Valve’s digital distribution platform has come a long way since it’s inception. While Steam is the digital store of choice for millions of gamers today, it wasn’t always that way. Back in 2003 the thing was hardly even usable, and even when it was, it’s catalog was painfully small. It’s been an impressive nine years of gradual improvement of the service on Valve’s side and adoption of Steam as a means of distribution by publishers, and now it seems Valve is about to take a new, rather unexpected leap forward in it’s goal of moving software sales into the new millennium while coincidentally making a boatload of money: non-gaming software.
A game service selling software that isn’t video games? What madness is this? Starting September 5th you’ll be able to purchase actual serious business-type apps right alongside your Half-Lifes and your Call of Dutys. Details are currently unavailable as to which specific applications will be available for purchase at launch, though Valve’s mention of “creativity to productivity” apps inspires the imagination. Can we expect to see Adobe’s Creative Suites and Microsoft Office, or does Valve have other things in mind? Could it be that they’re planning to roll out their own line of application software to compete with the existing market? After messing around with Source Filmmaker, it certainly seems like they possess the know-how to make that happen, if they chose to.
New applications will be added to the store in an ongoing fashion, and developers are being encouraged to submit their software titles via Steam Greenlight. Steam Cloud integration along with all the typical Steamworks features you’d expect to see in games will be used to improve the user experience.
“The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games,” said Valve’s Mark Richardson. “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.”
Whatever ends up in the Steam App store on the 5th, this should prove to be an interesting experiment in advancing digital distribution, putting Valve into direct competition with Google, Apple and the other big names in walled garden software distribution. I do hope that they provide some sort of toggle for those who would rather block out the more productive side of the store. I don’t know how I’d feel about seeing advertisements for the latest Photoshop patch along with the typical Steam sales.