Minimum target resolution for a desktop PC/Mac Game?

Lets assume I start a new PC/Mac desktop (not netbook) game today that will take something like one year to be released publicly and that is a lot about graphic details (not realistics, just graphically "rich").

The higher screen resolution the better but I build the game in a way that adapt to the screen (3D, screen space relative ui, etc). However I still need to have a minimal resolution to be sure my UI and texts are still clear in low resolutions.

For the moment I'm assuming that 1024x768 is the really lower resolution any such game could ask for. But as time is going on fast I'm thinking maybe I'm wrong and a game with visual details should target higher resolutions as minimum resolution, if started today?

Assuming Steam users would be the target audience, I looked at the Steam Hardware Survey to get an idea but it don't talk about the resolutions of games being played, only about desktop resolution. I'm assuming that most players will play most games with lower resolution than their desktop resolution...?

1024x768 (or less) is still the minimum resolution you should be targeting. Plenty of laptops sold between ~2006 and now have fully capable video cards, but are stuck to the same resolution they were sold at.

Depending on the game, it may be even less - netbooks commonly sold with a 1024x600 resolution during the same period, so a casual or web-based game may want to target that as well. People using TVs as monitors may have a display of 1280x720, and that's the resolution most console games will target. Phone platforms are just now breaking into VGA and higher resolutions.

W3 Schools has a year-by-year breakdown of resolutions for people browsing their website. 1024x768 still made up 20% of the visitors in January 2010.

• I'll add that I target desktop, not netbooks, that will make things more clear and simple. – Klaim Dec 14 '10 at 13:37
• You may be targeting desktops, but many users actually use netbooks for their desktop gaming. I, for example, user a higher end netbook (has an ATI video card and a resolution of 1366 x 768) to play desktop games on low video settings, and they run perfectly. If you set your lowest resolution too high, you may be unknowingly alienating some gamers. – AndyPerfect Dec 14 '10 at 16:31
• Even if you're targeting "desktops", that includes laptops, which are still locked to 1024x768 in many cases. And desktops hooked up to TVs, which is a lot of them. – user744 Dec 14 '10 at 16:46

Steam details: http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey

Resolution   %Users
1024 x 768   7.47%
1152 x 864   1.41%
1280 x 720   0.72%
1280 x 768   0.72%
1280 x 800   5.88%
1280 x 960   1.21%
1280 x 1024  15.13%
1360 x 768   1.34%
1366 x 768   6.27%
1440 x 900   10.14%
1600 x 900   3.63%
1600 x 1200  0.94%
1680 x 1050  18.46%
1920 x 1080  15.72%
1920 x 1200  6.71%
Other        4.26%

• I wish they would reveal the "other" category. I get the feeling it might be 800x600, since that's not on the list. – Ricket Dec 14 '10 at 22:08
• Since they are showing individual data as low as 0.72% you can assume that all the different resolutions that make up OTHER are below that percentage. My guess is that it's a lot of wacky stuff you find on laptops and some early LCDs. – wkerslake Dec 14 '10 at 22:21
• Yeah but I already pointed it in the question and told it was only about desktop resolution not games resolution... – Klaim Dec 14 '10 at 22:28
• The only reason to play with a lower resolution than your desktop is because the GPU/CPU can't keep up with the game at that resolution. I'm guessing that what are going to build isn't going to have Crysis level system requirements so most people will play at their desktop resolution. Also LCD screens tend to look REALLY ugly when not displaying in their native resolution, yet another reason why people tend to play at their desktop resolution. – wkerslake Dec 15 '10 at 2:41

I'd say 800x600. Some netbooks have only 600 pixels tall screens (usually 1024x600), and among laptops widescreen configurations where the vertical height is absurdly limited are more and more common.

Update: oh, I see that you added the "only for desktops" requirement. Then my answer doesn't apply any more for this special case.

• Though 1024x768 is probably realistic, you can never go wrong with 800x600. – Tim Holt Dec 14 '10 at 13:38
• Not sure it's a good idea when you got lot of texts, and graphics that are not well displayed under 1024x768. – Klaim Dec 14 '10 at 14:01
• Netbook users don't buy games. – Julio Gorgé Dec 17 '10 at 8:37
• That really depends on the game. – michael.bartnett Dec 17 '10 at 8:48
• @Julio: I do. It's annoying to be denied the possibility of buying more games because someone decided I won't buy it without even asking us the users. What I won't buy is a desktop computer because I travel a lot and move often, I can't afford the bulk. I have one laptop I use for "serious stuff" (work) and netbooks I use for "leisure": web surfing, game playing, chatting and so on. I'm more likely to buy games for netbooks than for any other platform, specially if I can run them natively, without needing Wine. – CeeJay Dec 17 '10 at 12:29

As the trend has been going towards 16:9 aspect-ratio, I'll probably target 1280x720 as minimum screen-size. Within a years timeframe, 800x600 should definitely be a thing of the past.