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Valve confirms Steam expansion into non-gaming software

Valve confirms Steam expansion into non-gaming software

Wed 08 Aug 2012 5:33pm GMT / 1:33pm EDT / 10:33am PDT
OnlinePublishing

Creativity and Productivity software is coming to the Steam service

Valve today confirmed rumors that it's expanding its popular Steam service beyond games. The company said that a new set of software titles will hit Steam on September 5.

Valve didn't offer much in the way of specific details, but the company noted that the titles will range from creativity to productivity. Additionally, many will take advantage of Steamworks features, such as easy installation, automatic updating, and the ability to save your work to your personal Steam Cloud space so your files may travel with you.

Valve said more software will be added "in an ongoing fashion" following the September 5th launch. Developers are invited to submit titles via Steam Greenlight.

"The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games," said Mark Richardson at Valve. "They have told us they would like to have more of their software on Steam, so this expansion is in response to those customer requests."

22 Comments

Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium

65 40 0.6
This kinda worries me because we already know Steam has become pretty much the game distribution monopoly (for example, we all know how poorly some indie games can do if they don't manage to get Steam distribution), so I really, really, REALLY hope this doesn't mean Steam will become THE software distribution monopoly.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

M.H. Williams Staff Writer, USgamer

37 32 0.9
And now we know why Newell has a problem with the Windows Store and Windows 8.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
@Sergio: Unless something is done legally, Steam will continue to dominate the entire market. Much of what they do already borderlines US anti-trust laws. But since nobody has called them out on it, they pretty much get away with it. And you're right, Indie games pretty much dont see the light of day unless Steam approves them... Because that's the only way they'd ever get noticed.

@M.H.: Gabe Newell puts down anything that takes his doughnut money away =P

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,590 1,445 0.9
@Joshua
"Much of what they do already borderlines US anti-trust laws."
Specifics? Beyond Steam being the sole digital distro channel for Valve games (which it no longer is, btw), I don't see much about them that's particularly anti-trust. Unless you mean to say domination = monopoly. Which it technically isn't, and if we're going down that road then MS's stranglehold of the pre-built computer system OS market is something that needs to be looked at before Steam.

Something which the PC video-game distribution market reminds me of is comics distribution. Have a gander at this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Comic_Distributors#Antitrust_litigation

An interesting (though small) read. I can easily accept that Steam dominates the PC market, but to call it a monopoly, or something that doesn't enjoy competition, is quite inaccurate.
And you're right, Indie games pretty much dont see the light of day unless Steam approves them... Because that's the only way they'd ever get noticed.
Because no-one's heard of unEpic? The fact that it isn't on Steam has made that game infamous.

On a broader note, I wonder what companies are behind this. It would make sense that, say, Adobe would get behind this (Photoshop and all that). But who else? uTorrent? BOINC would make a lot of sense, I think.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,183 975 0.8
I'd like to see Steam become a proper store on Android. They can do that...

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,183 975 0.8
"Much of what they do already borderlines US anti-trust laws. But since nobody has called them out on it, they pretty much get away with it. "

The thing is Steam is so dominant largely because people love it and gamers have made it such a big, dominating service. Still it has competition in digital distribution and on the high street. Origin is new, Direct2Drive has its own small market that may not have been pushed enough and other services such as those from the on-line presence of high street stores just aren't that good.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,254 421 0.3
@M.H. My first thoughts too. I don't think many Steam uses will stop using Steam for games (except maybe the odd popcap style title) but for productivity/utility software, the Windows store will be the obvious first stop.

Not that those of us who don't auto run Steam will want to load up Steam for a Winzip type program to work if it has the same DRM, anyway.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 9th August 2012 6:38am

Posted:2 years ago

#7

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
It's already bad enough having hundreds of /$/ worth of steam games that you can potentially lose on your account if it's hacked or whatever and Valve are just going to stick even more on top of that? They need to improve their security and increase their customer service team(s). As it is their service is a bit substandard in these respects. The email verification stuff is good but I think it's starting to get to the point where I'd like some sort of authenticator...

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Very interesting comments above that give a perceptive insight into the forces at play.

Gabe has a near monopoly which he sees being threatened from several directions, most notably that Microsoft are putting an app store in their OS. About time too, Apple have done this for ages. The Microsoft app store will be superior to Steam in several ways.
So Gabe extends the breadth of his offering, something he should have done years ago. Software is software. The Android and Apple app stores welcome all sorts of software and have benefited massively from doing so, especially in education.

