Steam is a digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation offering digital rights management (DRM), multiplayer gaming and social networking services. Steam provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games on multiple computers, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality. The software provides a freely available application programming interface (API) called Steamworks, which developers can use to integrate many of Steam’s functions into their products, including networking, matchmaking, in-game achievements, micro-transactions, and support for user-created content through Steam Workshop.

Though initially developed for use on Microsoft Windows, versions for OS X and Linux operating systems were later released. Applications whose main functions are chatting and shopping have also been released for iOS and Android mobile devices. The Steam website also replicates much of the storefront and social network features of the stand-alone application.

As of September 2015, there are 6,464 Windows games, 2,323 OS X games, and 1,500 Linux games available on Steam. The service has over 125 million active users. Steam has had as many as 12.5 million concurrent users as of November 2015. The Steam platform is considered to be the largest digital distribution platform for PC gaming; in November 2009, Stardock estimated it at 70% and then later, in October 2013, it was estimated by Screen Digest that 75% of games bought online were downloaded through Steam. In 2015, users purchased titles through Steam or through Steam keys from third-party vendors totaling around $3.5 billion representing 15% of the global PC game sales for the year, based on estimations made by the tracking website Steam Spy. The success of the Steam platform has led to the development of a line of Steam Machine micro-consoles and personal computers meeting minimum specifications, and SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system built around the Steam client.

Timeline of events
2002 Revealed to public
Beta period begins
2003 Official release
2004 Half-Life 2 release
2005 First publisher partnership
2007 Steam Community launched
2008 Steamworks released
Matchmaking released
2009 Steam Cloud released
2010 UI Update released
OS X client released
Translation Server opened
2011 PS3 Steamworks integration
Portal 2 cross-platform play
Steam Workshop
2012 Steam mobile application
Steam for Schools
Steam Greenlight
Big Picture Mode
Non-gaming applications
2013 Steam Machine hardware (beta)
Linux client released
Public customer reviews
Family Sharing
2014 In-Home Streaming
Steam Music released
2015 Broadcast streaming
Steam Hardware/SteamOS
Source 2 first introduced
2016 SteamVR

The Steam client includes a digital storefront called the Steam Store through which users can evaluate and purchase computer games. Once the game is bought, a software license is permanently attached to the user’s Steam account, allowing him or her to download the software on any compatible device. Game licenses can be given to other accounts under certain conditions. Content is delivered from an international network of servers using a proprietary file transfer protocol. Steam sells its products in US and Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling, Brazilian reais, Russian rubles, Indonesian rupiah and Indian rupees depending on the user’s location.

From December 2010, the client supports the Webmoney payment system, which is popular in many European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. Starting in April 2016, Steam began accepting payments in Bitcoin, valued based on the user’s geolocation, with transactions handled by BitPay. The Steam storefront validates the user’s region; the purchase of titles may be restricted to specific regions because of release dates, game classification, or agreements with publishers. Since 2010, the Steam Translation Server project offers Steam users to assist with the translation of the Steam client, storefront, and a selected library of Steam games for twenty-seven languages.

Steam also allows users to purchase downloadable content for games, and for some specific game titles such as Team Fortress 2, the ability to purchase in-game inventory items. In February 2015, Steam began to open similar options for in-game item purchases for third-party games.


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