Steam: Thanks A Million (Or Fifteen)

News has just reached us via electro-pigeon that Steam, Valve Software’s increasingly STRONG LIKE OX online game distribution system, now has 15 million users. 15 million. Where are you now, World of Warcraft and your puny 10 million subscribers? Details and all-official-like Gabe Newell statement after the jump.

Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that many of those accounts are simply for Counter-Strike (in both classic and Source flavours) and/or Half-Life 2 and/or Team Fortress 2, so it’s surely not earning anywhere near as much as 10 million monthly WoW subs do.

Also, a Steam account is free, even if the games themselves are not. Notably, anyone who’s installed a new driver for their ATI graphics card lately will have discovered that Steam wants to sneak onto their hard drives too. And bam, there’s one more user – and one more person presented with adverts for newly-released games available from the Steam store on a regular basis. More happily, with that installation comes free HL2 Deathmatch and Lost Coast, whilst NVIDIA users get an exclusive Portal demo and, bestest of all, Peggle Extreme (though GeForce drivers don’t include Steam – yet).

We don’t know how much money Steam is actually generating – Valve confirm simply “year-over-year sales growth of 158% through the holiday season.” At a guess, I’d say that means a hundred million squillion ultra-dollars.

Generally, I’m all for it, too – after a rocky first couple of years, Steam’s turned into a pretty awesome asset. I’m vaguely troubled by one firm having such a monopoly on online game distribution (though you Yanquis do also benefit from Gametap, which is a bit rubbish and understocked over here in pale Britain). Still, like Google, so far this chokehold has only been good for us. When the time eventually comes for Valve to harvest our very souls, at least we’ll have had a few years of fun and convenience out of it first.

Here’s pertinent quotes from Valve’s statement:

“Throughout 2008 more Community features will be introduced to support existing games as well as new titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead. Also new for Steam in 2008 is Steamworks, giving game developers access to game features and services available on Steam ranging from product key authentication and copy protection to auto-updating, social networking and matchmaking. Most importantly, the game features and services available in Steamworks are free of charge and can be used for both electronic and tangible versions of games.

“PC gaming is thriving, and has evolved into an era of constant connectivity,” said Gabe Newell, president of Valve. “That connectivity gives us the ability to have a much better relationship with customers, not just for delivering our games, but across all aspects of our business – including the design, development, and support of our games. Features like Guest Passes, Free Weekends, Gifting, and the Steam Community have been very well received both by customers and the developers who are using Steam. We are accelerating our release of new functionality in the next year as well as finding new ways to work with our partners such as the release of Steamworks, which allows them to bring the many benefits of Steam to their packaged products.”

How many folks reading this have indeed bought something off Steam, out of interest (Half-Life 2/The Orange Box aside)?


  1. BaconIsGood4You says:

    I’ve bought Bioshock, Tomb Raider: Legend, Darwinia, Defcon, Geometry Wars, and Call of Duty 2 along with all recent Valve work on Steam.

    I would never have bought Darwinian, Defcon, Geometry Wars, or Tomb Raider if they hadn’t been on Steam.

    I love Steam.

  2. Sub-Kamikaze says:

    Steam loves you too *pats head*

    I bought HL 2, The Orange Box, Darwinia, Peggle, and Psychonauts (for the second time) off of Steam. In fact, BaconIsGood4You, I might have to challenge you to a duel to prove my love…

  3. cliffski says:

    only bought HL2. for some reason the games they have on there don’t tend to appeal to me. I have spent a lot at stardock though :D

  4. David says:

    Pretty incredible numbers. I wonder what this means for Valve game sales which presumably are still the primary impetus to get steam on your system. Apart from Valve games I’ve only bought Peggle Deluxe (after the Peggle Extreme thing with the Orange Box preorder) because of the prices mainly but I’m certainly looking to buy more of my games digitally just for convenience sake.

  5. Gulag says:

    All the HL and HL2 stuff, TF2, Darwinia, Upload. Just bought Puzzle Quest, which is eating an embarrassing amount of time. This year I’m planning to buy Stalker 2 (Insert your own punctuation.) and Left 4 Dead, at the very least.

