After engaging in a overtly nerd-tastic discussion with my brother about our favorite video game, Portal, I decided to read up on Valve, the company that made it possible for millions of people to play relatively unheard of games. Gabe Newell, a former Microsoft employee and Harvard dropout, founded valve in 1996. In 1998, they released Half Life (another seriously awesome game).
But Newell couldn’t find a publisher who would produce the games his company made. So Newell took matters into his own hands and created the Steam program, a revolutionary idea for video game distribution. It’s an online purchase engine…think iTunes, but for video games.
Here’s where it gets really awesome: Not only does Steam run as a purchase engine, it allows users to download modifications for games made by the gaming community to fix glitches in the original gaming software. Valve also releases patches, fixes, and updates too. And the best part? It acts as a free online multiplayer service. Yes, free.
Gabe Newell’s idea for Valve completely changed the way that game companies do business, too. Because they promote unauthorized modification of their games, Valve allowed big-name games like Counterstrike to exist. So more sales happen for the games Steam modifies.
However, Steam isn’t perfect. For example, if you purchase a game in one part of the country, and go on vacation and try to play it somewhere else, it may become unplayable. The same movement issues occur with prices, too. When you buy a particular game from a store, you pay for the packaging, shipping, etc. in the price. While you might think that you would lose these costs when purchasing the game and downloading it electronically, Steam changes prices based on the location of the person downloading it.
Here’s the link to the Steam website: http://store.steampowered.com/