I’ve been a big fan of Steam, the game download and community service from Valve for a long time now. Not only do they have a great selection of games and a great online infrastructure, but they prove that you don’t have to rip people off and be an “evil corporation” in order to be successful in the games industry.
Valve show that you can give people legitimately great deals, be nice and make money at the same time, all the while increasing brand loyalty with their customers. Valve show that downloadable games can make sense, and that they can be lower priced than their retail counterparts where Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have yet to grasp this notion.
As far as recent events, Valve have just launched Steam for Mac, and I have to say I’m very impressed with it. As far as the application itself is concerned, it is essentially exactly the same as the PC version we all know and love, but that’s probably the best thing they could have done. The integration of Mac software into the existing storefront shows a huge amount of care was taken in trying to make Mac users feel welcome and not confused by not distinguishing between Mac and PC games.
Not only can you sort by operating system, but you can also Play Mac games with PC players of the same title online using SteamWorks. On top of this, and perhaps coolest of all, for certain titles marked with the Steam Play logo, you are eligible to download these particular games to both your Mac and PC for no additional charge. Shockingly, PopCap games are included in this, so I could download BookWorm, Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights to my MacBook for free, when on PopCap’s own site they charge separately for Mac and PC versions, so this is a fantastic offer for Steam gamers.
Not only this, but Valve are offering one of their well known and popular games, Portal, which is one part of the hugely successful Orange Box for free for a limited time. This is yet another piece of evidence of Valve’s commitment to customer satisfaction and increasing brand loyalty.
So what have we learned? Steam on Mac is fantastic and a must-download for Mac whatever kind of gamer you are. We’ve also learned that it is possible to be a successful game developer and publisher and make a lot of money, while also treating your fans well and giving away content, as opposed to charging for every single thing you release after the launch of a game.
Activision and EA among others, take note.