  6. Kast says:

    I once splurged on Thief: Deadly Shadows, Company of Heroes and Psychonauts all at once over Steam. Three top-notch games I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise – without Steam, my life would have been poorer.

    Other notable indulgances: Hitman: Blood Money, SiN, SiN Episodes and Ghost Master (by personal favourite ;) )

    So… thanks to Valve. Even ignoring all their own games, they’ve made a huge impact on the industry.

  7. Watcher95 says:

    I love steam; but my Goodness, 70 USD for COD4?

  8. Iain says:

    When I first heard about Steam, I wasn’t a fan of the concept. But post-Half Life 2, when I signed up for my account, I have to say my opinion has gone a whole 180 degrees.

    Steam means that I don’t need to have my CDs around to play the games, I can patch them easily, not worry about digging out disks to reinstall stuff when I reformat the hard drive or buy a new computer, because everything’s tied to my Steam ID. I just turn on the broadband and let the games sort themselves out without any need to get involved other than telling Steam which ones to download… Simply, I think it’s TEH FUTURE. I’ve even been able to register my old copies of Half-Life and its expansions on Steam, so now I don’t have to fiddle about with the CDs for them either. Which is aces beyond measure.

    Beyond The Orange Box, things I’ve bought via Steam are: Half-Life: Source, Half-Life 2: Episode One (I bought this prior to Orange Box coming out), Deus Ex, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War Platinum Pack, DEFCON, Peggle Deluxe, RACE, RACE: Caterham Expansion and X-Com: Terror From The Deep. In the very near future, I can see myself picking up Dawn of War: Soulstorm and Uplink from there, too (and maybe COD4 when the price comes down a bit – it’s down to $50 now, but I’m a cheapskate Scot – I’ll buy it when it comes down to $30).

  9. Will Tomas says:

    Am I the only one who’s never bought anything from steam? I got my HL2/Orange Box from retail because I like having the physical boxes. And because I didn’t have a permanent internet connection until after the Orange Box had come out in retail, but still. Lack of time more than anything else means I don’t get to play that many games so I cherry pick the ones I do, and that hasn’t included any exclusively available over Steam.

  10. Nallen says:

    I love it, Microsoft and EA try and take over the world and most of us would rather punch out our own eyeballs. Google and Valve do the same and we’re all “here’s the house keys and my newborn child!” confident they’ll come back both smarter and more secure.

  11. dartt says:

    DEFCON, Garry’s Mod, Red Orchestra, The Longest Journey, Rag Doll Kung Fu.

    A suprisingly short list!

  12. dhex says:

    i picked up bloodlines off of steam on a whim. t’was very enjoyable.

    and good product is good product. valve’s got good product.

  13. Matt says:

    I haven’t done much purchasing through Steam unfortunately, only Half Life: Source, the Episodes and Sin Episodes. Oh, and Garry’s Mod of course, gotta support the local Brummy game developers!

    I, for some reason, much prefer to have a box I can stick on my shelf. I also wish that the huge PC game boxes of 10 years ago were still in production, I chuffin’ loved buying those big buggers. I still have my AvP2 box somewhere which is in that style, though I lost the cd case that came inside it, and also therefore the cd :(

  14. Nimic says:

    When Steam first came, it ruffled some feathers in the old CS 1.5 community. We were perfectly happy using WON. Now, though, I love it. It works well, and it’s the perfect place to get games that you might not be able to find in the local store (that is, I check Steam before I check the local store, not the other way around ;)).

  15. sh33333p says:

    Source premier pack (pre-orange box), Orange Box, Painkiller, Psychonauts, Bioshock, Gun(When it was $10- still a rip-off).

    I’ll probably pick up Max Payne 2 sometime real soon.

  16. Shawny D says:

    I love STEAM, buy most of my games on there, with a few exceptions like COD4 which I bought at one the big box stores.

    To be honest though, in the beginning I didn’t like at all, but over time, they’ve really built an excellent service with great community features that put MS’s GFW Live to absolute shame.

