[Update: The press release offered lots of confusion – the story’s been updated now for clarity]
Valve are rocking the boat in a really big way, especially for PC gaming piracy. They have just announced the release of a complete collection of publisher power, called Steamworks, available to developers and publishers completely free. Valve describe it as,
“A complete suite of publishing and development tools – ranging from copy protection to social networking services to server browsing – now available free of charge to developers and publishers worldwide.”
What does this actually mean? Well, its extensive. The complete press-release is beneath the cut, as well as our explanation of what it means. And what it means could be huge.
What does it mean? It gives publishers and developers the ability to control their games in a brand new way, with Steam itself dropping in the final executable to get the game working, which could have a hefty impact on how we buy our games. And most importantly, no one’s paying Valve a penny, neither the publisher, nor the player.
The suite will allow developers to perform many of the tricks that have distinguished Valve, such as monitoring sales stats, hefty anti-piracy measures, automatic updating, voice chat, multiplayer matchmaking, social networking and even the ability to run beta testing. The possibilities this opens up for independent developers, and smaller publishing companies, could be enormous.
It’s a bit confusing what this will actually means, so here’s what we understand: A publisher can sell their game in the shops or distribute it digitally via their own system, customers install it, and then have Steam drop in the executable. It kills off day-one piracy in a single shot. Bam. Then updates will be delivered automatically for the game via Steam, and all the post-release stats and tools will be available, with Valve charging no one any money for this at all.
Does this give Valve more power? It certainly means more people will be installing Steam on their systems, and that isn’t going to hurt them. But since they won’t be responsible for distribution, nor handling money for these companies, the control seems to be firmly in the hands of each game’s publisher.