When did video games emerge? The earliest record we have of video games is when computer scientists at M.I.T began designing simple video games, like 3D tic tac toe in the 1960’s on an early computer called the IBM 1560. Video games rapidly developed after this, with video game consoles and video arcade games using joysticks reached its golden era from 1978 to 1982. Many consider ‘Pong’, the popular arcade game to be the revolutionary start of home-gaming, as Atari Games developed a home-version.
Fast-forward a few decades, and we saw the third, fourth and fifth generation of gaming consoles as well as the increasing popularity of hand-held consoles, with the decline of traditional arcade games. As PC gaming grew parallely with console gaming, it was necessary for PC video game developers and companies to release their video games over an internet space for worldwide distribution and promotion.
Established over 17 years ago, Steam was the first video game digital distribution platform. It was a space that was both an online store for gamers and developers, but also an online community where gamers could interact with each other and rate the games posted.
A Short History of Steam
We could probably attribute the popularity of Steam to a first-player advantage. Since it established itself as a trusted online platform and community for gamers, it’s often regarded the best. It’s been difficult for any other video game company to create a similar platform that overtakes the success of Steam. It became increasingly popularised as the online gaming community began to take form. Gaming personalities and ‘influencers’ were gaining popularity on Youtube with their walkthrough and review videos in the 2000s. Some of the games they covered were Five Nights At Freddy’s and Subnautica, games that were only available on Steam.
Steam is a dedicated platform for both video gamers and video game developers. The platform actually emerged as a way for Valve Corporation, an American video game developer company to update their multiplayer games without having to recall their entire product. To this day, game developers can easily add updates and fix bugs to their video games without a separate upload.
Initially, from 2003 to 2005, Steam would only release video games by Valve Corporation, like the Half-Life series as well as Counterstrike. It even faced a couple of site crashes, notably when the new Half-Life game was released and thousands of gamers logged in to download it. Steam became much stronger henceforth, and even made the smart decision to allow external publishers to also use the platform for distributing and posting their own popular games. Some of these games included ones from Activision and Capcom.
How Does Steam Work?
As a gamer, if you want to download a game from Steam, you have to first create an account with Steam. Then, the user can easily log in, search for the video game of their choice, purchase it and download it directly to their computer. Steam prices tend to be lower than on any platform, while also coming in bundles with other games or sales and discounts.
Before downloading a game, the user can view the ratings of the game by other players as well as have access to tutorials, detailed descriptions, screenshots or even gameplay videos. If there are any glitches or bugs in the game, it will be listed out here. Game updates are also posted in order for users to easily install the revisions.
In the Steam Library, the user has a dashboard of all their purchased games, as well as a way to view the achievements, leaderboards and statistics of these games. They can also view their friends’ activities, like whether they downloaded a new game or set a new high score.
There are a couple of ways in which Steam users can interact with each other. The Steam Chat and Game Hub is a way for users to have private and group chats. Steam Broadcasting is where players can broadcast their playthroughs of a game for others to see, or for players to watch playthroughs by other players.
Steam Workshop gives the users a chance to be completely involved in the game. Users can create and upload game mods. Mods stand for modifications. These are alterations to the video game that skilled users can create. It can change something very major about the game, such as a third-person perspective to a first-person one, or even aesthetic changes like how the weather behaves or the way the water glistens in a river. Mods are a way for players to give back to the community, to improve a beloved game and add more excitement to a ‘vanilla’ game.
Steam is a go-to option and an easy one for video game developers, both big video game companies as well as small indie publishers. The platform has over 30,000 games, and many different genres and category listings.
When Steam first started allowing external publishers to host their games on its platform, it would take an upfront fee and then also take a cut of their profits. This worked out well for the big video game developing companies as it was still a fraction of what they would’ve spent releasing physical copies of their games.
But for indie developers, this method was risky as Steam didn’t have a guarantee of how well the games would perform. That’s why it started Steam Greenlight. In Steam Greenlight, Steam users actually got a chance to vote for the indie games that they wanted on the platform. Whichever games got the higher votes were selected to be published on the platform. That’s how Steam ensured that only the games that were in high-demand were published.
While Steam Greenlight worked for a while, it became too populist. There were many games that didn’t get the large popular vote from gamers, but would end up doing well as they built a name for themselves among a small sub-community. To eleminiate the voting system, Steam came up with Steam Direct which was a way for developers to pay $100 and then get to upload their game on to steam. This was affordable for many developers, and led to an increase in the number of games on the platform.
Steamworks is a subsidiary platform of Steam, which developers are given access to after their game is hosted through Steam Direct. Here they can easily modify or update their games.
Steam has been the great enabler for video game enthusiasts and developers for years. Users and Developers can look forward to a brand new algorithm that improves on underrated game discoverability. Steam is only going to grow and include new technologies with new-gen gaming, and will likely be an integral part of the future of video gaming.