The idea of Steam launching on Apple iMacs this month apparently has conspiracy theorists all in an uproar. After all, Valve Software's beloved PC gaming client has been around for ages, however the move to Mac has caused many to question its overall presence in the PC gaming scene. Namely, there's indication that an unfair monopoly over PC gaming is in play, and fingers are all pointing to Steam.
But various voices are coming to Steam's defense, saying that the service dominates the market because no other company has offered gamers anything better in terms of value. "The fact that Valve was there waiting for the switch [to digital downloads] isn't their fault--it shows they are savvy," said MCV's Michael French.
Naturally, rival services are quick to swoop in and cry anti-competitive. One unnamed source told TechRadar that the matchmaking system isn't open and thus feeds people back to Steam. "Even [Valve] being a developer and a publisher at the same time means that other developers feel like they could be second-rate citizens (or at best, on the same level as all the indie games on the service)," the unnamed source said.
TechRadar's entire article offers many different views on Steam, some of which point to its early entry into the market with Counter-Strike and Half-Life at hand. There's also an analysis on why Games for Windows failed, with EDGE magazine blaming the failure on the company's need to tackle piracy by locking saved games to online accounts.
Does Valve really have a monopoly on the PC market? Probably not. Eventually it boils down to content, presentation, and accessibility. Valve has spent many years perfecting the service, has amassed a wide user-base since its launch seven years ago. Of course, its popularity may be as simple as familiarity: PC gamers are familiar with Left 4 Dead 2, Half-Life, and the Valve brand. Will that still hold true ten years from now? Maybe not.
Does Steam have an unfair monopoly of digital distribution?