Steam: The Definitive Gaming Platform Part 1
Gaming has redefined itself constantly over the years, pushing boundaries never thought possible – Not just technically, but socially, economically and even spiritually.
PC gaming has always been at the forefront of such advancement, though recently our beloved platform of choice has been often overlooked in favor of a more casual gaming audience - That of the typical Console owner. Don’t get me wrong, consoles are great in what they can accomplish and also have their fair share of enthusiast titles. The underlining issue is that the core gaming market is made primarily of casual gamers or the media’s perception of what defines a core gamer. Nintendo’s wii is a testament to how popular casual gaming has become.
Blizzard have been able to capitalise on the PC as the premier MMORPG platform for its WOW franchise. Making full use of a PC’s ability to establish multiple social networking services to compliment a game has certainly helped make WOW a massive success. Real Time Strategy and to some extent, First Person Shooters are still both premier PC gaming examples, though the advantage the PC Gamer has in these areas is slowly evaporating.
Taking MMORPG’s out of the picture, the state of PC gaming is at a bit of a crossroads. Console Port after port, Infinite versions of The Sims, Poor retail sales for big PC Franchises, It all seems rather ominous. Or does it?
Valve on numerous occasions have publicly embraced the PC as their platform of choice. Pushing the boundaries of modern gaming and gaining acceptance in the enthusiast community has not always been an easy task. Early implementations of Steam were met with fierce opposition. People by their very nature do not like change, I am just glad Valve were persistent, pushing past the various bugs, bad press and competition, creating the Steam platform as it is today.
First we need to establish what Steam is in the first place. Valve defines Steam as the Nexus of PC Gaming, and they are probably right. Nothing comes close in terms of functionality, appeal and usefulness to PC gamers.
Simply put, Steam is an advanced digital distribution platform which allows gamers to download games, play online, create and participate in multiple unique gaming communities all with the ability to auto update itself and any Steam supported game you have.
The seminal update ability and the way it has been implemented by Valve is probably the most unique and evolutionary aspect of the Steam platform. The Source engine has been able to continually evolve, powering games such as Team Fortress 2: A perfect example of how a game can be influenced by the gaming community and continue to grow beyond the original implementation. This is all thanks to the Steam concept and the hardware it runs on.
Comparisons to Microsoft’s Xbox Live service are warranted in that they are both trying to achieve the same goals yet only one platform is not restricted by ancient marketing methods born form an earlier age. Technical limitations are also hamper console digital distribution methods.
There are still a few issues though the benefits of Steam far outweigh the negatives.