If the last decade of video game technology has shown one thing, it is the rise and seemingly unlimited potential of the digital marketplace. While the term may be often tied to the success of Xbox Live and PSN, PC gamers know that the invention doesn't lie with home consoles. Digital sales have been present on PC for years, and one company has been leading the charge since the beginning: Valve.
The video game developer has grown its PC client Steam into a force to be reckoned with, slowly but surely leading the market forward, and accruing more than half of all digital sales along the way. In case any out there had yet to realize just how dominant Steam is in the marketplace, a handy new infographic should make things clear.
Valve and its President Gabe Newell have already become significant to more than just PC gamers, with Forbes magazine declaring them 'names to know.' The fact that the studio behind the Half-Life and Portal franchises - two of the most critically acclaimed series in game history - is seen as a force in the industry without any reference to their own games speaks volumes. Steam may have been an interesting experiment so many years ago, but with records being broken every year in sales and users, its momentum isn't slowing one bit.
EA has recently upped their game with the introduction and integration of their own Origin service, muscling their way into the digital PC sales by force alone. Newell welcomes the competition, but this infographic from VideoGameDesignSchools shows that any challenger will have to put the world's leading companies to shame if they hope of making up ground.
Have a look:
Some statistics contained within the image will likely shock gamers, particularly the fact that video game retailers are taking 70% of a game's mark-up. Lest we forget, that's 70% of retail copies on top of the 100% reaped from used copies. When comparing those numbers to the 30% cut that Steam takes from digital sales, it isn't hard to see why so many developers and publishers have gotten on board.
What seems to be escaping many business analysts and economists is just how many traditionally held beliefs are being challenged and shattered by Steam on a daily basis. Does the fact that Steam sells video games mean that its ability to defy laws of commerce shouldn't be examined closer?
One of the most interesting aspects of the Steam client is the ability it grants Valve to examine their customers' hardware and software, granting them a massive amount of exclusive knowledge. That's just one of the benefits enjoyed by the company that actively avoids the kind of restrictions and barriers to entry that services like Xbox Live put in place. Even so, Valve remains committed to having Xbox Live become more accessible for those who develop and sell video games.
With this dominance of the digital market, and Steam now making its way onto mobile platforms, could we soon see the service leave even the iOS in the dust? And with Valve ready to roll out its 'Big Picture UI,' making it possible for users to display their Steam library on HD displays and televisions (and as always, playable with gamepads) could the dominance of Steam be ready to take on the home consoles?
The sky seems to be the limit for Valve, and the unstoppable force of Steam power.
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