The history of Steam
Steam is one of the most popular online platforms for computer games and software distribution. According to statistical data, this app is regularly used by 125 million people, while the quantity of games, available for sale, has exceeded 4500. In this article we will look at the history of the platform’s formation, development and evolution.
Valve announced Steam in 2002, however, it was released only a year later. There were several reasons for Valve to develop Steam. First of all, there was a serious concern that games were difficult to update at the time. It was particularly relevant for Counter-Strike, which did not allow user to play without the latest update. So, Valve figured they needed to fix and automate this process. Another reason consisted in the company’s willingness to develop protection from dishonest players. Steam was supposed to address all these issues.
Notably, the iconic Half-Life 2 became the first single player game to require Steam, even if purchased in a regular game store. When Valve announced it, the gamers were furious for the fact that their most awaited game couldn’t be launched without online authentication. Moreover, there were other reasons to hate Steam as well. Bach at the time it was a common thing to share games with your friends and Valve has cut it off. Now a game belonged to one person only and could not be passed on to another person. Furthermore, when Half-Life 2 was released, Steam was still very crude and unfinished and in many cases the game did not even start. BBC News even wrote an article with a subheading, “ The long-delayed launch of the Half-Life 2 computer game was marred by problems with its registration system”.
In 2007 Steam Community was launched, which aimed at the social component of Steam. This was a crucial update, allowing users to conveniently communicate with each other, join groups and invite people from the community into a game. Steam was slowly starting to become a social network for gamers. Three years later Steam was released for Mac OS and Linux, which increased the client base significantly.
Worth mentioning that Electronic Arts refused to release Battlefield 3 on Steam, explaining that it is uneasy to update games, using the app. However, the real reason behind this was probably a high margin, Valve was taking from the sale price. Eventually it led Electronic Arts to create their own platform for game distribution. Steam’s competitor was released in 2011 under the name Origin.
First software applications were introduced to Steam in 2012. Apart from that, a special version of Steam for educational institutions was developed. Steam for Schools came out with a free version of Portal 2 and a Puzzle Maker software, allowing users to construct custom game levels. Since Portal 2 offers limitless interaction with material objects, it should develop and intuitive understanding of mass, weight, impulse, gravitation and acceleration.
But the biggest step forward was probably Steam Workshop, launched in the same year. This service allowed users and developers to create their own modifications to the game, changing any content, which is supported by the Workshop. It was first only available for Team Fortress 2, but was soon extended to include other games as well.
By the end of 2012 Steam was released for mobile devices. New app enabled remote communication and shop browsing, making Steam even more accessible. A year later Valve introduced SteamOS, built on the basis of Linux. This was most likely created at Gabe Newell’s initiative, who believes that “Linux and open source are the future of gaming”. Basically, SteamOS is being designed specifically for Steam Machines console, which is also under development. The console is supposed to allow players launch PC games on a TV.
In the beginning of 2015 Steam acquired an online streaming system similar to Twitch. Depending on one’s privacy settings, stream can be watched by either friends or anyone at all. Besides, Valve is working on a virtual reality system, adapted for Steam games. More on that can be found in our articlе on modern virtual reality technologies.
Fun fact: despite Valve’s huge capabilities, the company doesn’t own domain steam.com and Steam’s official domain remains steampowered.com.
As you can see, Steam’s history is just an endless enlargement of audience, game library and functionality. Thus, we can hope that its developers will not change tack. It is already known that Steam will be integrated with a music service, which is currently in the beta-testing process. Moreover, Steam store is going to sell feature films. All of these is likely to transform a gaming platform into a full-scale digital entertainment machine.