  17. Scott says:

    I have to say, I’ve spent a lot more time and money on pc games through Steam than I would have if I had to buy them in a store. I’ve bought Orange Box, Bioshock, Psychonauts, Stalker, GTA San Andreas, Thief: Deadly Shadows (which I know has a lot of fans, but has NOT aged well. I played it for ten minutes and then uninstalled it.) If I had to make my way to a store, I probably would have only got Orange Box and Bioshock.

    The grooviness of steam was driven home to me this week when I upgraded to a new hard drive and there were all my games ready to download and play without any jerking around with disks and license keys.

    I also like that Steam keeps track of how much time I spend playing games, so I know when to feel guilty about wasting my life.

  18. Shawny D says:

    hey RPS, just curious, any chance of a Podcast for the site?

  19. Iain says:

    @Matt: I don’t get the whole PC box fetishism thing. I hated them: big huge box, tiny CD. Total waste of precious storage space…

    The one thing I enjoy the most about Steam is the lack of boxes. When you horde games like I do (over 200 games accumulated over the course of about 12 years) the more boxes and physical media I can get rid of, the better… and if the disk gets scratched (or lost) you’d have to re-buy the damn game anyway. Better to re-buy a game on Steam and not have to worry about the disks at all. I’d really love to see Steam host more retro games from the X-Com era onwards, because it wouldn’t be much of an overhead for them (not with installs around the range of a few dozen to a couple of hundred MB, compared to a modern game which is more like 6GB on average), and it would beat the hell out of having to trawl Abandonware sites for something that’s cracked, legally ambiguous and which you have to run under DOSBox or a Virtual Machine. But I don’t reckon it will happen, unfortunately…

  20. Tom says:

    Steam’s awesome, and points to the future. That’s about it really.

  21. The_B says:

    Stuff that I have bought over Steam:

    Half Life 2 Episode 1
    Day of Deafeat Source
    Orange Box
    Just Cause
    Peggle Deluxe
    Top Spin 2
    The Ship
    Sin Episodes: Emergence

    Although usually I buy over Steam out of convience (I am a fairly lazy fellow) but only when the price is reasonable – or in the case of the OB, Ep1 and DoD:S a factor was they would let me play stuff early.

  22. tacticus says:

    @Watcher95 It’s worse in .au Activision set the steam price 88.50 USD for cod4

    Myself i have bought so far on steam a fairly decent collection the big ones being
    Bioshock, Defcon, Geometry Wars, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Blood Money, Hitman: Codename 47, Peggle Deluxe, Peggle Extreme, Psychonauts, Red Orchestra, The Ship, X2: The Threat(rebought), X3: Reunion(rebought)

  23. Steve says:

    I love steam. But, I hate that it won’t let me buy games while I live in Germany (which is going to be until July) with my English VISA card. And since German bank cards are retarded and cannot be used (in most cases) on the internet I have to wait until I visit home, which is not that often.

  24. Zuffox says:

    I generally shun extra (background) programs, so I’ve stayed as must clear of Steam as possible. Last time I had it installed was when verifying my Half-Life 2, and it had a couple of annoying quirks back then – which also garnered some public attention as it prevented some from playing the particular game.

    I’d have no problem with buying a game from Steam (actually I’ve just found out that Puzzle Quest can be bought there; there doesn’t seem to be anywhere else to do it), so I may give it a go. I’ll be getting Orange Box sometime soon, too, and I guess playing Team Fortress 2 requires the thing.

    As far as buying games online, I prefer having the boxed games, lest the price is completely absurd, naturally.

  25. Brant says:

    I’ve purchased Rag Doll Kung Fu, Defcon, Peggle, The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and Psychonauts, in addition to the standard assortment of Valve stuff. Anything that streamlines the Pay Monies->Play Game process to the point where I don’t even have to separate my ass from my chair is a Good Thing in my book.

  26. Dracko says:

    Can’t wait until we’ve all got Steam on our mobile phones!

