It’s odd to consider that it’s been the better part of a decade since the initial release of Valve’s digital distribution network, Steam. Over the years, the service has become ubiquitous for PC gaming, both for direct distribution of titles and for management of online communities.

In 2008, Valve launched the Steamworks developer package–a suite of tools designed to closely integrate games with Steam and its attendant services. While many developers have taken advantage of Steamworks for individual tools (such as voice-chat and anti-cheating measures), it looks like its highest profile user will roll out in November. Bethesda Game Studios has announced that the eagerly awaited The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will feature many of Steamworks’ creative tools.

Bethesda’s Twitter feed shared the announcement of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s Steamworks integration earlier today. While the full range of Steamworks features to be used by Skyrim is unknown at this time, it is more than likely that Bethesda will take advantage of the platform for DRM and cloud backup purposes. Other Steamworks features–such as in-game downloadable content and Steam-based social networking–could very well be in the cards for Skyrim players.

Other notable games to have used the Steamworks package include Fallout: New Vegas, Audiosurf, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Though the full, exact nature of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s Steamworks integration is unknown at this time, most commenters on the developer package agree that it greatly helps to streamline the gaming experience for PC users. PlayStation 3 owners may also reap the benefits of the integration, as Valve has been working to port Steamworks features to the console in the months since Portal 2’s release. Skyrim may be an opportunity for Steam to make even more console inroads.

The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Steamworks Integration

What does all this mean for prospective Skyrim players? Well, anyone planning on dragon-hunting on the PC has to be rejoicing a bit with the news. Steam integration generally makes the process of purchasing, activating, and playing current-gen games much smoother. Steamworks DRM and anti-cheating tools are regarded as effective but low-impact on player enjoyment (so far). Combined with Steam’s robust community options, slowly expanding cloud save options, and the closing gap between PlayStation 3 and PC owners, it all seems like a win-win situation.

Nonetheless, detractors of Steam will no doubt find the announcement of Skyrim’s integration to be chafing at best. It’s also unknown how the use of the tool suite will affect the Xbox 360 release of the title. It’s likely that it will have no real effect, but it’s certainly an issue worth watching in the coming months.

Does Skyrim’s close integration with Steam fill you with warmth? Do you hold a dim view of Valve’s content service? Let loose your opinions in the comments!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 11.

Source: Giant Bomb