By RipTen Contributor Joel Bollinger
I’ve never been a fan of Steam, but I understand why others like it: Instant updates, community support, digital sales, and a profile space for achievements and friends. You know, it’s Xbox Live for PC gamers … but it’s free.
Steam recently branched into Mac and is rumored to be branching into Linux relatively soon. Cross platform support for “PC” games (I’m including Mac in the PC category) has been happening for quite awhile. However, Steam is now a true cross-platform system on both consoles and PC.
Could cross-platform support between PS3 and PC tap a market Microsoft has failed to capitalize upon? I can imagine a cross-platform war of PS3/PC vs. Xbox/PC. If there were a cross-platform battle, I’d put my money on Steam and Sony since nobody knows the PC gaming market like Valve does. In the end, this can only help PC gamers in reviving interest in console publishers and lead some console gamers to the largest untapped market in the world.
And PC gaming is the largest untapped gaming market in the world. Most of the gamers on planet Earth own a PC or laptop and most of those rigs are capable of gaming on some level. Could this be a sneaky tactic on the part of Valve to lure console gamers to PC? Perhaps.
I did this myself once. My friend Joe has a PS3. When Call of Duty 4 came out, I bought him CoD4 for PC. He already had it for the PS3. He immediately fell in love with the mouse and keyboard scheme over his controller and 64 slot servers. Now, obviously he still plays games on his PS3, but he’s more inclined to buy certain games on the PC now. Given that Source is such an old engine and even Intel onboard GPUs can render it, this isn’t too much of a stretch. PS3 gamers can now play Portal 2 on their Macbook, laptop, or desktop. Also, thanks to Valve’s recent announcement: If you buy Portal 2 on PS3 – you will get a Steam key as well so that you can play the game on either platform at any time thanks to SteamCloud. If Steam continues this tradition of, “You buy the game on one platform, you get it free on all the supported platforms of Steam” then this could definitely boost the reach of the PC gaming market and it’s market share.
Yet, Steam is a form of DRM. You have to have a key registered to an account that is always online and being checked. Your key can only be used for one account. This might be a way for consoles to finally curb used game sales. Since the PS3 has been blown wide open by hackers, Steam could be the answer. (Yes I know that Steam has been and is hacked with certain games, but it’s less annoying to just buy the game). If Steam proves to be successful on the PS3, this could be the new prevalent DRM for PS3. A one time activation tied to a permanent account might be what Sony needs for the PS3. Of course, Sony could try and make their own version of Steam – but why burn bridges with Valve instead of leveraging their market share.
Let’s also not forget that Valve doesn’t do anything half-assed. Their products are typically quite polished and if there are problems, they are quickly fixed. Unfortunately, Xbox owners don’t get to experience this due to Microsoft’s restrictive XBL policies and fees. For Team Fortress 2, there were dozens of patches and content updates for PC gamers, yet only five for the 360. PS3 owners now have the potential to get that same PC experience of constantly patched or updated games through Steam. Not to mention full integration with their PC game library and PC gamer friends like me. Is Steam on the PS3 going to be a home run for both Valve and Sony? You tell me.