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Steam shows both the minimum system requirements and the recommended ones. How are the latter determined?

Most games have settings ranging from a bare minimum to some form of ultra mega. What settings are typically used when determining the recommended system requirements?

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    Note that physical copies of games used to (well they likely still do) also contain minimum and recommended system specs too, which suggests it's not just Steam which works it out. – Tas Jan 21 '18 at 23:32
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From the Sub-Point "Releasing" of the Steamworks Partner Page:

Then scroll down and enter the corresponding system requirements. Preview your store page and then publish your changes when you're happy with how the system requirements appear.

So the answer is: they come from the game developers.

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    and they probably take for minimum requirements the specs which are needed to run the game with 30 FPS on lowest settings. for recommended its the same but the settings are moved to medium. – XtremeBaumer Jan 22 '18 at 12:15
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    You can tell that a person writes these because some games (one I saw recently was Angels Fall First) will have something silly for one of the requirements. – Tacroy Jan 22 '18 at 15:29
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    @Tacroy Indie and early access games usually have to be very conservative with their requirements, since they don't have the resources to test the game on thousands of different configurations. With early access, you also don't really know how the game will expand or get optimized. System requirements have always been tricky - they're no guarantees, just vague guidelines. Put the exact same internals to a different case with poor ventilation, and you can easily go from "handily runs most games" to "barely runs anything that puts any strain on the system". – Luaan Jan 23 '18 at 8:44
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Just like any videogame, the developer tells you the minimum and recommended specs for your machine to run the game. Each company will have their own methods to benchmark their games, so there is no way to know how did they determine the recommended specs. Since the "goodness" of how a game is running is subjective (you might prefer more FPS, you might prefer more stability, etc), the minimum and recommended specs are something orientative, something that the developers are telling you "if you use this (minimum specs), you will run the game, but if you want to run it as it's intended to run, this (recommended specs) is what you should have.

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The developer makes them up.

Minimum = worst computer the devs had kicking around that they tried running the game on and the game ran

Recommended = worst computer the devs had kicking around that they tried running the game on and the game ran pretty well

I'm in publishing and we get told that single-threaded games require i5s, games that never go over 1GB in Task Manager require 8GB systems, and 2D platformers require enthusiast-tier Fermi as bare minimums.

If they use the Additional Notes in sysreqs to say things like "the above config will run 1280x720 at 30FPS" for a minimum and "the above will run 1920x1080 at 60FPS" for a recommended, you can be pretty sure they've put some thought and testing into it. Otherwise the whole section is almost meaningless.

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    You get told those specs because devs know that the average user which actually consults the minimum/recommended specs is likely running viruses on 3 cores using 7GB of RAM. They can probably attest to seeing 6 cores of viruses running on a dual-core machine for some unholy reason. – MonkeyZeus Jan 23 '18 at 17:41
  • As an aside, that other 7 GB can still help your app run faster. In fact, some extra is essential. After all, you need the operating system and its various services to be running concurrently with your app. :P And you need space for anything else you might want to ALT-TAB over to. Also, the OS might use extra free space for things like file caches, so that disk accesses don't actually have to go to disk. – Hurkyl Jan 23 '18 at 17:43
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    The system requirements for one piece of software I'm involved with are as high as they are because those are the minimum specifications for the minimum supported version of Windows. The real requirements haven't changed much since the late 1990s. – Mark Jan 23 '18 at 19:41

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