  27. Seniath says:

    I’ve bought plenty on Steam, the obvious Valve games, the ID Megapack (just to have them all in one place), Darwinia/Uplink, PEGGLE! and Stalker. Couple of times I’ve been tempted to pick games up off Steam, such as BioShock or ET:QW but end up being won over by the pretty boxes.
    I do believe Steam is the future, however. It really does leave GfWL in the shade.

  28. Pidesco says:

    I haven’t bought a single game over Steam. I once almost bought Portal, as all the Half-Life games make the Orange Box kind of a waste for me, but I found it too expensive, for my tastes.

    I’ll start buying games online, when downloadable games become cheaper than their physical counterparts. No point in buying a game without all the physical extras, when it costs the same as the boxed game from the shop.

  29. roBurky says:

    I bought Steam-Peggle for my Mum’s Christmas present last year.

    I loves Steam.

  30. Cigol says:

    I just hope it doesn’t ever flip and turn evil on our asses.

  31. Bidermaier says:

    I have the Half-Life 2 silver collection, Deus Ex, Call of Duty 1, Rag Doll Kung Fu, Stalker, Gish, Trackmania United, X3: The threat, and a few others.

    I hope to get COD4 once the price is not embarrasing, i think it cost us $83 after taxes here in the Europes.

    It is a shame that many third party publishers make us pay more for the same here in Europe.

  32. Rich Powers says:

    Meh, I don’t trust buying third-party games from Steam. If your account is banned — for whatever reason, legitimate or not — your game collection is screwed. That’s why I like keeping a physical copy around.

    And I’m not one of those “box fetish” people, either. As soon as I open the box, it goes in the recycle bin. If you shop around online, you can buy valid physical copies and have them shipped to your house for less than you can buy them on Steam (which is seriously screwed up). Then you can register the game with Steam and have a hard copy. I got DEFCON, Psychonuts, and Darwinia for $7 each in-store. Most Steam downloads are overpriced…

    Don’t get me wrong: Steam has the best server browser around and its auto-patching feature make waiting for huge patches at Fileplanet, etc. feel sooo 2001.

  33. Nahual says:

    I’ve always been supportive to steam, but i was pretty neutral about it before they added the community part. Now love it.
    Game’s I’ve bought:
    Half-life 2
    Orange Box
    Ghost Master
    Red Orchestra
    Company of Heroes
    CoH: Opposing Fronts

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (my 2007 GOTY) i would have bought from steam, but it wasn’t released at the same time as retail, so i got it in a box.
    Same for Hitman: Blood Money

  34. Yhancik says:

    Where I live – and it’s not the third world – we’re still stuck with ridiculous “monthly data transfer limits”… of 12Gb (around… 86 peggles ?). With 3 people sharing the connexion, it’s barely enough for using the web in a 2008 fashion.

    So, no, nothing, and Steam is not for us now. Booo :(

  35. poullos says:

    Bioshock, COD 4, Titan Quest with expansion, gold package for HL2 CSS DOD:S back catalog etc, Garry’s mod, Orange box, Ragdoll Kung Fu, COD 2 and installed DMoM&M to steam from retail(wasn’t available for purchase in my country through steam).

    A big thanks to steam and valve folks as well as…the dollar :p

    P.S: I have no external drives functionality thanks to vista, so steam fills the gap. I would have bought them off steam anyway though.

  36. Feet says:

    Valve games:
    HL2, DoD: S. CS: S
    Ep2, TF2, Portal

    Non-Valve games:
    TR: Anniversary
    SIN Ep1
    Rag Doll Kung Fu
    The Ship
    Red Orchestra
    Garrys Mod

    Yep, Gabe’s done alright off me, so he has.

  37. Smee says:

    Steam is great, and I love it and most everything about it, but I’d like an option to give games away to friends.

    The non-Valve games I’ve bought are Bookworm Adventures, Eets, Gish, Peggle, Company Of Heroes, Dark Messiah, Defcon, Psychonauts (again), The Longest Journey (again), Tomb Raider Legend and Anniversary, and Uplink.

    What I’d like to do is to have every single game I own on Steam and sell off all my game cases that are filling up my bookshelves. It’s massively more convenient than having the disks or backing up the ISOs to external hard drives.

