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The Age of Steam

| 9 Mar 2009 16:08
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Edge Online has an interesting feature up about Valve's Steam service - how an experiment by a small PC game development house turned into the massive digital distribution service it is today.

At a whopping 6 pages, the article is a fairly long read, but it's also pretty interesting. The history of Steam is a long one, and it's fascinating to look at how the service grew along with Valve, turning a small PC developer into a publisher with server farms in Greenland, of all places.

It's also a nifty look behind the scenes at Valve, shedding light on some of the thought processes behind the evolution of Steam and its myriad of services:

Digital distribution was inevitable,‭ ‬and Newell isn't surprised that it was a developer rather than a publisher that provided the most successful platform:‭ "‬Take UI.‭ ‬That's what games are.‭ ‬Figuring out how to expose a media library is not that different to the challenge an MMO has about helping people figure out which armour [sic] they should wear.‭"

For all the success stories on Steam - Darwinia and Audiosurf among others - and the great strides that the service has made in combating piracy and making games more easily updated after launch, the service isn't perfect, and Newell & Co. know it. The digital distribution platform is becoming increasingly fragmented as others want a piece of the pie, and when it comes down to it, it's understandable that many developers and publishers are wary about handing a competitor the keys to their games - and their customers.

If you've got the time and the patience, though "The Age of Steam" is a pretty fascinating read. A good way to kill 20-30 minutes on a dreary Monday morning, if nothing else.

(Edge Online)

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