In fact what Gabe and Microsoft have both demonstrated is that digital distribution could have progressed even faster if they had extracted their digits. They are both a long way behind Apple at this.

I really worry for Sony and Nintendo. Are they geared up for the new reality with software as a service, micro payments, app stores and the cloud?

Also it will be interesting to see what Google do so as not to be left behind. G+ is growing in real strength now as it finds niches that Facebook doesn't do as well. They have fantastic app store experience from running Android, so they are up the learning curve. We live in interesting times.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,590 1,445 0.9
In fact what Gabe and Microsoft have both demonstrated is that digital distribution could have progressed even faster if they had extracted their digits.
Quite true. As a further example of how slow they've been, you would've expected Valve to have followed up the Steam release of Indie Game: The Movie with other films or documentary series (or at least announce a distribution deal with a studio). But there's been absolute silence on that front.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Henry Durrant Programmer, SUMO Digital

50 43 0.9
"Steam Achievemnt Unlocked: Applied 1000 Lens Flare Filers in Photshop"
This is a logical expansion of Steam but it doesnt really fit into the ethos of a system which as constructed itself around being a social gaming service. Although being able to log onto 'any' PC and install and use your software does sound like a boon. Especially if you are re-installing a PC.
The "Master Key" problem of hacked and or banned accounts is par for the course with any Digital DRM systems out there ( at least, its the same with Origin - lose your account, lose your software ) . Its something you either have to accept as a user or push for change.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,590 1,445 0.9
Its something you either have to accept as a user or push for change.
Indeed. I'm quite happy with the Steamguard system, and what little communication I've had with Support has been prompt and polite. But it's a well known fact that Gabe reads (and occasionally responds to) emails sent by Steam users, so anyone who thinks Steam support and security needs improvement could do worse than email suggestions on making it better..

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

463 172 0.4
Steam is not a social gaming service. Its a games distribution service first and foremost. Gabe would remove achievements eons before he stopped selling games on Steam. Achievements was really just a reaction to what was going on in the console space on the Xbox front.

All of your other complaints would also apply to the Windows/Mac App store but with one major advantage... Portability. The fact that you can log into any windows PC and instantly have your Apps is what the whole 'cloud craze' was always about, but having a store locked to the distributor of the OS will always mean you are restricted by their paranoia and desire to control, especially one a desktop where it wouldn't be financially prudent for them to let you connect your user account (which is the basis of your Windows store login) to multiple computers as you would then only need one copy of nearly all software in your house.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Ihegbu on 9th August 2012 1:44pm

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor

400 196 0.5
"Steam Achievemnt Unlocked: Applied 1000 Lens Flare Filers in Photshop"
Nooooo! Not lens flare!
This is a logical expansion of Steam but it doesnt really fit into the ethos of a system which as constructed itself around being a social gaming service.
Well yes and no. I think it would be nice to have a more social aspect concerning software. I like being able to look down my friends list and ask them about something I've yet to try.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,136 1,174 1.0
Valve wants to take their esports seriously and what better way to promote that by not only being the service offering the games, but also the service where you can get the tools surrounding the gaming hobby. Fraps for recording, a/v software to do commentary, picture editors such as Gimp, etc.

Another step in the direction where Windows is just a base level component to their service instead of Steam being yet another online shop on Windows. in case of a Windows app store, create your own appstore. Valve beat Microsoft's GFW service hands down without it even being a contest, so there is no reason to believe they cannot do the same again.

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
@Morville: The biggest specific I could possibly explain is Steam's barrier-to-entry into the industry for any other company that wants to do what it's doing. Steamworks is great for developers (don't get me wrong), but what does steamworks require from the user? An account on Steam.

So with this I propose a secenario. An up and coming digital distribution platform attempting to enter the market with an alternative to Steam (including DRM), wants to sell upcoming releases. Oh but wait! Nearly half to 2/3 of all new AAA releases nowdays have Steamworks in them. So what does this mean? This means the publisher gives STEAM KEYS to the distributor, and the distributor is forced to sell Steam keys. This might not be a big deal you might think. You might be thinking "oh well it worked for GMG and they're doing quite well". And you'd be correct, but GMG is a different situation, because they do not offer (to my knowledge) their own client-integrated DRM solution to the publishers, they just sell the Steam keys.

So now we go back to the distributor. Sure, they could sell Steam keys and make money off the new release. But you're missing the point. By being forced to sell Steam keys for a new release, any upcoming distributor basically GIVES Valve the customer on a silver platter. The only thing missing from that platter is a garnish made of money. But the customer might as well be sitting on a bed of money on top of that silver platter, because just as Steam has gained a customer (at the efforts and expenses of OTHER companies), the up and coming distributor has LOST a customer. It doesnt matter how many bells and whistles, and killboards, and community features, and achievements the up and coming distribution client software has. The user still has to launch Steam to play the game they bought. Why would a user even bother to launch the client for the up and coming distributor, when they can just launch Steam?

It's an artifical monopoly based on elimination of effective distributor. How is an up and coming distributor supposed to grow and become any sort of competition, when they're giving their customers over to Steam with every single purchase? Please explain to me how this is not a breech of anti-trust laws?

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
Also, comic book distribution (or any physical product distribution for that matter) is different than digital distribution. With digitial distribution, there is no 'physical' product. Overhead cost of distribution on the publisher side is minimal at best. With physical product distribution you have MANY more things to consider. The supply chain that comes with physical product distribution (i.e. manufacturing, shipping to distributor, distributor shipping to retail warehouse, retail warehouse shipping to stores) is FAR more elaborate than a simple "okay, here's the info for our FTP. All the game assets and marketing assets are here. Let us know when you need keys".

One of the reasons nobody has really tried to go against Valve in a legal battle (other than the fact that going up against a 600 pound gorilla with a pea shooter isnt a good idea) is that current anti-trust laws are quite old, and at the time of being written, were not written in such a way to encompass digital distribution capability.

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
Another thing that can be argued, is their highly predatory pricing. Predatory pricing according to anti trust laws in the US (and this is poorly hashed so forgive me), basically means one company is setting the price of their product so low, that any other company can't match that price and be able to not only make a profit, but be sustainable. But, because it's digital distribution, there's no overhead cost to worry about right? Yes, but in the retail world, you have an MSRP. In digital distribution, it's hard to price match a massive competitor when the manufacturer/publisher wont let you do it! And yes, sale prices from a LOT of publishers requires approval. So there, we have publishers aiding in the predatory pricing, not to mention their aiding in Steam's ability to create a barrier to entry into the marketplace by shoving steamworks into every single one of their games and forcing any other digital distributor to sell Steam Keys if they want to sell any new release at all.

Please explain to me how this is not in any way illegal?


btw, sorry about the triple post, couldn't fit it all into

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,590 1,445 0.9
Hee! Multiple posts are forgivable when you hit the character limit. :)

I do see what you mean. Though I would say it's less anti-trust, and more anti-competitve, in a weird way (but my knowledge of anti-trust laws isn't huge, so...). A few points as rebuttal. :)

GMG does actually have a Client, so it doesn't act just as a key-seller. And there are actually multiple clients out there, just none of them have the dominance that Steam has. G4WL, GameStop's Impulse, EA's Origin, and the aforementioned GMG.
Why would a user even bother to launch the client for the up and coming distributor, when they can just launch Steam?
Why indeed? Look at it from the consumer's point of view - why would I want to launch multiple clients, no matter who made them? Because they're up-and-coming and provide competition? No. I just want to play a game. The fact is that most games I as a consumer would want to play are available on multiple client platforms, but since I want the fewest button clicks between choosing a game and playing it, I choose to buy on Steam, since most of my games are already there. This is where the weird anti-competitive nature comes in. Steam has a dominance because the consumer favours buying Steam keys. Why do they favour buying Steam keys? Because they've already got games on Steam. A self-perpetuating cycle that starts with the consumer. Why does it start with the consumer and not Valve? Because Steam has shown itself to be the best client out there. GMG's Capsule has issues with keys already in use. Impulse is owned by GameStop, which PC gamers kind of hate. G4WL is awful. Origin is... not great.

Other than platform exclusivity - EA's Origin being the main culprit here - there's no reason to choose another client over Steam. Valve are in the awkward position of being the market leader through consumer choice, and part of the reason for that is because they've got the best client/DRM.
It's an artifical monopoly based on elimination of effective distributor. How is an up and coming distributor supposed to grow and become any sort of competition, when they're giving their customers over to Steam with every single purchase?
By providing something that Steam does, but better. By way of example:

Origin could've been truly amazing. EA had years (quite literally) to look at Steam. They had years to talk to publishers and developers and get them on board. They had years of examining consumer action when buying games digitally, and using that data to create something amazing.

