Valve has officially confirmed that it is to bring additional software types to its Steam digital distribution platform, expanding it from its current games-and-drivers focus.
Steam is an undoubted success: launched in 2003, the digital distribution platform has grown to include over 1,500 games and more than 40 million active user accounts. Although firm sales figures have never been released by Valve, Steam is believed to hold the majority share of the digital distribution market at somewhere between 50 and 70 per cent.
Traditionally, Steam has been used for one purpose: to sell and distribute games, both from Valve and from third-party publishers and developers. It does so extremely successfully - helped along by regular bargain-basement sales of older 'stock' - but Valve has clearly been looking beyond the games market for its next injection of growth.
Back in 2010, Valve announced a deal with AMD
which saw the company's drivers added to the Steam platform. Those running AMD cards were given the option of having updates automatically downloaded and applied directly from Steam - the first hints that Valve was thinking about broadening the appeal of the platform.
Now Valve has gone the whole hog, announcing that non-gaming software will be rolled into the Steam platform. 'The software titles coming to Steam range from creativity to productivity,
' the company not-at-all-vaguely explained in a statement to press late last night. 'Many of the launch titles will take advantage of popular Steamworks features, such as easy installation, automatic updating, and the ability to save your work to your personal Steam Cloud space so your files may travel with you.
'The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games,
' explained Valve's Mark Richardson of the move. '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.
The move to distribution of general-purpose software puts Valve in a position to grab a significantly larger market than just gamers, but also places the company in direct competition with the creators of the operating systems on which Steam operates. Microsoft is to be focusing on distributing software through its own Windows Store in the upcoming Windows 8 release, while Apple has its own Mac Store for OS X software. Even Canonical, makers of the Ubuntu Linux distribution to which Valve is porting Steam, have the Ubuntu Software Centre.
Whether Valve's desire to move out of pure gaming and into the lucrative general-purpose software market will mean friction with these one-time allies remains to be seen. The first titles will be appearing in Steam on the 5th of September, Valve has confirmed.