Steam, Valve’s digital distribution for video games (as well as a kind of “social network” for gamers, though the phrase “social network” makes me nauseous), is really quite successful. In 2009, its fifth year of operation, sales were up 205 percent over the previous year. The service has more than 25 million users, of which 10 million have full profiles. (I’m one of them, by the way.) That means you’re looking at a core user group, or “hardcore” in the gamer lexicon, of 10 million people. That’s a lot of people.
Steam, for the unawares, is an application that runs on Windows PCs. Users use it to download video games directly to their computer, as well as create a profile, join groups, and other social network trivialities. The main focus, though, is the downloading: rather than go to the local Best Buy or Wal-Mart, and deal with all of that, you download the game right then and there. Prices are reasonable—Steam typically has pretty fantastic sales at different points during the year—and, well, who wants to deal with dirty, dirty discs?
Oh, and you can play these games from wherever you have an Internet connection.
It’s pretty cool that the founder of Good Old Games hates Steam. Good Old Games is a similar service, but one that deals exclusively with old video games. You probably guessed that. All of its games are DRM-free, too, which is pretty nifty. (Nobody likes DRM on PC games, and the sooner it’s gone, the better.) Anyhow, the founder, Marcin Iwiński, describedto a Polish video game Web site the nightmare he had trying to uninstall the application.
Steam isn’t universally loved, that is to say.
Universally successful? Yeah, sure.