[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.
Complete Suite of Publishing Tools Available Free of Charge
January 29, 2008 - Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announce Steamworks, a complete suite of publishing and development tools - ranging from copy protection to social networking services to server browsing - is now available free of charge to developers and publishers worldwide.
Steamworks, the same suite of tools used in best-selling PC titles Half-Life 2 and The Orange Box, is available for all PC games distributed via retail and leading online platforms such as Steam. The services included in Steamworks may be used a la carte or in any combination.
Specifically, Steamworks offers:
· Real-time stats on sales, gameplay, and product activation: Know exactly how well your title is selling before the charts are released. Find out how much of your game is being played. Login into your Steamworks account pages and view up to the hour information regarding worldwide product activations and player data.
· State of the art encryption system: Stop paying to have your game pirated before it's released. Steamworks takes anti-piracy to a new level with strong encryption that keeps your game locked until the moment it is released.
· Territory/version control: The key-based authentication provided in Steamworks also provides territory/version controls to help curb gray market importing and deliver territory-specific content to any given country or region.
· Auto updating: Insures all customers are playing the latest and greatest version of your games.
· Voice chat: Available for use both in and out of game.
· Multiplayer matchmaking: Steamworks offers you all the multiplayer backend and matchmaking services that have been created to support Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2, the most played action games in the world.
· Social networking services: With support for achievements, leaderboards, and avatars, Steamworks allows you to give your gamers as many rewards as you would like, plus support for tracking the world's best professional and amateur players of your game.
· Development tools: Steamworks allows you to administer private betas which can be updated multiple times each day. Also includes data collection tools for QA, play testing, and usability studies.
"Developers and publishers are spending more and more time and money cobbling together all the tools and backend systems needed to build and launch a successful title in today's market," said Gabe Newell, president of Valve. "Steamworks puts all those tools and systems together in one free package, liberating publishers and developers to concentrate on the game instead of the plumbing."
"As more developers and publishers have embraced Steam as a leading digital distribution channel, we've heard a growing number of inquiries regarding the availability of the platform's services and tools," said Jason Holtman, director business development at Valve. "Offering Steamworks is part of our ongoing efforts to support the needs of game developers and our publishing partners."
Steam is a leading platform for the delivery and management of PC games and digital content. With over 13 million active accounts and more than 250 games, plus hundreds of movie files and game demos available, Steam has become a frequent destination for millions of gamers around the world.
For more information regarding Steamworks, please visit www.steamgames.com/steamworks. To find out about more about Steamworks contact firstname.lastname@example.org