In the early 2000s, PC gaming was going through a bit of a stagnating period. Console gaming had become the new fun and exciting scene, and, with easy piracy and lack of marketplaces on the PC, developers were started to shy away from creating solely PC based games. That is, until the rise of Steam. Now PC gaming has become more of a flourishing platform than ever before.
Valve first release Steam in late 2003 as a software client and marketplace on which to release our own line of PC games. They quickly got into contact with other publishers however, and two years later began communicating the means in which they could also get their releases on the platform; and thus third-party software appeared on the Steam list. A further five years later and there are an estimated over 1,400 games available on Steam, with 35 million user accounts active, making it one of, if not the, most consistently popular digital distribution platforms. The company behind the previous market leader Impulse, Stardock Corporation, estimated that Steam had over 70% of the market as of 2009, although this cannot be verified as Valve have a habit of not releasing sales figures.
Steam's rise to fame and glory can be traced back to the core focus that Valve chose: community. It is not only a digital distribution platform but a client for sharing games and experiences with friends, browsing and posting on forums and bringing clans together. By creating a universal community of players, it creates a dependency on the platform for needs other than buying games. PC gaming did not have anywhere near such a platform before the release of Steam, and it really seemed to be what the PC community needed. True that the focus was not always for community to begin with, but they quickly made that distinction.
Developers loved it as the process required to get games added to the Steam listings is simple and cost-effective. Plus, Valve puts the control of sales, downloadable content and server management in the hands of the creator, whilst still supporting and providing certain assets that other digital distribution marketplaces dared not. Tools like separate SDK releases, distinguishable downloadable content listing and anti-cheating detection for online gaming are optional extensions for any and all developers. Pulling back support and interest into the PC market in this matter is a win-win for all involved.