cards did. Based on the latest Steam Hardware Survey, it seems that the RTX 20s weren’t actually popular.
Valve recently published the August 2020 edition of Steam‘s long-running hardware survey, which catalogs the shares information of all the different PC components, operating systems, and VR headsets used on PCs running Steam.
While Nvidia still dominates the GPU space, with a 73 percent share, the majority of this is from their much older GTX 10 line of cards, with the even older GTX 9 not far behind. The RTX 20 series, however, did not see the same kind of market penetration.
Despite being out for over two years now, the RTX 20 GPUs were only used by around 11 percent of Steam’s overall userbase.
The low adoption of the RTX 20 cards explains why Nvidia Jen-Hsun Huang dedicated a portion of the reveal stream for the RTX 30 cards to directly address GTX 10 and GTX 9 owners to upgrade. Huang even admitted that the performance gains made by RTX 20 cards were not enough to convince everyone to move forward. (Read: Nvidia reveals its new RTX 30 line of graphics cards)
Other figures revealed by the survey show that quad core configurations are still the most common at 45.76 percent, followed by six cores at 25.28 percent. For memory, 16 gigabytes (GB) of RAM also remains the most popular setup, at 41.21 percent, followed closely by 8 GB at 31.74 percent.
Resolutions reflect the use of older GPUs with 1080p being the most popular. Compared to the July survey, the usage of the resolution grew by only 0.07 percent. The number of people using higher, 1440p and 4k, resolutions, however, did grow slightly, occupying 6.59 percent and 2.24 percent respectively—still comparatively small compared to 1080p.
While the lack of people gaming on higher resolutions could explain why RTX 20 cards weren’t as popular as the previous generations, the main reason that its seem to not have caught on was due to the limited use of its main feature: real time ray tracing.
While real-time ray tracing was, and still is, seen as the future of gaming graphics, the technology didn’t really catch on as quickly as Nvidia might have hoped. While many games did start offering ray-tracing support, the number was far fewer than Nvidia had hoped.
In addition, there was also the cost of getting on the ray-tracing train. RTX cards generally cost more than their previous generation counterparts. Despite the added cost, however, the cards did not really outperform the GTX 10 series cards outside of having ray tracing support—an RTX 2080 would perform neck and neck with a GTX 1080, ray tracing aside.
Of course, Nvidia is already claiming that RTX 30 will offer a true leap beyond RTX 20 (and GTX 10). The question then remains of whether more games will support real-time ray tracing. The impending new console generation may give Nvidia some hope. With real-time ray tracing now becoming a thing on consoles as well, this means that more games will support the feature.
In addition, Nvidia’s main rival AMD is also expected to have real-time ray tracing in its RDNA2 based “Big Navi” cards that are expected to be revealed later this year. With this in mind, RTX 30 looks to be debuting in a market that’s more than ready to accept ray-tracing, which could help it sell better than its predecessor.