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Steam is an online digital distribution service run by Valve Corporation, originally started in 2002 as a way for them to deliver their gaming content direct to consumers, and as a means to automatically provide patches for their games. The first Valve game that required mandatory Steam registration for the game to be played was Half-Life 2. The service was eventually opened up to other publishers and developers. The system caused controversy, as it was the first system whereby a game had to be activated, and this had the knock-on effect of encouraging other publishers and developers to do the same, most notably Electronic Arts, so as to prevent their games from being sold on the second-hand market once purchased and activated, and to prevent people from pirating their video games.
Because this process of selling and delivering online cut out game store retailers and game publishers, Valve became involved in a legal dispute with Vivendi Universal, their publisher at the time. Vivendi Universal argued that Valve was violating their publishing contract with Vivendi by opening a competing digital distribution platform.
There are currently 1,311 Steam games documented on Codex Gamicus.
The Steam client supports the downloading and launching of games purchased through the Steam Store, and includes support for Downloadable Content (DLC). In a unique move, Steam allows its users individual control over what DLC packs a game runs with; this allows games to be run with certain expansions or content disabled, including content that grants shortcuts to game completion, such as the DLC used in the Saints Row series.
Steam also supports cloud saving for supported games, and built-in mod support for supported games via Steam Workshop. The Steam Client is currently available for Microsoft Windows and macOS, with a development release currently available for Linux. Steam is expected to be integral to Valve Corporation's SteamOS.
Steam also has an overlay, that can be accessed during gameplay. This overlay allows for the opening of a Browser window within Steam, and also allows checking on achievement progress. The overlay can also access the friend's list.
On Android, the software is merely a front for the Steam Store, for purchases to be made for playing on other platforms; there is no game downloading or launching support on the Android Steam platform.
This allows searching between three different platforms for video games:
Currently, many games are available over Steam, and the system has expanded in scope enormously in the decade since its release. Valve now has several aspects of the Steam service available to third-party developers and publishers. In addition, these and other criteria can be used to search for games. Valve also offers a region-locking service, meaning games purchased in a particular territory may not be playable in others. This system is optional, and Valve itself does not region-lock the games that it publishes.
Steam also allows searching based on the number of players that can play a game. The following is a list of searchable terms:
Entries in the Steam Store can be further searched by type:
- Videos & Trailers
- Downloadable Content
Games be also additionally be searched by "Tag", of which can be considered a selection of what genre(s) a game falls into. The following are available:
- Great Soundtrack
- Massively Multi-player
The store can also search based on the type of VR support offered by games. The system currently only allows searching between three VR devices:
Note: Singleplayer and Multiplayer are also entries in this field, however, this functionality is a duplicate of the next section, and is to be treated as a side effect of the Tagging system being opened up to players to define.
Steam supports a number of non-English languages, and allows games to also be searched using this as a criteria. The following are supported by Valve within Steam: