Founded by 2 ex Microsoft employees, Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington in 1996, Valve has become one of the leading companies in the gaming industry. The company made its debut in 1998 with the release of Half-Life, a game that has turned the gaming industry on its head. The game was a commercial hit with critics, praising its immerse story as well as the gameplay. Half-Life tells the story of Gordon Freeman, a research scientist attending his new job at a remote research facility known as Black Mesa. The story is told in real-time and all of it is witnessed in the first person from the player’s perspective. The player can stand and listen to the NPC’s talk and or they can just wander off and explore the facility. The lab experiment constructed in the facility results in a massive disaster that leads to the opening of a rift and to an explosion. When the character wakes up, the facility is being overrun by alien monsters. From this point on, the game turns into a survival story with the main character having to fend for himself using any weapons at his disposal.

Valve After Half-Life

What followed after the game’s release was a growing community of fans and modders. The first-ever Counter-Strike was created as a mod for the original Half-Life game. The game was a major hit and the mod, as well as its developers, were acquired by Valve in 2000, almost a year after its original release. The original Counter-Strike is remembered by most people as Counter-Strike 1.6. In the years that followed, several sequels were developed such as Counter-Strike Condition Zero, Counter-Strike Source, and lastly, Counter-Strike Global Offensive. What was just a small side project for modders has led to the creation of a game franchise played by people all over the world.

Valve was the company that released the first-ever digital distribution platform. The platform was created with the intention of Valve to deliver updates to their online games such as Counter-Strike. The initial way of releasing patches resulted in the player base becoming disconnected for several days and Valve needed to adapt. While not many people had access to high internet speeds in 2002, Valve expected the number of internet users to grow over time with faster broadband connections becoming more available. This will allow game developers to deliver their games faster to the user than by traditional means. Before the client was officially released in 2003, 80,000 and 300,000 beta-testers have been participating in the testing. The stress from having many users playing simultaneously resulting in the platform to choke under the strain. In 2004, Steam replaced the World Opponent Network resulting in a necessity for all of the games to switch to Steam so that they continued to function. It was in 2005 when Valve was able to collaborate with a few 3d party video game developers that have agreed to make their games available on Steam, a major first step that resulted in what the platform has become today.

Distributing Games via Steam

Until 2004, Steam only focused on Valve’s own games and with the release of Half-Life 2, it became the first time that a game needed Steam so it can be played. Valve came to the idea of using Steam as an authenticator for all of its games, a venture that was a huge risk that could result in the alienation of most gamers. Because the first Half-life was a huge hit back in 1998, Valve made use of the popularity of the game and released its sequel as a Steam exclusive. In later years, a strong community formed around the Steam platform and many new features were introduced over time. Features such as game achievements, game profiles and cloud storing. The Steam cloud became available in 2008 and allowed players the possibility of uploading their saved games to the Steam cloud and it can automatically synchronize save games between multiple devices. After some time, Steam was referred to as the hub for PC gaming.

Almost any type of game can be found on Steam. From RTS and FPS games to MMORPG’s and casino games. For many games to become relevant on PC, they must look to steam as their distribution platform. Some companies are also using their software to deliver games such as the Bethesda Launcher and the Epic Games Launcher, however, because of its many features that were developed over time Steam remains the dominant platform where most of the gamers look to when searching for games. Steam encourages user feedback, allowing the player to give their opinion on a specific game, a feature that The Epic and Bethesda Launcher is lacking. For those that are not interested in any platform, players can choose a wide variety of games that do not require to be downloaded and installed and could be played directly in the browser. The most relevant of these games are online casino games. While on Steam people can find a few options of casino games, none of them compare to the ones that can be found online and on their own individual casino websites.

The Future of Valve and Steam

Since Steam became the most popular game distribution platform on PC, they have been releasing fewer and fewer games, with the main focus being on maintaining and improving Steam as well as developing state of the art gaming technologies such as the HTC Vive, one of the best VR gaming headsets on the market. Steam has been a great benefit to gamers and game developers as well its project such as Steam Direct which lets almost anybody upload their games without being moderated to the platform as long as the game itself is not just trolling and very poorly developed. This has been a major benefit, especially for indie game developers, however, it also led to a large number of poorly developed games making their way onto the platform. After many years since its initial launch, Steam remains at the top when it comes to online game distribution platforms and doesn’t look like it is going to be surpassed any time soon.