    The community is one of my favourites things about it. I could care less about the achivements. I spend too much money on it.

    I do however have problems with the Media section, so I’ve just downloaded the HD trailers I want off of, natch.

    Long Live Steam.

  38. Ferrous Buller says:

    though you Yanquis do also benefit from Gametap, which is a bit rubbish and understocked over here in pale Britain

    We’ve also got Stardock’s not as many high-profile titles as Steam, but no DRM either.

  39. Jim Rossignol says:

    Anyone used Metaboli? How does that do on the DRM front?

  40. Greger says:

    I’ve only bought Red Orchestra, Garry’s Mod and Day of Defeat: Source on Steam. Oh, and Geometry Wars. I bought HL2 in squarey boxy version (i.e. retail).

  41. BrokenSymmetry says:

    I love Steam, but its weak point is that the support system for non-Valve games is abysmal. When you have problems with a game, the original publisher will point to Valve, and vice versa, so you’re basically on your own.

  42. Windlab says:

    I’d like an option to give games away to friends.

    I thought the same after they introduced the gift feature if you had multiple copies of a game, however, being able to give away any game after you’ve played it would be even better.

  43. Andy Simpson says:

    My sister’s used Metaboli to play Freelancer (bless her, she has good taste) and it seems to do a thing where it doesn’t let you have the whole game on your disk, it streams it, I think, but I think it might be a subscription thing.

    Anyways, on the matter of Steam games, I’ve bought all the Valve games, Peggle, Dark Messiah, Max Payne 2, Civ 4 + expansions, Darwinia, Defcon, Uplink, Deus Ex, Sin Episode 1 & Zen of Sudoku (not because I like Sudoku, but I do want an NS2)

    I could repeat all the pro-Steam retoric, but I’m not gonna. We all know it’s great. The only thing it really needs is a reliable offline mode. Right now it can be a bit hit & miss.

  44. Zaptrack says:

    The only game I’ve bought off steam is garry’s mod, but my monthly paycheck comes in today and I’ll problally waste a bit of it on the complete first season of sam and max.

  45. Heartless_ says:

    I bought Call of Duty 4 on Steam, and doubt I would have purchased it otherwise. The CoD gamed made by Iron Ward have a wonky history of updates and Steam absolutely streamlines the process for me. I love that simple fact.

  46. Zaptrack says:

    Nvidia can get HL2 deathmatch free aswell, fyi.

  47. Kevlmess says:

    So, since last summer I’ve bought:

    – Deus Ex: GOTY & Invisible War
    – Sam & Max Season 1 (as two separate packs)
    – Psychonauts
    – The Longest Journey
    – The Orange Box
    – Bioshock
    – GTA:SA

    …which means that in something like six months I bought myself about as much games from Steam alone than from any outlet during the preceding 22 years.
    Add to that five retail titles and an Internet purchase outside Steam and we can jump into exciting conclusions.

  48. Daniel says:

    I’ve bought a whole bunch off of steam:
    HL2: Episode One
    Sin Episodes: Emergence
    Sci-Fi Strategy Pack (Darwinia + two other titles I don’t think I’ve even installed yet)
    Tomb Raider: Anniversary
    Sam and Max Season 1
    Shadowgrounds Survivor
    Max Payne 1 + 2
    Grand Theft Auto Pack

  49. Matt says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I love not having to stick in a cd when I wanna play something. But when I do have to, the bugger usually stays in the drive for the entire week or month I’m playing it.

    I just like having my collection down there for me to see, rather than just in a list in digital form. Same for my music, I buy the cds, then stick em on me itunes library for the easy of use. I just prefer to have something in physical form rather than digital, but then I am a bloody hoarder.

    And what’s not to like about those big old boxes :D

  50. Theory says:

    Anyone used Metaboli? How does that do on the DRM front?

    No offline mode, which is hardly surprising given it’s subscription-only. Otherwise there’s no discernible difference from Steam until you start getting really technical: you still need the app running and it still needs to spend a few seconds “launching” the game but that’s about all you’ll ever see.