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Discover Valve Corporation's trendsetting gaming platform

Steam is one of the world's most popular digital game distribution platforms, supporting a wide range of functions including a large PC game library with hundreds of titles, media distribution, and support for online multiplayer gaming. Originally developed exclusively for use on the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems, Steam is now available to both Mac OS X and Linux users, and is accessible through PlayStation 3, Mac iOS, and Android.

Steam Services

Here is an overview of the services users can access through the Steam client:

  • Steam Store. This is Steam's primary and most visible service. Through the Steam Store, users can browse game titles and order them for instant download. Games are distributed to end users via a permanent software license unique to the user, which allows that user to download the game onto any compatible Internet-connected device. Steam currently offers nearly 2,000 game titles, with more being added all the time. It offers titles from major game manufacturers as well as independent developers and smaller studios.
  • Software downloads. In addition to game downloads, Steam also offers a limited number of software downloads, with a particular focus on software products intended to support or enhance the PC gamer's user experience.
  • Community features. As a full-service gaming community, Steam supports instant messaging and peer-to-peer voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) communications, enabling users around the world to communicate during and outside of live gameplay. All users have a unique identification page, which lists basic information about them including gaming achievements and game wish lists. Over 10 million players are active within the Steam community, which also supports matchmaking services to help players find others with equal skill sets for head-to-head competition.
  • Steam Overlay. Whenever you launch a game using the Steam interface, you can access the Steam Overlay by pressing a specified combination of keys. Through the Steam Overlay, you gain access to a wide range of features, including the ability to take screenshots, take part in live chats, open a Web browser while keeping the game active, and manage your Steam account settings.
  • Steam Workshop. From a developmental standpoint, the Steam Workshop is one of the client's most important services. Through the Steam Workshop, users can upload and test their user-generated content, allowing game developers to iron out kinks in their games and get feedback from a community of avid gamers. Users can also add new levels or otherwise modify the content of existing games, giving you a way to continue to enjoy games that you think you know backwards and forwards.

Steam's Position in the Industry

Steam is owned and operated by Valve Corporation, a Bellevue, Washington-based technology company that also publishes games. Launched in 1996, Steam is headed by two former Microsoft programmers and also operates the Source 3D game engine.

Valve Corporation does not make its game sales information public; the only parties who are privy to sales rates are companies and publishers distributing their games through the Steam client. However, some industry estimates suggest that Steam is responsible for as much as three-quarters of the world's digital game distribution. In some cases, publishers have released sales data showing that the vast majority of sales took place through the Steam platform. It is widely considered to be the world's leading digital game distributor.

While Steam is not currently accessible through the Xbox 360 console, parties from both Valve Corporation and Microsoft have indicated a mutual interest in bringing Steam to Xbox. This is one potential development that has attracted the attention of gamers throughout the world, and many insiders believe it's only a matter of time before Steam is available through Xbox.