"Oh, yeah, I love Steam! I just hate the pipes..."Steam is the most popular Digital Distribution platform for PC games. Created by Valve in 2004 to distribute and integrate their own games cheaply, it has grown from its shaky and buggy beginnings into the service that PC gamers can use for their online middleware needs (provided you have a decently fast internet connection and a way of buying online). It also features automatic game updates, a messaging system, an online multiplayer platform, Achievements, and an in-game web browser, making it something like the PC equivalent of Xbox LIVE, except free and minus the ads. And like Xbox LIVE, it has since gone cross-platform, supporting Mac OS X and Linux in addition to Windows. All of Valve's PC games since Half-Life 2 have required Steam, or rather the "Valve Anti-Cheat" service embedded within it, and the retail versions of those games come with Steam bundled in* . The service is free to download as well (http://www.steampowered.com/ ), and allows gamers to integrate their games into the service, as well as download games that support the service natively. Having the full support of pretty much every major publisher that makes PC titles except Blizzard, Maxis (except for Spore and Sim City 4) and Electronic Arts (post-Dragon Age II, when they launched their competing service "Origin"), the service makes it easier to download and play PC games, having over two thousand titles available for download, many of which are classic games in their own right. It also boasts more than 30 million unique users. The main draw, however, is Steam's popular seasonal sales, days-long events that see prices on scads of games slashed by 50%, 75%, and even 90%. With even recent indie and AAA titles discounted, many users have given up on paying full price for any game. This is causing most of Steam's competitors to follow suit, further encouraging the 'wait for a sale' mentality. It's reached a point where 'significantly cheaper games' is becoming a major argument in favor of PC gaming. And the trend continues, with Steam discounts now going up to 90% and Amazon going beyond that with publisher bundles. In 2011, Steam added a Workshop feature that allows players to submit any Game Mod that they created to the Workshop so that other people can subscribe to that content and have said content automatically be installed to their game the next time the game is launched. The Workshop also allows people that subscribe to mods have them updated whenever the author updates the files, which is then updated when the game is launched. The Workshop makes downloading and distributing game mods easier for everyone. In 2012 Steam branched out into distribution of non-gaming software, and also introduced a system called Steam Greenlight to allow the gamer community to submit indie games and vote on whether Steam should distribute them. After trolls tried to submit pornography and such things as a fly-your-plane-into-the-World-Trade-Center game, coupled with people making requests of intellectual properties of different companies, Valve instituted a $100 submission charge, sending the proceeds to the Child's Play charity. In 2013, Steam introduced RPG Elements and a Collectible Card Game, of all things. Shortly before its 2013 Summer Sale, trading cards were introduced to several games (with the Summer Sale, not coincidentally, introducing them to many more), which are collected by playing (or sitting at the main menu of) the game in question. A full set of these cards (which require either trading with friends or a trip to the Steam Market to pick them up from other Steam users to obtain) earns you a badge based on that game and Steam XP, which increases your Steam level. Increasing your Steam Level is largely a Bragging Rights Reward, but also unlocks friends list slots and profile customization options. In addition, themed profile backgrounds and emoticons can be earned by crafting game badges. The community is split into a few camps on this feature: Some decry it as a gimmicky cash-grab, some have taken to playing the market for cash, some have given a collective shrug, and others have eagerly dove into the new feature, now finally having motivation to play the extensive games collections they purchased during Steam's deep-discount periods. On September 23, 2013, Steam announced SteamOS, a Linux distro focused on gaming on the TV, then further announced the production of "Steam Machines", dedicated gaming hardware which comes with SteamOS by default (though other operating systems can be installed if the user desires). In addition, Valve also announced a new touch pad-based controller which is capable of being used on SteamOS (both on and off of Steam Machines) as well as the existing Steam clients on Windows, Mac, and Linux, which includes an intended total compatibility with every game available on Steam. On December 2, 2014, Steam added a built-in broadcasting feature, allowing users to spectate other Steam users' game sessions. Of course, we have a Steam Group, here. Feel free to join. Not related to water vapor. That will never happen. Compare and contrast with Desura, EA's Origin and GOG.com.
— Francis, Left 4 Dead
Games and series for download from Steam include, among many others:
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