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Old September 27, 2012, 09:27 PM
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muse108dc muse108dc is offline
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Default Has a new platform snuck up on us?

In the past there have been 3 or 4 major platforms, xbox, playstation, nintendo, and the PC. HOWEVER, now I propose to you that there is a platform that is reaching the status of parity with these others. I propose that Steam is no longer just a distributor but is a platform in itself. Maybe PC gaming really is dead?

First off a lot of games, I'd wager a fairly high majority of pc games, require Steam to run. This is the first point where Steam stops being just a store because one can buy Borderlands 2, Skyrim, and many others at other retailers, digital or storefront and Steam picks them up no trouble. Now at a glance this looks like just fancy DRM which is always a headache but for the most part its done in a beneficial way by giving you features that windows itself cant and is hidden from view. There's also the bonus that once activated with Steam you never ever have to worry about loosing the disk or cd key ever.

Steam has quite a few built in features that it allows game devs to utilize. Steam cloud, multiple computer support, achievements, community, and even modding support now. Microsoft even with its GFWL and theoretical windows integration never even came close to offering the same level of features or quality that Valve has managed.

So far we have Steam being a distribution source, a central management place for your games across your devices, having integration built into your games, and having a strong and vibrant community. I dunno but that does not sound like a store anymore, in fact if you described steam to someone using more generic terms at least a few would have guessed you were talking of a console.

For a moment lets take another look at the future of Windows. We have 8 coming out shortly with a built in app store, a much more closed system to the open garden that is currently Windows. Though one can except that Microsoft intends to make another push into gaming with 8 and there is the possibility that it could be decent. I can see a Windows ecosystem that rivals Steam but without the layer that is steam. I do doubt they can pull it off any time soon and I fear that they will once again try to bring the xbox model to the PC. I'm not looking forward to 8 but there is the potential that MS could rival steam feature for feature.
There is another point I would like to bring up here is that the walls MS is putting up around its garden risk annoying and driving away many loyal devs who have been around a long time. Valve and Notch both recently have brought opposition to the way MS is proposing doing business now and I for one agree, Windows has been a great open system where I can go onto the net and find just about anything I ever needed but with 8 and its certification and appstore.... Moving a bit too close to apple's way of doing business for me.

Now back to Steam. Heres where it really starts looking like steam is positioning itself to become a platform rather than just a layer on top of Windows. Not too long ago Valve launched on Mac and now there is talk of a beta for Linux. There have also been agreements with Sony for crossplatform play with the PS3. AND we have the Big Picture Mode as well which I cant help but feel is aimed directly at the consoles. Steam is big enough and has more than enough support, I feel, that it doesnt actually need Microsoft and Windows anymore, it can become the platform for "pc" gaming if it does chose to do so. There is the caveat of DirectX and such but short term I dont see that being an issue.

I've left the final piece of evidence in my argument for last, the SteamBox. Now if Valve actually does make its own "console", even if it does run Windows underneath, I think thats the real point where Steam stops being software and starts being a platform in more eyes.

If TL:DR Basically Windows is loosing it grip on the pc gaming industry and Steam is becoming the gaming platform in my mind.

Also this was just written up quickly I might if I have time polish it up and actually turn it into a coherent argument for something else so feel free to give me constructive criticism keeping in mind that this is a very rough first draft type thing. I didnt much like the windows portion so I singled it out and you can feel free to ignore it.
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