There's a new tool taking shape that aims to make it easier for people to keep tabs on Steam statistics like how many people own a game and how long they've spent playing it: Steam Spy, a side project launched by programmer Sergey Galyonkin.
This is a huge deal for game developers, as it potentially makes it much easier to study how Steam games are sold and played over time. The tracker is still in alpha, but already several developers have confirmed to Gamasutra that their actual sales fall within the range of owners estimated by Steam Spy.
However, the tracker has some significant flaws; since Steam Spy polls a selection of publicly-available Steam profiles using an API provided by Valve, it can never be perfectly accurate -- there are simply too many accounts and games. The tracker tries to compensate somewhat by stating margins of error for ownership numbers, but even its creator cautions developers to take Steam Spy's data with a grain of salt.
"Please note that Steam Spy extrapolates data from limited number of user profiles and thus isn't 100% correct," notes Galyonkin, adding that "Steam Spy is competely unreliable for recently released games" since the tracker is designed to report data gathered over at least 3-7 days' time.
Galyonkin cites Ars Technica's 2014 Steam Gauge project as his primary inspiration, and seems intent on continuing to refine Steam Spy in the days ahead.