They didn't. They rushed a product out. It's technically flawed (the number of people who had to redownload BF3 because their client crashed is pretty large). It's missing features that consumers take for granted now (like gifting). It had a horrendous EULA. And EA treated consumers like idiots.

You ask why there's so little competition for Steam, but look, objectively, at the other clients out there. Would you, as a consumer who just wants to play a game, choose anything other than Steam? Now, I'm not saying this excuses the position that Valve are in, but it does rebutt some of your points.
Another thing that can be argued, is their highly predatory pricing.
Publishers, as you point out, set the prices. They set the prices for all games, both on Steam and elsewhere (Gamersgate, GMG, etc). How is this not illegal? Well, why don't you ask EA why they don't deep-discount games on Origin, but are perfectly willing to on Steam. Could it be that they're professionally incompetent? That's certainly how I view it. They have their own client, and yet the price of a lot of EA games are cheaper on Steam than Origin.

Another point to remember is this - a consumer would rather have Steamworks DRM than SecuROM or ACTControl. Or TAGES. Why? Because (other than a slightly iffy Offline mode) Steam's DRM doesn't interfere with the product. By contrast, you don't know how long I spent talking to EA tech support trying to get them to activate the copy of Kingdom's of Amalur I bought on Steam, because the key wasn't recognised on my Origin account (which I needed to log-in with to get DLC). Would I have rather had Steamworks? You betcha - because DLC activated through Steam works straight-off the bat.

Finally, I'll say this - I would love it if publishers could create serial keys that activated on whatever client you chose, so that people weren't forced into using a specific client (whether it be Steam, or Origin, or whatever). But this isn't going to happen. Why? Because so many companies want the eyes that forcing a client on a consumer gives them. Whether it be GMG, EA, GameStop, or MS, they all want to force a client onto the consumer, to make subsequent purchases easier. It's just Steam is the only one to truly be in that position.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th August 2012 10:14pm

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,590 1,445 0.9
But, because it's digital distribution, there's no overhead cost to worry about right?
Very very wrong. Brad Wardell (of Stardock, who owned Impulse before selling it to GameStop) said that he would've loved to have continued operating Impulse, but the overheads were crippling the company. He estimated that it cost 20,000 USD per month to run the servers that held people's games. 20 grand a month to let people install and update Sins of a Solar Empire, etc. And that's just basic server costs. There's definite overheads when dealing with digital distro, and I really am surprised that Valve only take 30% of every sale, considering the number of servers they need to be up and running.
Yes, but in the retail world, you have an MSRP. In digital distribution, it's hard to price match a massive competitor when the manufacturer/publisher wont let you do it!
And yet publishers do actually let other digital distro companies cut prices. Have you seen how often Just Cause 2 and Deus Ex: HR go on sale? It feels like it's almost every week that they're on sale at Amazon US, GMG, Gamersgate, etc. Magicka is more often on sale than it is on full price.

I don't mean this in a condescending way, so please don't take it like that. :) You really need to educate yourself about the number of digital distro client/stores out there, and their positives/negatives. Amazon US, for instance, sells game keys - Origin keys, Steam keys, Other DRM keys - and they had a massive push during May. They're a truly client-agnostic store, since they'll try to get the best deal out there. GMG has had multiple deals on Hitman: Absolution and Darksiders 2. Sure, both Steamworks games, but the word-of-mouth that the deals created meant they got spin-off for their own client. GOG continues to pursue the DRM-free option. Gamersgate makes a big deal of the fact that they have the most games available of any digital distribution store. Gamefly... exists.

They all provide competition against Steam. Yes, they all sell Steam keys, but does that matter when they have great deals on games? It's like complaining about the Windows 8 Metro store - sure some people will buy straight from MS and lose money because of it. But everyone will eventually educate themselves about the cheapest and best places to buy games, so whether or not something activates on Steam is irrelevant compared to where the game is bought. I bought Sleeping Dogs on GMG, and it activates on Steam. I bought it there because it was cheapest. Will everyone? Not at first, no. But educating the customer about where to buy is something we should all do - journalists, publishers, developers - becase it can only strengthen our industry, and boost competition.

(multiple edits for clarity and spelling. Really shouldn't type after a glass of white. :) )

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th August 2012 10:33pm

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
I know GMG has a client (I should have mentioned it). They act as a key seller and as a distributor in their own. The point I was trying to make with GMG is that yes, they have their on client and they are a digital distribution platform, BUT (and this is the key here), they do not offer any sort of DRM to the publishers it works with (I believe). They don't have their own version of Steamworks with which to 'lock' the products they sell to their own client.

