If you know anything about gaming, chances are you’ve heard of Steam: the heavyweight PC gaming platform that sucks consumers in with incredulous sale items and a sprawling yet easy to access community.
There are no other platforms available on PC that come anywhere close to rivaling the popularity of Steam, and no other platforms that have empowered PC (and Mac and Linux too if we’re being technical) to rival purpose built consoles. We’re going to take a look into some of the factors that have heavily contributed to Steam’s continual rise as a powerhouse platform.
A positive direction for video games
Steam has grown rapidly since its official release in 2003, becoming almost unrecognisable in comparison to the older iterations of the service. The original release was designed with the sole purpose of creating an easy method of distribution for titles, online updates and patches that would keep a united user base for Valve’s heavy-hitters of the time, such as Counter-Strike. In this regard it was a success, yet copped a lot of deserved flak from the community for its shortcomings, which included server overloads. However, Valve has never been a company to sit idle, and their huge ambitions for Steam can be seen in the much improved service today.
The wildly popular and critically acclaimed Half-Life 2 (developed by Valve) was the first game that required Steam to be played. Although this did cause some issues in the beginning, it paved the way for other titles to do the same, and today the majority of games on Steam’s store operate in the same way. Since then, Valve has continued to innovate with Steam, adding features including the Steam Community, Steam Cloud, Steam Workshop, Greenlight, Big Picture Mode and most recently SteamVR, showing their willingness to push Steam onward and stay ahead of the competition.
A video game library like no other
In 2005, Valve made their first deal to release third-party titles on Steam, blazing a trail for the current game library available that, according to Steam’s advertising, includes over 3500 titles . Boasting titles from the biggest game developers, including Bethesda, SEGA, Capcom and a wide range of indie games, no other service on offer can provide the same range of games in one convenient place. Whatever kind of game tickles your fancy, odds are that Steam will have you covered with numerous options at affordable prices.
The sales through Steam
Ahhh Steam sales: Lord Gaben’s gift to PC gamers everywhere. What would we do without you? For years Valve has offered deals on even the latest games, delivering prices that simply cannot be matched by physical retailers on PC. This has played a major part in launching Steam into the powerhouse platform it has become.
The aforementioned sales are far from uncommon, with regular Winter (December), Summer (July) and Autumn/Halloween (October/November) sales being massive, along with frequent Spring and Easter sales. As one of my friends said, “It’s like being mugged, except it’s totally legal and much more enjoyable”.
These sales have played a huge part in the continued growth of Steam, attracting buyers who, instead of being able to buy one game they were interested in, can now purchase a whole host of games for the same price. Subsequently, users haven’t even touched half the games they’ve acquired in sales.
Steam is easy to use
Steam is very simple and easy to use, making it a very attractive option for all the lazy people among us (let’s be real, we all have that lazy streak and love something easy to use). The practicality of having all the PC games you own in one place, each accessing one community, is a severely underrated achievement on Steam’s behalf, creating the kind of feeling that you get with PSN or Xbox Live.
Being able to purchase and install a game with only a few clicks is another feature that seems to go unnoticed in this day and age, often making it much more convenient to purchase a game on Steam than to purchase a physical copy at a retailer. Although this may take slightly longer for users who are not blessed with decent download speeds, the fact you don’t have to leave your home to get your game is still a great feeling. I can speak from experience, having had both terrible (download a game in 24 hours) and amazing download speeds (download that same game in 15-20 minutes) in the recent past.
Steam is also staying one step ahead
Quite possibly the simplest and most obvious factor of them all is the fact that Steam was the first platform of its kind and has stayed that way due to Valve’s constant innovation and added features. There are other options around, like the limited Origin service run by EA, yet none of them come close to competing, enabling a united community of supposedly disjointed PC gamers to all gather as one on Steam. The key to staying ahead of the competition in all sectors has and always will be innovation, with Steam proof of that in the PC gaming market.
Steam is now seemingly synonymous with PC gaming and I really can’t see that changing in the foreseeable future, with popularity continuing to grow. As long as Valve continues to support and innovate with Steam, it will continue to grow. And that can only mean good things for the realm of PC gaming.
What do you think? Were there any other factors that you think really pushed Steam into the limelight? Comment your thoughts below!