It's not so much that the consumer favors buying steam keys. It's that the publishers don't give distributors any other option. Steamworks is so heavily integreated into many new PC games nowdays, that it's nearly impossible to get a 'non-steamworks' build of a game from a publisher for distribution.

When I referred to overhead, I meant from the Publisher point of view. A publisher is going to have to have to run servers for multiplay or updates regardless of the purchase having been B&M or Digital. I refer to the manufacturing and logistics overhead of making/shipping a physical product to a B&M retail store versus a delivery via electronic means (with no transfer of physical goods). I won't go into a detailed explaination of a hypothetical supply chain from publisher to retailer because I'm sure we're all smart enough here to know the basics of that =P

So let me ask you this. If, lets say, there was another digital distribution platform that provided the same identical DRM/Client integreation as Steam to allow the same ease of purchase, installation, and play, Would you not consider this new platform as a potential alternative to Steam? I am referring only to the DRM/Client integration, not the Community, achievements, or any of the bells and whistles (because those are pretty much standard in today's market). Just on the DRM/Client integration alone.

After two E3's, and keeping up with the news and competition in the digital distribution space, I'd like to think I know a fair amount about digital distribution. I've been a customer of Valve and Steam since it's release with Half Life 2, what now seems like ages ago. They were not the first (Trymedia comes to mind). I've seen the rise (and fall) of platforms like Impulse, Direct2Drive, Origin, OnLive, and many others. I've seen companies be bought up by major entities, then cast aside for something else. The appeal of a digital distribution client is something that's determined both by consumer AND publisher support.

With a B&M store, usually you're going to go to the one most convenient to you. If your closest source is a walmart, you'll go to walmart (unless you're an anti evil corporation person). If you're close to a GameStop, you'll go to GameStop. BUT we must also take into consideration the customer support and friendly nature of the employees, because this also weighs heavily on the decision of what B&M store to buy your games from. With B&M stores, except in the case of GAME when they had that fiasco with EA and not paying and all that jazz, Publishers are going to get their games out to whatever store will stock them most of the time. Market saturation and product awareness are both key to a successful distribution whether it's physical product or digital.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios

191 81 0.4
But what approach did they have towards the concept that other platforms didn't or don't? Let's look at Origin, since it's the most recent example. Origin has it's own problems from what I've read. I've only bought one game on there (Command and Conquer Tiberium Wars), but the process was fairly straight forward. Purchase, download/install, play. I haven't spent enough time on Origin to give it a positive or negative review from my own eyes, so I'm not going to do so. However, I will point out that it's been seen in a rather negative light by consumers. On the surface Origin and Steam are almost the same (miniscule details like looks aside). But what about other platform attempts? Like GamersGate, GFWL, or any of those?

What do platforms like GamersGate, GFWL, and Origin have in common, that Valve does not? Simple: They were all created from a Publisher point of view. Since EA is pretty much the whipping boy of the 'we have lots of money' stereotype, I'll use them again. Origin probably took several years, a team of MANY different people, and probably several million dollars invested to bring a workable product to light. A publisher approach to something like this is usually to throw enough money at it until it works. Origin does work, it works well enough for EA. But it lacks that special something that only Steam has. Steam was done from a DEVELOPER point of view. Developers love gaming, they love everything about it. Hell, you'd have to in order to withstand some of the crunch times i've heard about from fellow developers. Publishers are generally more business oriented, they care about selling the product and making the most money possible. I'm not saying developers don't want to make the most money possible, but they truly love the game for what it is, not so much the money it makes. That being said, Steam has that 'from a gamer' point of view that customers prefer. Which explains why they've come to dominate the market.

I don't really see the MS software store with Windows 8 being too much of a problem. Microsoft probably took the Publisher point of view on it's development, so it won't have that special something that Steam has over all other platforms. From a customer point of view, I agree with you completely, Steam is a great platform because I can get everything in one place, all my friends play games on there, etc. But from the industry point of view, it restricts the ability for other possible competition. In the US, anti competitive business practices, are more often than not linked to some anti-trust law. But then we go back to current anti-trust laws and their lack of any 'digital age' oriented legislation. Another topic, for another time.


As Sheldon from Big Bang Theory says "More wrong? Wrong is an absolute, it is not subject to degradation" =P

Posted:2 years ago

#22

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